Sandringham Dragons identical twins Ben and Max King are both tipped to be high picks in next week’s NAB AFL Draft, but their 2018 seasons couldn’t have unfolded in a more different way.
The 18-year-old key-position players spent much of their junior football careers taking the field together for East Sandringham (South Metro Junior FL) and then the Dragons before Max suffered a season-ending knee injury in April playing for Haileybury College.
Just weeks earlier he’d underlined his status as one of the draft pool’s dominant talls by booting eight goals and five behinds from 19 disposals and nine marks against the Oakleigh Chargers in his only TAC Cup appearance of the season.
Max’s absence saw Ben – previously known mostly as a defender – shift forward, where he kicked 12 goals in six TAC Cup games and earned selection in the U18 All Australian forward line following his AFL U18 Championships campaign for Vic Metro.
“It was tough early on not having Max out there playing with me,” Ben said at the recent AFL Draft Combine, where he finished in the top 10 of the 20m sprint test. “(But) he’s been really helpful in terms of advice. He’s played a lot more forward than me, so in terms of positioning and (forward) craft and things like that, he’s been really helpful.
“I thought I’ve grown a lot this year in terms of my football… It’s been nice to get some forward time this year and also some games in defence as well.
“I think after this year I’d say I enjoy playing forward better, but I’m more than happy to play back as well and change ends during games.”
Max said it had been “a pleasure” to watch Ben succeed in 2018 but has found the rehabilitation involved with an ACL injury to be tough going.
However, he used the time off his legs during the season to strengthen his body and recently achieved the “major milestone” of running for the first time in months.
“It’s an every-day grind, the rehab,” Max said at the Draft Combine. “It’s pretty full-on and can be a bit lonely at times, but it’s just something you’ve got to do – and you’ve got to do it properly.
“I spoke to (Melbourne AFL player and two-time ACL victim) Jake Lever and he gave me some great advice about the mental side of things and how to deal with that.
“The draft year is the year that you sort of look forward to your whole life, but that’s footy and these things happen… (AFL clubs) just assured me that not much would change, and I’d just go about my rehab properly and be back out there in no time.”