The King of Gold Coast is beginning to rise as Ben King was named as one of eight Suns to make the AFL Players Association’s 22under22 40-man squad.
With seven other Suns making the squad in an illustration of Gold Coast’s young talent, King — who lives with teammates Jack Lukosius and Sam Fletcher — says the on-field success has correlated with growing camaraderie.
“We’re all really close,” King told aflplayers.com.au this week.
“I guess it’s because all of us have moved interstate and are living out of home.
“We don’t know too many people on the Gold Coast apart from each other.
“We get on really well at the club and when we go home, we still catch up and do a lot of socialising.
“We’ve all gotten really close and we’re growing together on the field as well.”
That on-field growth has been obvious throughout 2020, and is even more impressive when considering the Suns finished 2019 with three wins and a percentage of 60.5.
Currently, Gold Coast sits on five wins, a draw, and tellingly, a percentage of 96.7.
“I certainly felt the growth and improvement over my first year, and it’s gone to another level this year,” King said.
“We have really good coaching staff and great people around the club that are all committed to its growth.”
In a proud moment for the King family, brother and St Kilda forward Max also made the squad, with the twins combining for 40 goals in the first 15 rounds of the season.
And Ben says their growth has been helped by note-swapping on some of the game’s best key defenders.
“It’s an honour to be included in the squad, and I’m also very happy that my brother was included along with seven of the boys at the club,” he said.
“[Max and I] do talk a fair bit.
“Every time he’s playing on a defender I haven’t played on, or vice versa, we swap notes which has been really handy.
“It’s good seeing him having a great first year.”
King also attributes much of his development to the training track, where taking on Sam Collins continues to reap rewards.
“Training with Sam Collins, who I believe is one of the best defenders in the competition at the moment, it’s just taught me little techniques on what they do well and how I can try to negate their game and play to my strengths,” King said.
“I feel like I’m growing every week I play on a really good defender.”
King’s toughest assignment to date has come in the form of Sydney full back Dane Rampe, whose combination of strength and speed has proved a challenge.
“I played on him in my first year and also this year. He’s just a competitor, really strong and quick as well, so he’s really tough to play on,” he said.
Perhaps King’s most impressive moment came in the dying stages of the eventually drawn match against Essendon in round 11, with the goal-of-the-year contender giving a glimpse of the 202cm forward’s supreme agility and athleticism.
“It was a bit of a blur, to be honest,” he recalled.
“Our coach (Stuart Dew) is big on playing to your strengths, and one of my strengths I believe is my speed, so I just saw an opportunity and tried to take it on, and it paid off which was lucky.”
Previously, a King-twin matchup had always been denied by the brothers growing up to help ensure they both played well.
Having played as a defender as an under 18, there is a chance Ben may one day be sent back to curtail his brother’s influence.
“I’m not sure [who would win], I think there would be a lot of neutral balls and it’d be hitting the deck a lot,” he said.
“It’d be an interesting matchup, who knows if we’ll see it one day.”
For now, though, the rising Sun continues to flourish in the forward line, and will look to improve further upon size and strength over the next pre-season.
“I’m still pretty skinny, so I feel like if I put on another 5-7kg on, then I’ll be able to play to my strengths even more and keep improving,” King said.
King is also prospering off the field, studying commerce after achieving exceptional year 12 results in 2018.