The twins would be hard pressed to find a spot in a local park where they weren’t hunted for interviews, autographs and selfies.
But, alas, as Max and Ben wandered on to Dendy Park on the bayside – just around the corner from where they grew up – no one looked twice.
A budding soccer star had set up a net and cones at the other end of a park, another man was using the fence line as a makeshift bench press in the car park as his personal trainer supervised, while an elderly couple strolled around the athletics track inside the oval.
All three groups were unwittingly operating under the watchful eyes of two police officers in a dark blue unmarked patrol car, which had quietly slipped into the park’s complex off Dendy Street.
The new stage-three restrictions had kicked in at midnight; you could only exercise in groups of two.
This is the new world we live in. Instead of asking the Kings about round two, we’re talking about stage three.
“It doesn’t feel real,” Ben said. “It’s been fun being back home under the one roof … but it’s not the circumstances we probably wanted to be in.”
St Kilda’s dream of landing Ben for the 2020 season was extinguished quickly when he signed a two-year contract extension late last year.
Ben – who donned his Gold Coast socks for the training session with his brother – is settled in Queensland and hopes to ride a wave of success at the Suns, along with the likes of David Swallow, Alex Sexton, Izak Rankine and housemate Jack Lukosius.
But the threat of the coronavirus has seen footballers travel across the country – and in some cases internationally – to return home to loved ones.
And so Max and Ben are back together again. For now.
Despite the awkwardness of the forced isolation, that’s really as bad as it gets for two future stars of the competition.
The two are still teenagers until July, meaning their days of domination are well and truly in front of them.
Both lamented how “unfortunate” and “devastating” the lack of football and uncertainty was for some of their older teammates, who weren’t lucky enough to have time on their side.
Indeed, as they were photographed handballing to each other, a voice bellowed from the car-park: “What’s going on here?!”
It was Saints captain Jarryn Geary who was joined – an appropriate social distance away – by fellow leader Tim Membrey.
The two are trying to stay in peak condition as they wait for football to return, in what loomed as a crucial year for the Saints.
Geary is a full 12 years older than the Kings. He’s played in just one final and was due to play his 200th game in round 12.
But the twins are only going into their second year and for Max he’s wondering when he’ll play his second game.
Between now and then, both are trying to put on size. At 202 centimetres, both look like ruckmen but have the athleticism of wingmen. Now is the time, according to Max and Ben, to get stronger.
“Max brought home heaps of weights from St Kilda and we’ve put them in the house, so we’ve got a nice little garage gym going on that we hit up most days,” Ben said.
“There’s no specific weight goal,” Max said, “but the club has just said it’s a good opportunity. Especially because when you play games it’s pretty hard to put on size during the year, so it’s just a good block to eat really well and do a lot of weights.”
The eating part is where their mum Marni comes in. Max still lives at home – something Ben constantly reminds him of – but admits he’s no guru in the kitchen.
“I cooked up a bacon and egg roll for Ben the other day, which was great from all reports,” Max chuckled as he stared at his brother, half hoping for a nod of acknowledgement.
And with two elite young footballers in the house looking to put on size, what’s usually on Marni’s menu? “Lots and lots of meat.”
While both will be trying to put on size, their club-designed training plans are actually quite different.
Max has regular running and football sessions, while Ben’s current two-week block from Gold Coast has him preparing like nothing has changed.
“At the moment I’m training like there are games on,” he said. “I did five kilometres worth of running on Monday, then I’ll build through the week and do a game-like session of over 10 kilometres running along with football drills.”
When the twins aren’t training, or lifting weights, or eating, there are two activities that dominate the King household in isolation. Basketball and video games. More specifically, basketball and Fortnite.
Both agree Ben is clearly the more talented one when it comes to the indoor activity, but Max believes his work rate is the reason he’s on top in hoops.
“It’s just whoever wants it more on the day, I think. It’s whoever is willing to put their body on the line …” he laughed. “I’ve been in form, lately. I don’t think Ben can argue with that.”
“Home-court advantage,” Ben retorted.
Home-court advantage? Well, well, well. Maybe that “go home” factor that has plagued Gold Coast since their inception is finally beginning to dissipate, after all.
Sam McClure won the Clinton Grybas rising star award at the AFL media association awards in 2015.