“It’s the highlight of my career.”
A proud and humble Josh King was overwhelmed when he heard the news of his nomination for the 2021 Ken Stephen Medal.
The 25-year-old has been a consistent presence at community visits and Club-based initiatives this season and was put forth by the Club for his outstanding committments.
The medal recognises the efforts of an NRL player for his committed time off the field to community projects such as charity work, youth development or community support.
This season will the 33rd instance of the medal with names such as Wayne Pearce, Johnathan Thurston, Nathan Hindmarsh and our very own Connor Watson recipients of the prestigious award over the years.
King said the nomination is a massive honour.
“It was a bit of a surprise but I’m over the moon with it,” King said.
“It’s humbling, there is a lot of people doing good things in the community and to be recognised as one of them is very special."
A country boy from Singleton, King learnt the traits of a strong work ethic and a willingness to help people around him in his tight-knit community.
The former Singleton Greyhound has played 73 times for his beloved Newcastle Knights since debuting back in 2016.
The forward admitted his breakthrough into the top grade was initially tough due to the pressure and demands on modern players.
However, the 25-year-old has become a beacon of charitable work and support from the Knights while establishing himself as a regular first-grader.
“It came at a time a few years go when I was first coming into first grade," King said.
“I was struggling a bit within myself in and around performances, media backlash and social media comments.
“I was in a dark place at the time so it started to become a regular thing to take my mind of rugby league.
“As players we put so much emphasis on training and playing, it becomes sort of a 24/7 job when you count in nutrition, sleep and recovery.
“We can get caught up in that cycle.
“So to see people with problems and life-threatening diseases, and to see how positive they are, it helps to put it all into perspective.
“Rugby league isn’t the be all and end all, and we’re so lucky to have our health."
King has actively maintained his connection to the mining community, visiting sites to promote resilience, teamwork and commitment while encouraging apprentices to persevere in their chosen profession.
Since 2019, King has been an 'Adopted Knight' at Edgeworth Public School and Ashtonfield Public School as part of the Club's Adopt a School Program. His friendly nature, leadership skills and professionalism make him a popular asset in each school community.
Josh also maintains a strong commitment to the John Hunter Children's Hospital.
He visits the hospital each month and ensures he lifts the spirits of the children and their families.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, King remained in regular contact with the children. He visited bedsides virtually through an iPad, ensuring the positive connections and relationships with the children were maintained.
“I’ve been doing that for a few years now and I try and go up as much as I can,” King said.
“Being grounded off the field definitely helps with performance.
“Taking the emotion away from the game, I used to get extremely nervous and worried about it, but now I’m able to switch it off and not think about it as much."
King was extremely humble in receiving the news of his nomination.
“None of us do what we do to be recognised," King said.
“You look at some of the people who have won the medal, and it’s a pretty good list so it would be unbelievable (to earn the medal)."
The winner of a fan vote, which will decide one of four Ken Stephen Medal finalists, will earn $3500 for their junior club. The fan vote closes on August 8.