10 May 2023

Hard work paying off for former Cape York junior

| Matt Nicholls
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Denzel King has become an important asset to the Northern Pride as a utility. Picture: Chris Robson

DENZEL King hasn’t given up on his dreams to play NRL, even if the odds are against him.

The Weipa product, who turns 29 in June, says he still has the desire to play at the highest level of rugby league.

“I still look at NRL players who are 34 and running around and think that could be me,” said King.

“That’s one of the things that motivates me. The opportunity in front of me gives me hope and playing just one game of NRL would be a dream come true.”

King, who spent most of his teenage years as a boarder at Ipswich Grammar School, has struggled to make his mark in the Queensland Cup.

He started his footy career at the Northern Pride in 2015 and, after two years and eight games, left for the Ipswich Jets, hoping for more opportunities.

Another two seasons later, he only added three more senior games to his tally before returning to Cairns and the Pride.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride since. A mixture of injuries and jostling for a position in the team has King with just 23 games to his name from nine years in the system.

But has the switch been flicked in 2023?

After missing selection for the Pride’s first game of the year, King was picked against the CQ Capras in round 3 and played a key role off the bench.

Impressed coach Ty Williams repeated King’s role against arch-rivals Townsville Blackhawks in round 4 and the utility didn’t let him down, playing a key role in the 13-12 victory.

Shortly after coming off the bench, King scrambled across the line to score the Pride’s first try of the match and his second career try.

“Ty drums it into us that if we see a late retreater, to run hard,” he said.

“I was five metres out and saw an opportunity.”

While King said he would prefer to be a starter – ideally in the number 9 – he was happy to play a role for the team.

“It’s my job to be ready and do whatever Ty needs me to do,” he said.

“At the moment I’m just happy to be in the team and contributing.”

King, who is a mental health worker throughout the week, said having a healthy body was critical to his form.

In recent years he’s had issues with his shoulder, torn a calf, a PCL (knee) and broken his hand.

“The body feels pretty good at the moment,” King said prior to the Easter weekend bye.

The same can’t be said of his younger brother, Seamus King-Smith, who signed on with the Pride this year but has been restricted with a back injury.

Seamus King-Smith, speaking with dad Garreth Smith, has been battling a back injury.

King hopes he can take to the field at some point this season.

There is strong speculation that Weipa is in line to host a Queensland Cup match in July as part of the competition’s annual Country Week round.

“That would be pretty cool for me,” King said of the possibility of playing in front of old friends and family.

“Being able to play on that field (Andoom Oval) would be massive.”

His father, Northern Pride CEO Garreth Smith, is trying to make it happen.

King said the role suited his old man.

“He’s definitely a lot happier and you can see the passion he has for the club and for the game of rugby league,” King said.

“He’s made a massive difference in the club.”

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