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King of the kids: Big Sun the latest Rising Star

Ben King celebrates one of his four goals against the Dons. All pictures: AFL Photos - AFL,Rising Star,Ben King,Gold Coast Suns
Ben King celebrates one of his four goals against the Dons. All pictures: AFL Photos

THE CYNICS would have you believe that Ben King will be on the first plane out of the Gold Coast when his initial two-year contract expires at the end of next season.

That theory is based on the premise that King is pining to return home to Melbourne and his identical twin, St Kilda's top draft pick Max King who, like his brother, is also a prodigiously talented 200cm-plus forward.

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Also playing into this idea is the Suns' dire predicament as they lurch towards the wooden spoon.

But the cynics probably haven't spoken to the impressive 19-year-old.

Another Gold Coast young gun in Izak Rankine recently extended his contract to 2022, and the club is hoping to gain similar commitments from fellow top-10 draftees in King and Jack Lukosius.

"The plan has always been to leave contract talks to the end of the season and just focus on football for my first year," the round 19 NAB Rising Star nominee told AFL.com.au on Monday.

"We'll see how that goes, but I'm absolutely loving playing football with these boys and I'm loving the club and everyone involved in the club.

"I can't complain at all."

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King's relocation up north has resulted in some trying times, but he said it has also made him develop and mature in ways that he wouldn't have otherwise if he'd been drafted by a Melbourne club and been allowed the luxury of remaining in the family home.

"It was pretty challenging, a bit of an adjustment period, but I've grown a lot in terms of independence from being away from home," he said.

"You do miss your family and stuff at different points during the year but we keep in regular touch and they've come up and seen my games. So I'm working through it."

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In another sign of that growing independence, King is in the process of moving into a house with Lukosius after the pair had bunked in with club CEO Mark Evans and family.

"It should be good fun," King, who next year plans to start a commerce degree, said of his new living arrangement.

The athletic King earned his Rising Star nomination after a near match-winning performance in the heartbreaking loss to Essendon at Metricon Stadium on Sunday.

Had the Bombers not kicked two goals in the last minute to steal victory, King would have been the hero.

He had nine possessions (seven contested), hauled in five marks, three of them contested, and booted an equal game-high four goals, including three nerveless majors in the space of just 16 minutes in the frantic last quarter.

He also had six score involvements, including a direct goal assist.

Most impressively, King proved too hot to handle for even Bombers star Cale Hooker, an aerial specialist, whom he outmarked with a vice-like grab midway through the last quarter that was nominated as one of the best three grabs for the round in the JLT Mark of the Year.

Ultimately it was Hooker who stole the show when he was swung forward and kicked the go-ahead goal.

"It was nice to step up and get on the end of a few in the last quarter. It was an awesome experience," King said.

"I'll take confidence from that game. I've been doing the work during the week and I'd been getting to contests in previous games but they just hadn't quite been sticking. So for a few to stick on the weekend will give me confidence to take into the rest of the year."

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The No.6 pick in last year's NAB AFL Draft – his brother went at No.4 – has displayed admirable consistency for a young big beanpole in a struggling team. 

He says the key has been his training ethic, which Suns coach Stuart Dew highlighted post-match when he hailed King as the club's best trainer since their mid-season bye.

"It's been a club thing that we have to step up our training standards and train how we wanted to play. That's shown for the whole team with how we've competed the last two weeks," the former Sandringham Dragon said.

"Personally I've felt like my training standards have helped me get ready for games and make me feel confident in games that I can (have an) impact.

"I feel like I've been building towards a breakout game and I feel like I had that on the weekend, which was good to see that rewarded."

The lightly-framed King, who stands 202cms and weighs around 90kgs, says he might still have a centimetre of growth left in him, but he plans to eventually bulk up to around the 98kg mark.

He has added "a few kilos" since arriving and will embark on a "huge" off-season of weights and eating as he aims to "stack on the weight" for next season. 

The most versatile key-position player in last year's draft, King can also play in defence and the ruck. After spending his first AFL pre-season being groomed as a backman, he was moved forward early in the NEAFL season and tallied 10 goals in three games to earn an AFL call-up in round nine.

"I'm definitely a forward. I'm feeling really confident up there," he said.

"In saying that, I still want to hang onto my versatility of being able to go back and help out. Ruck's off the cards for now – I'm not big enough yet."

King's first season hasn't been free of controversy, given he accidentally punched veteran teammate Michael Rischitelli in the head in the round 18 loss to Carlton while trying to push off opponent Lachie Plowman.

There has been no escaping the issue for King (No.34) given he and Rischitelli (No.35) use adjacent lockers.

"I've copped plenty over it. It was pretty embarrassing watching the footage of it. 'Rish' let me know about it but we have a laugh about it now, which is good," he said.

So how did King make it up to him?

"Just a lot of love, a lot of kisses and hugs and cuddles … Nah, I think he's still a bit filthy with me but hopefully he'll get over it."

The main thing missing from King's brief career to date has been some on-field success. He has played 10 consecutive games but is yet to experience a win. He's hoping to break his duck in the last four rounds, believing that their hard work will eventually be rewarded.

On Sunday he will play his first AFL game at the MCG when the Suns face a faltering Collingwood.

"It'll be a pretty cool experience. All the boys are pretty hungry to get a win. It should be a good contest," he said.