WHEN MAX King went down in April clutching his knee while playing for Haileybury College, the potential top draft pick knew his season was over.
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The exciting key forward, whose twin brother Ben also shapes as a top-10 choice on draft night, had torn his anterior cruciate ligament and underwent surgery in the following weeks.
It was a huge blow for King, who entered the season as one of the most hyped players in this year's NAB AFL Draft pool and missed his chance to impress.
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However, he has attacked his rehabilitation with rigour, used his time on the sidelines to add more size to his frame, and has spent two days a week at St Kilda's Moorabbin headquarters to aid his recovery so that he's ready for a return early next season.
Just watch the tape of King's performance against the Oakleigh Chargers earlier this year and you'll see why clubs rate him so highly. His eight-goal performance was full of everything King does so well: he jumped high and took strong marks, he led at the ball and used his pace off the mark to get away from his opponent, and he was crafty, quick and agile at ground level.
King's height makes him extremely difficult to stop in the air, and although his sample size of games is so small this season, he has shown that when he extends at the ball he's hard to contain. He also enjoys the responsibility of being the star in attack – the key forward his teammates look for and kick to.
His height (202cm) and improved strength means he will also be able to play as a pinch-hitting ruck support for the club that chooses him, adding to his appeal.
Clearly the knee injury is the biggest question on King. A prospect suffering such a significant setback before the draft will mean his medical at the Combine will have been crucial for clubs who are considering taking the 18-year-old. In terms of his game, he appears a very well-rounded forward option.
King is a forward who plays like West Coast star Josh Kennedy. He can lead up the ground to get away from his opponent but is equally as comfortable closer to goal taking strong marks or creating opportunities for teammates at ground level. He has genuine star factor.
If not for the injury, King would have been spoken about more regularly this season as a potential No.1 choice. He still seems likely to be selected in the top five, with Carlton, Gold Coast and St Kilda all interested in the goalkicker.
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King might be the most talented player in this year's pool. Injury robbed him of showing what he could do this year, but his talents won't be forgotten. He'll frighten defences for a long time.