Merv King is the son of a gun, with his father, Bill, an All-Australian who played 136-matches with South Melbourne. King also proved to be a handy footballer and played in a flag for his beloved Albury Tigers in 1966. After retiring from football, King was a polished media performer on both television and radio. He caught up with The Border Mail's BRENT GODDE during the week.
BRENT GODDE: Despite Albury's rich history in the O&M, the Kings are the only family to have three generations play senior football at the sportsground?
MERV KING: Dad played a handful of matches, I played 88 and my son David (Turk) played 49.
BG: Isn't it tradition at Tigerland to have your name on the locker if you play 50 matches?
MK: Yeah 'Turk' was stranded on 49 and Paul Spargo wouldn't give him another game in the seniors despite the two being good mates.
BG: You are the son of a gun with your father Bill playing 136 matches with South Melbourne in the VFL?
MK: Dad also represented Victoria six times, was an All-Australian in 1947 before coaching Corowa in 1948-50.
BG: Your father also coached North Albury and Howlong?
MK: Dad coached the Hoppers from 1951-53 and then Howlong from 1954-56 when the Spiders won the flag after going undefeated in his first year.
BG: Your father also won an Azzi medal in 1956?
MK: Dad won the medal by a big margin and the following year the league introduced a new rule where playing coaches were ineligible to win the medal. The rule was changed back about a decade later.
BG: When did your father play at the sportsground?
MK: Dad retired after 1956. But in 1958 when he was 38, Jack Jones who was coaching Albury coaxed him out of retirement for the second-half of the season. Despite missing half the season he still came runner-up in the best and fairest.
BG: That's an incredible effort?
MK: I don't know where my ability went but that's a true story.
BG: Your first job was a telegram boy for the Albury post office?
MK: I lasted three weeks.
BG: What happened?
MK: I loved playing cricket back then and being a telegram boy I wouldn't finish work until after 2pm because every bride in the district that was getting married on a Saturday would be getting telegrams. I was missing out on cricket so I quit and joined the Commonwealth Bank.
BG: You got transferred to Corowa through your employment and played under Frank Tuck who was a former Collingwood player?
MK: Despite being fairly tall I was a skinny kid and weighed less than 70kg. I was that skinny I used to get in the bath instead of having a shower, just so I could get wet.
BG: How did you find Tuck as a coach?
MK: Tucky was a funny bugger. I remember telling him one day that I would be late for training and he said 'don't worry you can have a month off if you want, it's not like you are going to pile on a stack of weight if you don't train.'
BG: Did you play seniors at Corowa?
MK: I was just too skinny and played in the reserves but managed to get the best first year player. I remember Jim Sandral was playing for Melbourne in the VFL at the time and came up and presented the trophy to me which I still cherish to this day.
BG: The following year in 1964 you had to put your football career on hold when you got another job transfer to Dapto?
MK: There was no football in Wollongong back then so I had to have a year off unfortunately. I was a wannabe surfie in my leisure time and even put lemon in my hair to lighten it and look the part.
BG: You got transferred to Deniliquin after about nine months?
MK: Yeah thankfully because I wasn't much of a surfie. I couldn't believe it at the time but when I moved to Deniliquin I got a phone call from South Melbourne who invited me down to do a pre-season.
BG: I think Bob Skilton was coach that year?
MK: I did all the pre-season under Skilton and played two intra-club matches and a pre-season match against Richmond.
BG: You didn't make a good first impression in the intra-club match?
MK: It was at the start of the match and I jagged a free kick in the first couple of minutes. I was that excited to get my hands on the ball that I forgot which way we were going and kicked the ball the wrong way.
BG: It doesn't get much worse than that?
MK: This is how stiff I am, Wide World of Sports were there and showed the footage the following day on TV.
BG: Did you crack it for a VFL match with South Melbourne?
MK: I was still way too skinny and the club wanted me to start a weights program to bulk up. There were a few of us who were meant to do weight training on a Tuesday night. I only lasted a couple of weeks, we then decided to go to the pub instead on Tuesday nights. I thought that was an easier way to put on weight than going to the gym.
BG: You did two years of National Service with your training at Puckapunyal?
MK: Mum and Dad came up to watch me graduate and march. Dad said 'congratulations son, you were the only bloke that was out of step during the march.'
BG: Once you finished your recruit training, you were fortunate enough to be posted to Bandiana?
MK: I was fairly lucky and that's when I joined Albury.
BG: It proved to be good timing because you played in the Tigers flag in 1966?
MK: I split my webbing in my hand at the start of the season and it took me until round six to get in the senior side.
BG: Do you remember your first senior game for Albury?
MK: I had to play on Ron Hill from Wodonga who was lightning quick. I reckon Usain Bolt took the world record off Hill, he was that quick.
BG: How did you go against him?
MK: I think he must have been wearing spikes that day because I could hardly get near him.
BG: Did you hold your spot in the team?
MK: Murray Weideman was coach and said to me after a couple of matches that I was causing him a lot of concern. I thought to myself, he hasn't got a daughter, what's he on about?
BG: Why did he mean?
MK: He said 'I thought you were only going to replace Kevin Thomas while he was injured but you have impressed me since you have been in the side and it's going to be hard to drop you.'
BG: Did you keep your spot?
MK: I stayed in the senior side right up to the second semi-final but got dropped for that.
BG: Was it justified?
MK: Back then it was 20 a side and I thought I was probably the 20th best player in the side.
BG: You had a bit of luck?
MK: I got The Border Mail on the Friday before the final and read that Albury had made one change and had included tall, pacy winger, Merv King. I thought to myself at the time the paper had stuffed-up, I'm tall but I certainly wasn't pacy.
BG: You kept your spot for the decider?
MK: I sat on the bench for the first three quarters and when I finally got on, I thought to myself that the only way I was going to get my name in the paper is if I kicked a goal.
BG: Did you jag a goal?
MK: I remember I took a mark about 75m from goal and went back to have a shot. Big Bobby Delaney said to me 'Have you got concussion Merv? I don't even go that far on my holidays and you are having a shot.'
BG: I checked the records and you kicked a goal?
MK: Yeah Bob Prater hit me with a stab pass that hard I thought he had put my sternum through my back. But I kicked the goal.
BG: No doubt one of the highlights of your career was kicking a goal in the grand final?
MK: John Perry told me back at the army barracks the next week it was the worst shot for goal he had ever seen. I said 'Who cares? I got my name in the paper and that's all that matters.'
BG: You ended up playing 88 matches at the sportsground?
MK: It says 88 on the locker but to be honest I think it was only 74. I don't know who kept the records but I have got my doubts that I played that many.
BG: How were the grand final celebrations?
MK: It was a big couple of days but I had to be back at the barracks by Tuesday. I was on a high and then got told my name had been drawn out and I would have to serve in Vietnam.
BG: No doubt a huge shock at the time?
MK: I went from chocolates to boiled lollies and spent 11 months in Vietnam and came back in 1967.
BG: You would have missed not playing football?
MK: I got back in time to play the first semi-final in the reserves against Yarrawonga. I had a decent day out and kicked a few goals playing full-forward.
BG: That's not a bad effort?
MK: It gets better. A few weeks after that Albury let me go on their trip away to New Zealand which I will never forget.
BG: The following year in 1968 you played every match in the seniors under Bob Spargo?
MK: I was back working in the bank that year but I was transferred to Wangaratta. I used to train with Wangaratta on Tuesday nights and travel back to Albury to train on Thursday nights.
BG: You didn't consider playing for one of the Wangaratta sides?
MK: I did but since Albury let me go on their trip away to New Zealand the year before I thought I owed them another season.
BG: You ended up playing for Wangaratta Rovers in 1969?
MK: I thought they were good enough to let me train with them the year before so I would play for them.
BG: How did you go for Rovers?
MK: I had an injury riddled season and missed a fair bit of football. I played in the losing preliminary final in the seniors but was eligible to play in the reserves grand final the following week which we won.
BG: You met your wife, Jenny, while working at the bank in Wangaratta?
MK: It's funny but back then when we were engaged we were allowed to work together but as soon as we got married it was the banks policy that we couldn't work together any more.
BG: You got transferred to Moonee Ponds and had a season with Coburg?
MK: Mick Erwin was coach and played me at full-back but I struggled for form.
BG: You ended up back at the sportsground the following year?
MK: I got transferred back to Albury with work and spent another three years at Albury.
BG: It was a lean year in 1972?
MK: Joe Ambrose was coach and we had a young side with Terry Cross, Peter Gibbons and Peter Taylor only kids back then and we didn't win a match all year.
BG: You copped some serious injuries that year?
MK: I got my jaw broken the second round against Myrtleford, came back and got a broken cheekbone and then in the last round got my nose splattered all over my face.
BG: You had to go to hospital with your broken nose?
MK: They wanted me to stay overnight but I couldn't because Judy was more than nine months pregnant with 'Turk' and they were going to induce her.
BG: So you got out of hospital and then went back there with your wife?
MK: We get back to the hospital and Judy sits down while I went over to do the paperwork for her to get checked into the hospital. I've got two black eyes, gauze hanging out my broken nose as I'm doing the paperwork. I finally got it all done and then realise the nurse thought I was checking myself back into hospital instead of Judy. Judy wasn't impressed but we got there in the end.
BG: You finished your footy career as coach of Howlong?
MK: I spent three years at Howlong and really loved my time there.
BG: You then coached Albury reserves for four years with Jack Clancy the senior coach?
MK: Working with Jack was a real eye-opener for me the way he went about things.
BG: In what way?
MK: He used to love putting dummy sides in the paper and have Darryl Bakes at fullback and Jay McNeil on the bench and stuff like that. The only problem was I had to ring the side into the paper of a Thursday night and would get abused by the reporter for being stupid and it wasn't my fault.
BG: Jack used to love having Sunday training sessions?
MK: We didn't train much, we used to have a bit of a soccer match with the Catholics versus The Protestants for about half an hour. Then we used to get on the beers and have sculling competitions. Somebody would yell out 'go' and the bloke to scull their beer last would have to shout the next round. It was costly if you came last because there were usually 15 blokes in the shout.
BG: In 1979 you started a footy show on radio with Graeme Byrne and Jim Robison?
MK: We had a few teething problems. We used to tape it 8am on a Saturday morning and it would be played at 10am. One of the first shows we recorded I went home to listen to it and there was an hour of nothing. We forgot to hit record and the station had nothing else to play.
BG: In 1981 the O&M started broadcasting its match of the round on radio?
MK: The O&M did that for a decade and I was responsible for the special comments.
BG: You would also cross to around the grounds to get a wrap up of other matches?
MK: Vern Drake used to help us out and he was covering Benalla versus Corowa-Rutherglen but he went to Corowa and the match was at Benalla. He didn't have time to get to the match so he went home.
BG: So there was no wrap up of the match?
MK: To his credit he rang up someone before we crossed to him to get some details. The only problem was the person stitched him up and deliberately gave him all the wrong information with blokes kicking five goals and the person named best on ground didn't even play.
BG: What happened?
MK: We copped a heap of phone calls from people complaining about the wrong details and had to end up apologising to the listeners.
BG: You also were part of the commentary team that covered the 1990 Bloodbath grand final for AMV4?
MK: It was a disgrace what happened that day and while this may sound controversial, the umpires had a lot to do with that. Once the football was kicked out of the ground, they should have grabbed another football and bounced it and got on with the game. The umpires also should have started paying a few free kicks early to show they had control.
BG: You are not the biggest fan of Jeff Gieschen?
MK: I remember Wodonga were on top of the ladder and we had Gieschen organised to come in on the Sunday for our footy show and he didn't lob.
BG: What happened?
MK: Wodonga got beat the day before so he said 'I'm not coming on your show just so you can grill me.' I was dirty with him at the time.
BG: You were also part of another radio show in the mid 90s 'The Jack, The King and The Ace' which consisted of Jack Clancy, Peter Copley and yourself.
MK: It was good fun but it was on a Thursday night after training and Jack would always have a few beers under his belt and you always had to remind him not to swear on air.
BG: Did he ever swear?
MK: He got pinged once but he didn't really swear. Somebody asked him a question and he said 'Hang on while I look it up in the Funknwagel.' It sounded like he swore but as you know the Funknwagel in an encyclopedia.
BG: What happened?
MK: We got cut off air and the producer abused us for swearing before he realised Jack hadn't sworn.
BG: You were also appointed president of Albury in 2001.
MK: I went to the AGM and nobody put their hand up to be president. I reluctantly ended up taking the job.
BG: Your reign as president coincided with a lot of infighting at Tigerland revolving around Ben Doolan as coach?
MK: When I took over the presidency the previous board had already appointed Ben for a second year as coach. There was a faction of the club that wasn't happy Ben got reappointed. But in my opinion you don't sack coaches in country football.
BG: So you stood by Ben?
MK: As I said I wasn't going to sack Ben and once people realised that, they tried to get me sacked as president but that couldn't happen in the constitution.
BG: Both you and Ben resigned at the end of the season?
MK: David Kefford replaced me as president and Paul Spargo was appointed coach.
BG: Doolan nearly landed former Essendon teammate Che Cockatoo Collins as a recruit in 2001?
MK: Che was right to sign with Albury before Port Adelaide decided to draft him.
BG: You stayed away from the sportsground for several years after you resigned?
MK: It took me four years to walk back into the place.
BG: The controversy surrounding Doolan was no doubt a huge story at the time?
MK: David Johnston was covering the story for The Border Mail and I have just smoothed the waters with him recently. But geez he gave me a hard time when it was all happening.
BG: Knowing 'Johnno' he would have been like a dog with a bone?
MK: One night we had a board meeting and he was waiting out the front in the freezing cold waiting for a comment. Anyhow I jumped in my car after the meeting and he followed me.
BG: What happened?
MK: I knew he wouldn't leave me alone so I stopped and told him I wasn't saying anything until tomorrow. 'Johnno' said 'What am I supposed to put in the paper then.' I said 'That's not my problem and drove off.'
BG: That's funny?
MK: 'Johnno' considered himself a supersleuth, there's no doubt about that.