Lyon lauds King after Saint’s latest AFL injury setback

Roger Vaughan |

Max King’s AFL season is over after the luckless St Kilda key forward’s latest injury setback.
Max King’s AFL season is over after the luckless St Kilda key forward’s latest injury setback.

First Charlie Curnow, now Adam Goodes – St Kilda want Max King to aim really big when he overcomes his latest AFL setback.

Amid ongoing speculation about the key forward’s future beyond this season, coach Ross Lyon could not have been more definite on Friday that he wants King to stay at the club long-term.

St Kilda’s misfiring year and King’s luckless career took another hit on Sunday when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the two-point loss to Port Adelaide.

It follows two shoulder reconstructions last year, but the Saints remain supremely confident about what King can do in his AFL career.

On Wednesday, Saints football boss David Misson noted Curnow had overcome a succession of knee injuries to become one of the league’s biggest stars at Carlton.

On Friday, Lyon noted Goodes overcame repeated knee injuries on the way to his two Brownlow Medals.

“I was at Sydney (as an assistant coach) when he tore a PCL through and then won the Brownlow the next year,” Lyon said of Goodes.

“It’s certainly not going to be a restriction.”

King struggled against Port and was twice outbodied by Brandon Zerk-Thatcher in the frenetic last quarter.

But that was after King had suffered his knee injury.

“There’s a lot of noise around Max, a lot of criticism, and that’s fair enough,” Lyon said.

“But I thought it was a really courageous effort – a clear tear of the PCL, right through, so that explains why he couldn’t stabilise in those contests, as much as he wouldn’t use that as an excuse.

“He wanted to try to keep playing, that’s how determined he is.”

He also pointed to media commentary that King was ahead of Geelong key forward Tom Hawkins at this stage in their careers.

“For the same age, he’s ahead on metrics. If you really want to dive in, in the context of everything, he’s on track or ahead,” Lyon said.

“He’ll have his day in the sun, we just need to offer him more supply and quality.

“He needs a really good run at it – two shoulder reconstructions and this, it’s been a very difficult 18 months for him, since I’ve been here.

“I’ve never seen him whinge or complain, he’s very determined and we have his back – that’s all he needs to know.”

Lyon also is impressed with King’s life away from football.

“No matter how good a footballer you are, you’re only a footballer,” the coach said.

“He has all that in hand.

“He’s critical to our plans, we’ve invested a lot in him. He’s invested a lot in us.

“He’s fully committed and we’re fully committed to him, we have been for a fair while.”

In short, Lyon did what he could to publicly shoot down speculation that the Saints might trade King.

“I’m really, really bullish on what he’ll deliver long-term for the Saints, as long we get all the other moving, critical parts in place,” he said.

But it remains unclear whether Josh Battle will stay with St Kilda, after it emerged Lyon had a coffee with him.

“I always catch up with Josh … he’s really valued, obviously he has a decision to make,” Lyon said.

St Kilda have made five changes for Sunday’s match against Sydney, with King, Anthony Caminiti (ankle), Paddy Dow (ankle), Riley Bonner (foot) and Tom Campbell (omitted) all going out.

Dougal Howard, Ryan Byrnes, Mattaes Phillipou, Tim Membrey and Ben Paton come in.

The Swans have recalled Robbie Fox and Matt Roberts in place of Harry Cunningham (hamstring) and Caiden Cleary (omitted).