When Matthew Rose was a boy, his ambitions were not unusual among his peers — he wanted to bowl as fast as Dennis Lillee and he wanted to play Test cricket for Australia.
In the late 1980s, Rose seemed a little more likely than the others to succeed. He possessed the raw ingredients required of pacemen.
With skills honed in his Canberra backyard his talent was confirmed when he was picked in ACT junior squads.
Warning: This article contains content that readers may find distressing
Then he found the coach who would take his game to the next level, or so the adults said.
The coach was imposing and gregarious. He’d been a star fast bowler himself and everyone knew him. He’d played Sheffield Shield cricket. Bob Hawke had picked him in the Prime Minister’s XI.
But what impressed Rose the most was that his coach had once bowled with Lillee.
His name was Ian King and he was going to turn Matthew Rose into a star.
“Cricket was everything to me,” Rose says.
“I’d reached the ACT level by myself, without ‘Kingy’. But when he came along and was introduced to me, there was this thought that I could go further.”
Recalling those times, Rose begins with the positives.
“Look, he was good at what he did,” he says.
“Everything he asked me to do — or 95 per cent of it anyway — he related to cricket or a situation on the field: ‘you’re bowling through a hard stint; you’re up against a big partnership’.”
He repeats himself.
“He was good at what he did.”
But what King was best at, Rose now concedes, was convincing boys that the uncomfortable moments they experienced in his presence for the other 5 per cent of the time were just “Kingy being Kingy”.
“You were uneasy about certain things, but it was like, ‘oh well, he’s eccentric’,” Rose says.
“He bowled with Dennis Lillee — the greatest Australian fast bowler, who I wanted to be like — so I was going to do the things he asked me to do.”
At first, the “eccentric” things Ian King asked Rose to do included stripping naked and practicing his bowling action down a hallway, in front of a mirror, “so he could see what your muscles were doing”.
“It was uncomfortable,” Rose recalls.
“But I just thought ‘OK, it’s pretty eccentric and out there, but you know, this guy must know what he’s doing’.”
When King asked Rose how often he masturbated, and how thick his penis was, King tried to allay the boy’s fears by relating his answers to the size of the cricket bat he should be holding.
But what followed was a series of requests that even a naive teenager recognised as dangerous and wrong, and although he didn’t know it at the time, an alarming number of his ACT junior teammates would soon have similar experiences.
“He would say ‘there is pornography over there on the TV if you want to go and masturbate’,” Rose says.
“That would extend to him offering you a blow job.
“He’d say ‘look, I used to have to hitchhike from place to place in Queensland, and we used to have to give the driver a blow job to get from place to place, so it’s no big deal for me’.”
‘They did nothing to prevent or stop this type of abuse from happening’
Ian Harold King is 79 years old now. His 22-year jail sentence for sexually abusing schoolboy cricketers will end in 2030, but his health is faltering and those familiar with his case say it seems likely he will die in jail.
For the many survivors of King’s abuse, there is little solace in his incarceration. Last week, one told the ACT Supreme Court that King “stole” his soul.
Imparted with equally stark resonance was the man’s broadside at the cricket administrators he says have sat idly by:
“Still to this very day, neither Cricket ACT or Cricket Australia show any form of compassion, empathy, compensation or public acknowledgement that they did nothing to prevent or stop this type of abuse from happening.”
As a summary of the collective plight of men whose numbers are conservatively estimated by legal sources to total 80-100 victims in the ACT alone, it was hard to discredit.
Despite accepting millions of dollars of combined annual funding from Cricket Australia and the ACT government, and declaring handsome profits, Cricket ACT is yet to join the National Redress Scheme in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and it has not compensated a single one of King’s victims.
Yet three months ago, an ABC Sport Investigation revealed that Cricket ACT (then ACTCA) had, since King’s earliest days as one of the organisation’s elite junior coaches, possessed knowledge that he was a sexual abuser of boys — knowledge it failed to act on.
In June, in the first of what might turn out to be dozens of civil litigation actions against them, Cricket ACT and Cricket Australia were sued by a survivor of King’s abuse whose evidence of administrative failings included a 2006 police statement by former Cricket ACT coach and team manager Ray Hatch, once a colleague of King’s.
“Within this first year that Ian was with ACTCA, rumours were circulating the Association that Ian liked little boys,” Hatch had told police.
“This information came from the interstate cricket community that Ian had come over from, I think it was Western Australia. As a result of these rumours, Richard Done, who was the director of coaching ACTCA at this time, and I kept an eye on Ian’s interaction with the young children.
“As far I knew everything was fine and there were no incidents with Ian.”
In fact, the incidents were occurring with alarming frequency.
Survivors have told ABC Sport that King’s pattern of offending included simultaneous abuse of up to half a dozen boys in each of his ACT elite junior squads — teams he coached for a decade.
They were a squad within the squad, they say — “hand-picked” for preferential treatment and extra coaching from King, but also the suffering that came with it.
“If you were part of that cohort of people, you were subjected to abuse,” says Phil (not his real name), whose occupation prevents him from talking about his experiences under his own name.
He says that talented boys with big ambitions in cricket were placed in an impossible position by Cricket ACT: scream from the rooftops and compromise your cricketing future or stay silent and hope King moved on to someone else.
“I’d seen how he operated with other cricketers who steered clear of him or turned down his advances, so to speak,” Phil says.
“They were not thrown onto the scrap heap, but they were definitely not provided the same opportunities as people who were coached by him.
“[King’s] status, his stature — he was a big human being, and an intimidating presence. He was loud. He was strong. Combine all of those things with the feeling he could really impact your career if you didn’t listen to what he said.
“There was definitely an element of fear attached to it.”
‘I couldn’t stand the sight of a cricket bat anymore’
Beyond a human tragedy of staggering scale, former elite junior cricketers from the ACT say that Ian King’s crimes robbed Australian cricket of a generation of first-class cricketers.
‘Phil’ was among the brightest prospects — a brilliant middle-order batsman and a spin bowler with a knack for taking important wickets. His dominance of the second national carnival he played in was franked in a semi-final against a powerful New South Wales team, where his century was almost half the ACT score.
But it would be his last innings at the elite level.
A season later, six weeks before Phil was to take part in the Under-19 national carnival and vie for higher honours, the spectre of another trip away with King simply broke his will to go on.
“Everybody around cricket was saying ‘this is your opportunity here’, because it’s where you get picked for the academy sides and things like that,” Phil says.
“But at that stage, I hated cricket too much to even think about going away. The short of it is that I had a fairly promising cricket career that I effectively threw away, simply because I couldn’t stand the sight of a cricket bat anymore.
“It was giving me memories and thoughts that I just didn’t need to have.”
King had been sexually abusing Phil for six years. Like others before him, Phil had long accepted the coach’s degradations as the price of pursuing his dream, but once his breaking point came, the 17-year-old was done for good.
“There are no guarantees in elite sport, as far as what you achieve and where you get to, but to have something you love taken away from you is a pretty significant thing,” Phil says.
“At this stage of my life, I look back and there is so much regret attached to that. A lot of people I played with and against went on to achieve great things, and whether or not that would have been me, who knows? But I would have liked to have tried.”
Only in the last five years, with the gradual retirements of players he once mixed it with, has Phil been able to watch cricket again. Instead of a baggy green cap, his crowning achievement in cricket was to “do the right thing”, leading the charge of the dozen survivors who first confronted Ian King in court, ensuring the coach was jailed for his crimes.
“I chose to press criminal charges as I needed to ensure that I did all I could to protect others from potential harm,” Phil says.
“From a personal perspective, I also needed to confront and deal with something that had impacted my life in so many ways since I was first abused. I needed to take control back, and start the process of mending and striving for a light out of the darkness.
“I saw myself as someone who was capable of going through the process in a way to pave the way for others.
“That worked for some people and not for others, to be perfectly honest.”
He rues the devastation he has seen among his peers — the horror stories that should shame cricket but which seem not to.
“To hear there was an understanding [of King’s offending], I’m not surprised by it, but disappointment is not a strong enough word for it,” Phil says.
“It makes me angry, to be honest.
“We went through stuff that we never should have gone through. All we were doing was playing the sport that we loved.”
And Phil can barely fathom the failure of cricket administrators to step up and help survivors, nor the stonewalling tactics of Cricket ACT’s lawyers and senior leadership
“Cricket ACT’s reluctance to join the Redress Scheme is something that doesn’t sit very well with me,” he says.
“Realistically, $150,000, which is the upwards limit of the Redress scheme, is something pretty minor for people who’ve experienced the things they’ve gone through.
“I’m not surprised, in a way, that they’re putting their head in the sand and hiding behind ‘it was private coaching’, and those kinds of things. The reality is that we were only ever put in contact with Ian King through training programs facilitated by Cricket ACT.
“Our legal system is stepping up to the plate and doing what they need to do about such heinous crimes, but the [cricket] associations who know they’re in a bit of trouble seem to be hiding from their responsibilities.
“A lot of other sports have been quite proactive about these things. They would be managing these things a lot more quickly, I believe, than what Cricket Australia and Cricket ACT are managing them. It just seems really old-fashioned and outdated.”
‘This is just to make you feel uncomfortable’
When he watches cricket on TV, it also gnaws at Matthew Rose that it might have been him with the glittering Test career if Ian King hadn’t robbed him of his appetite for the game.
Bowling for the ACT Under-17s in the early ’90s, Rose recalls being on a hat-trick against Victoria, the second of his wickets the future international star Brad Hodge — removed for a golden duck.
He remembers four important wickets against South Australia, and the stars who emerged from that season’s national carnival — Ricky Ponting, Michael Di Venuto, Jimmy Maher, Martin Love.
“I guess I have that thing where I’ll never know,” he says.
“I’m not saying I would have played for Australia, but I’ll never know. Could I have played for New South Wales? I’ll never know. Even a long first-grade career in Canberra? I’ll never know.”
It is hard to escape the feeling Rose never stood a chance in the face of King’s betrayal. The incident Rose struggles most to retell is the solo drive he once went on with King — a trip that would eventually destroy his love of the game.
“He drove me into the bush and asked me to take my pants down and offered to give me a blow job again,” Rose says.
Isolated, petrified, in that moment Rose was also the subject of King’s abhorrent manipulation, as the abuse was reframed as a coaching exercise.
Rose recalls: “He said, ‘This is just to make you feel uncomfortable, so that when you’re out on the cricket field, it’ll hold you in good stead for when things are tough’.”
“For me, emotionally and mentally, he had just completely tricked me into thinking he was a good bloke who was just a bit eccentric, and these things weren’t that bad.”
Despite his star turns at Under-17 level, Rose says that when he found the courage to forcefully reject King’s abusive advances, the coach “dumped me like a cold spud”.
“He just moved on. I didn’t make the ACT team the following year, so then there was all of this self-doubt about whether you made the ACT team because of him, because he was a selector and coach. Were you actually any good?” he says.
“Your love of cricket just dies.”
Cricket ACT to be reassessed for National Redress Scheme eligibility
Although abuse survivors remain leery of Cricket ACT’s public statements, the organisation’s new CEO Olivia Thornton said that in recent times, it had sought to have its eligibility for the National Redress Scheme reassessed.
“Cricket ACT (CACT) does appreciate the importance of the National Redress Scheme, and support its purpose and objectives to ensure that full and appropriate redress is available to all people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse,” Thornton said in a statement provided to ABC Sport.
“Cricket ACT expressed an intention to join the NRS in June, 2020, and submitted the necessary documentation to join the Scheme. Following thorough consideration of this documentation, Cricket ACT was initially assessed by the Department as being unable to join the Scheme due to its financial position.”
“Cricket ACT has continued to work closely and cooperatively with the Scheme since June 2020 and has provided additional documentation each year (unprompted) to reassess its ability to join the Scheme. CACT continues to actively explore options to ultimately join the National Redress Scheme.”
Thornton said Cricket ACT is committed to “several policies, checks and other measures” that have been put in place to ensure the protection of children who participate in cricket.
“As part of CACT’s commitment to safeguarding children and young people, Australian Cricket’s Looking After Our Kids Action Plan details our commitment and resources available around safeguarding children and young people in cricket,” Thornton said.
“This covers all cricket personnel and cricket centres, and we regularly review and enhance our processes to ensure best practice around keeping children and young people safe in our sport.”
Of the historical abuse cases still emerging, Thornton said: “Whilst Cricket ACT is unable to discuss individual cases before the courts, it does recognise the devastating and lasting impact that child sex abuse can have on the lives of survivors and their loved ones.”
‘How many did he try or did he get to?’
Although he cannot shake his self-doubt, what Rose clearly does possess in abundance is courage.
He knows that becoming the first survivor of King’s abuse to put his name and face out in the world will cause certain complications in his life, but he feels like it is time to stand up for those who can’t.
A double-layered guilt has weighed on him for decades. Firstly, the irrational belief that as one of King’s earliest targets in the ACT junior cricket squads, he might have spoken up loudly enough that others were spared their trauma. Secondly, the regret over his decision 15 years ago to not take part in the initial prosecution of King.
“I was living in Queensland,” Rose says.
“I didn’t attend the criminal trial, having it in my head that they’d have enough people and would get him anyway. I’ve regretted that ever since, just not making that decision to support the other people that he got to.
“I look back and think that after me, there was this other bloke, then after him [King] moved on to another, and one more at the same time. A guy I was friends with, too. I think, ‘Shit, how many did he try or did he get to?'”
On Facebook one day, Rose saw an online advertisement posted by personal injury lawyers Maliganis Edwards Johnson, calling for survivors of King’s abuse.
“I thought, ‘You know what? This is my time to speak up and do something’,” he says.
On behalf of Rose, ‘Phil’ and one other survivor, Maliganis Edwards Johnson lawyer Hassan Ehsan has sued Cricket ACT in the ACT Supreme Court, and he says the firm is acting for other survivors of King’s abuse.
Rose hopes his actions will draw a line under events that have plagued him for 30 years.
For the last four years, Rose has suffered anxiety and panic attacks. His work life has been one of buried ambitions, the pursuit of mundane predictability, an acceptance of less to mitigate the possibility of nothing at all.
But the saddest outcome of his abuse, he says, is the cratered relationships which echo his abandonment by Ian King and his drift away from cricket.
“I have a lot of self-doubt,” Rose explains.
“It’s self-worth — whether I’m worthy of the relationship. A lot of people I’ve cared about, I’ve just pushed them away. I fear getting too close because I feel like they’re going to leave.”
Since discovering that Cricket ACT possessed information that might have prevented it all, his guilt has only been replaced by anger.
“I have my own guilt about not speaking up, but I dunno, I was a 13, 14, 15-year-old kid,” Rose says.
“If adults had that knowledge, it never should have got to that. They did nothing about it.
“It’s disgusting. Absolutely abhorrent. Not only for the people it’s already happened to, but if they haven’t changed, how can you guarantee it’s not happening right now?”
Do you have more information about this story? Contact Russell Jackson at [email protected]