INJURED Gold Coast star Ben King has taken the next step in his return from a knee reconstruction in recent weeks and is eyeing a round one return next season.

The 22-year-old tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in early February, ruling him out for 2022 before the season even started.

Now, five months on from that devastating morning in Carrara, King started running again in June and has been building up his straight-line running workload, hoping he can train as fully as possible from the first day of pre-season.

DEBUT A LONG TIME COMING Top-10 draftee ready for Gold Coast debut

"It's going really well. I've been running for the last five weeks and feeling more confident with every run that I do," King told at the MCG on Thursday.

02:52 Mins
Published on

Top five goals: Ben King's biggest and best in 2021

Gold Coast forward Ben King kicks 47 goals in 22 games

Published on

"Building up the load and still trying to get a lot stronger in the gym and build that strength back up in my leg. It's going pretty smoothly at the moment. I can't complain.

"Fingers crossed for round one. I don't really know what it holds, but my plan is to try and have as normal a pre-season as possible and as normal a lead into next year as possible. We'll have to see how the knee progresses over the pre-season."

After kicking 47 goals in a breakout 2021 campaign, King has been forced to watch on from afar as the Suns have threatened to play finals for much of the year.

Stuart Dew's side has won eight of the first 18 rounds to be two wins off the 10 they won in 2014 with five rounds to play.

"It has taken some getting used to, but it has been a lot easier when we’re competing like we have been this year," King said.

08:03 Mins
Published on

Footy Feed: Ryder's future, Dyson's deal, history at the 'G

Sarah Olle and Nat Edwards with all the latest footy news

Published on

"There has only been a couple of games where we've dropped off, but apart from that, we've been really competitive and that's shown with that amount of wins we've had. It has been a lot easier to watch in that sense."

While King would much rather be in the conversation for the Coleman Medal with the likes of Charlie Curnow, Jeremy Cameron, Tom Hawkins and Aaron Naughton right now, the Haileybury College product has found a way to make some gains in other ways this winter.

"There are definitely a lot of silver linings," he said.

"Hopefully I'll come back a lot physically stronger and mentally stronger as well. I'm just trying to get my body to the level where I can play good AFL football."

King hasn't had to look too far for support during the long and slow road back from an ACL tear with his twin brother, St Kilda spearhead Max, undergoing a knee reconstruction of his own in his draft year back in 2018 and delaying the start of his AFL career.

Ben King during a Gold Coast training session on January 28, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

"Max has been great. I haven't spoken to him much about the rehab side of it. We talk most days and he's good for just taking my mind off it and having a chat," he said.

"He's confident that I’m in good hands up here. He knows I've got what it takes to get it done properly."

King signed a two-year contract extension in March to remain at Metricon Stadium until the end of 2024 and has recently purchased a property on the Gold Coast.

The Suns re-signed senior coach Stuart Dew for a further two seasons earlier this month and have also locked away Touk Miller and Jack Lukosius to long-term deals.

The surprise form of Mabior Chol (36 goals from 17 games) and Levi Casboult (29 goals from 16 games) has softened the blow of losing King this season, but only just.

A fully fit King should help propel Gold Coast to the finals for the first time in 2023, if they fall just short next month.