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Rising Star nomination fit for a King

Eight goals, five behinds, 19 disposals, six contested marks.

On March 31, 2018, a King was born, as aspiring draftee Max King reigned over the under-18 football world with a dominant performance for the Sandringham Dragons.

Two-and-a-half years later, King is the AFL’s round 12 rising star nominee, after coupling three goals with six marks in St Kilda’s commanding win over Essendon.

It was the sixth time the 202cm forward had scored multiple majors in a match, and he now sits equal 10th in the league’s coveted Coleman Medal race.

Rewinding back to late 2016, Dragons Football Manager Toby Jedwab fondly remembers Max and twin brother Ben entering the under-18 system with a spark.

“I heard a bit about the King twins coming through [at under-16 level],” he said.

“They moved pretty well — they were very impressive throughout pre-season.

“They refused to play on each other in intraclub games and that type of stuff, they both wanted each other do well and probably both thought they’d beat the other [twin].”

Then 16-year-old Max wasted no time asserting himself in the Dragons forward line, booting four goals and clunking four contested marks in a round one win over the Oakleigh Chargers.

“That first impression of his game, you thought, ‘We’ve got a pretty special talent on our hands’,” Jedwab recalled.

Three weeks after that dominant eight-goal performance in 2018, King fell victim to the much-dreaded ACL rupture playing school football for Haileybury College, putting an early end to his draft year campaign.

Despite this, King’s impact on the Dragons continued, setting a strong example for younger players.

“[Especially] for the bottom-agers, to still see him around and watching him do his rehab, it was something for them to see how professional he was,” Jedwab said.

“Last year, one of our 16-year-olds did his ACL, and Max reached out to him to give him some advice.

“He has a caring side and he’s happy to give back to those who helped along the way, which is great.”

Now, the 20-year-old is beginning to impose himself at the highest level, combining strength and size with agility and athleticism.

“At his size, height wise, when he was with us, he was running a sub three-second 20-metre sprint, so he has elite speed,” Jedwab said.

“That game where he kicked eight, he was running and jumping at the ball and no-one could get near him.

“Once he develops that strength and builds on that power a bit more, I don’t think anyone will be able to stop him.

“Once he gets the belief, and he obviously had that belief at NAB League level, once he develops that in the AFL and realises how good he can be, the sky is the limit.”