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Reginald Arthur King (1927-2009)

Just a fortnight before the Eastern Suburbs Association Football Club celebrates its 75th jubilee comes news of the death of Reg King, arguably the best striker to play for the club.

Reginald Arthur King (b Auckland August 31 1927, d Auckland August 21, 2009)

Described as an always alert and ready to shoot centre forward, King’s ability at finding the net was well demonstrated in the decade or so after World War II.

With an average strike rate of two goals a game he was a key figure in the club’s championship winning team in 1948 – Suburbs’ first ever Auckland championship. 

King made his Auckland debut in 1952, just before his 25th birthday, and after scoring four goals in home and away matches against Wellington, he became a permanent fixture in the representative team. 

New Zealand selection followed when he was one of 15 players named for an 11 match Australian tour in 1954.

King was omitted for the first tour game against a state side but in the second, against an Australian XI, he scored all three goals in a convincing 3-0 victory.

Down 1-0 at half-time New Zealand hit back when King, playing on the right wing, drove in from close range.   Moving into his usual centre forward position, King scored again when he jumped high and deflected a long free kick between the keeper’s hands.  The third goal came when he dive headed a low hard cross from the left wing into the net giving his team an unexpected but thoroughly deserved win.

After this hat-trick it was no surprise when King was named as centre forward for the first test.

New Zealand knew that it must score early in the game to enable it to dictate play and after only four minutes King got onto a cross and scored a surprise but well deserved goal.  Three minutes later Charlie Steele scored a second goal for New Zealand.

Unfortunately King twisted a knee and had to leave the field just before the interval.  While New Zealand held on to win 2-1 -  the  first test win against Australia for 31 years - the match was to be King‘s last on tour and with his leg in plaster he sat out the remaining games, including the second and third tests both won by Australia.

However he was an ever present for New Zealand during a three match series at home in 1955 against the South China club from Hong Kong.  This was a tied series, each team winning a game with one drawn.   King’s hat-trick was a feature of New Zealand's test win at Athletic Park in Wellington.

On the domestic scene King was part of an Eastern Suburbs team that won six Auckland championships over a decade.  He also won Chatham Cup medals with the club in 1951 and 1953 and was on the losing side in the 1955 Cup final.  In the course of these three finals he scored six of Suburbs’ eleven goals.  His hat trick of goals in the 1951 final, against Northern from Dunedin, equalled the record at the time for the most goals in a final.   

Overall he appeared in six games for New Zealand, scoring eight goals, and in 16 games for Auckland scoring 24 goals - strike rates that would be the envy of any modern day player.

King‘s funeral will be held at the All Saints Chapel, Purewa Crematorium on Tuesday August 25 at 1.30pm.  

He was one of the last surviving members of the team that recorded the memorable victory over Australia at the Melbourne Show grounds on August 14, 1954

New Zealand  Bert Hiddlestone; Tim Cooper, Bill Westerveld; Dennis Charlton, Jim Hunter (Captain), Phil Traynor; Charlie Steele, Alan Preston, Reg King (replaced by Fred Benge), Ken Olley, Gordon Barker.  

Keith Gibson, a reserve for the game, is still living in Wellington and was present at the centennial celebrations of his Seatoun club earlier this year.  The whereabouts of Westerveld, Hunter, Olley and Allan Smith (another reserve) are unknown.   All the others are known to be deceased.

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