A new award that recognises the amazing influence Matt King OBE continues to have on Rugby League was launched this week at a special luncheon to celebrate the life of the former London Broncos Academy player.
The Matt King Education Bursary will be awarded annually to help young leaders involved in Rugby League develop the skills needed to achieve success for the sport.
Matt sadly passed away in February after a prolonged stay in hospital caused by complications brought on by the serious spinal injury suffered on his Broncos Academy debut in 2004. He was 33.
Despite being paralysed from the neck down and unable to breathe independently, Matt went on to achieve a first-class honours degree in law, secure a role as in-house lawyer with the Williams Formula 1 team, build a career as a motivational speaker and become a father to two daughters.
Announcing details of the bursary at the celebration luncheon organised by the Rugby League Benevolent Fund at Emerald Headingley Stadium and hosted by Eddie Hemmings, RFL Chief Executive Ralph Rimmer described Matt as “someone who did things few of us are brave enough to do.”
“Matt King led an incredible life and we wanted to recognise that,” said Ralph.
“Matt was at his most powerful when he stopped playing Rugby League and to celebrate his influence, we are launching the Matt King Education Bursary, an award that will be made annually to any aspirational young leaders within the game.
“The bursary will set out to help people become prominent within the sport and help drive it forward.”
The luncheon was attended by Matt’s close family, including his wife Ilona, parents Chris and Glenda and his two brothers, family friends, current and former RFL executives, players and members of the media.
Matt’s injury led to the creation of the Rugby League Benevolent Fund, which has since gone on to raised more than £4 million and help over 100 players and families from the professional and community games who have suffered life-changing injuries playing the sport they love.
RL Benevolent Fund chairman Tim Adams MBE said: “The luncheon is our way of paying tribute to Matt, a young man who holds a special place in our hearts.
“Matt raised a lot of money for the RL Benevolent Fund and other charities, he achieved so much in his life and inspired so many people, but one of his greatest legacies is the Benevolent Fund itself.
“The sport owes him so much and it’s fantastic that the RFL has acknowledged that by launching the Matt King Bursary, which will ensure that he continues to make a positive difference for many years to come.”
Matt’s father, Chris King, said: “It’s been tough for all the family since we lost Matt, we have good days and bad days and it’s his memory and personality that’s got us through this.
“He was only with us for a short time and he made the most of it. He was our son and we miss him terribly.
“Without the support of the RL Benevolent Fund, Matt wouldn’t have had many of the opportunities he had: just as Matt inspired other people, Tim Adams and Steve Ball have helped inspire us.
“On behalf of the family, I’d like to thank the Benevolent Fund for everything it’s done for us.”
RL Benevolent Fund General Manager Steve Ball said: “It was a great privilege for me to get to know Matt, and indeed his family, so well.
“Over the years I felt I had become part of his extended family and he became a great friend.
“Family was hugely important to Matt. People talk of the things he achieved but for Matt his greatest achievement was falling in love with Ilona, getting married and having two beautiful children together.”
The RFL will announce further details of the Matt King Education Bursary, including how to apply, in the next few weeks.