IF COMMITMENT is a key ingredient in making it in the AFL, then new Melbourne rookie Max King has it in bucket loads.
The forward/ruckman traveled incredible lengths to pursue a career at the highest level in 2013 and on Wednesday morning that was realised when he was selected at No.19 in the NAB AFL Rookie Draft, as he explained.
“Every Wednesday, I’d leave Wagga at 1.45pm. I caught a train to Albury, then a bus to Wangaratta and then a bus home back to Albury after training. Then Mum and Dad would pick me up and I’d get home about 11pm,” King told melbournefc.com.au.
Overall, the 18-year-old estimated he traveled about 20,000km for his football-related pursuits this year.
Still, despite this determination to make it in the AFL, King had doubts he would be drafted.
“I wasn’t really expecting too much. I was in bed actually, and didn’t get too much sleep the night before and my mum came in and woke me up and said ‘the draft’s on in about five minutes’,” he said.
“So we watched it on the iPad and then my name popped up – it was awesome. Any club would have been good, but the Demons are going in a new direction with a new coach, so it’ll be exciting.
“I had a couple of phone calls [before the draft], but I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high, just in case I was crushed again, but it was definitely a surprise. It was a good feeling.”
Born and bred in Wagga, King played Australian rules, cricket and basketball growing up, before he was cajoled into having a crack at the highest level. In fact, he said the past year had “shot up out of nowhere”.
“Twelve months ago, I didn’t think I’d be in this position,” he said.
“I had played my junior footy with the Wagga Tigers and then two years ago, a mate stared getting into me and told me that I should try out for rep footy. I ended up making the New South Wales team as a 17-year-old and there was a bit of interest there.
“The [Murray] Bushrangers then gave me a call to set up a meeting with them. I didn’t know who the Bushrangers were until this time last year. I went down and started training with them before December and then came back [in the New Year] and played in the practice matches. I was then lucky enough to make that team and then I made the [NSW/ACT] RAMS [team] again.”
Despite his extensive regional travel, King had hardly been to Melbourne.
“I’ve done a trip here and there, and I’ve been there for a cousin’s engagement party, but other than that, I’ve only been to Melbourne a few times for footy.”
King, who is 201cm and 90kg, acknowledged he had plenty of scope for improvement and he was looking forward to getting stuck into pre-season training.
“I just want to put my best foot forward and hit the gym and get on the track and get a bit of run in my legs,” he said.
“I need to develop in every aspect of my game, mainly my fitness and get a bit stronger and hopefully put a few kilograms on. Hopefully I’ll improve in every aspect.
“But I see myself as a forward who can play in the ruck as well.”
And what does King make of being the second Max at the club, who also happens to stand more than 200cm?
“It’ll be good and I’m sure there will be jokes around about it,” he said with a laugh.