Jake King: Tiger tough

Centre of attention: Jake King has his say at Tiger training. Photo: Paul RovereRichmond’s Jake ‘Push Up’ King has been integral to the Tiger resurgence. But he wants more.

MATTHEW LLOYD: How would you rate the Tigers’ start to the season?

JAKE KING: Four and three you’ll take it because you are in the positive, but we still have a lot of things we need to work on … as long as we keep improving we’ll be happy.

What were your expectations at the start of the season?

It’s always a funny one when people ask that, because if you say you don’t want to play finals, you’re kidding yourself. So every team wants to play finals football. I guess for us we needed to improve on last year and to improve then we have to play finals; and as a group we believe we’re good enough and we’re ready to take that next step.

What did you make of the criticism directed towards Jack Riewoldt, Brett Deledio and Trent Cotchin leading into the Port Adelaide game?

With all AFL footballers, they’ve all got a big ego and when you don’t play to the standards that you believe that you’re capable of playing, you get very upset. The boys were just disappointed. And I guess as their teammate, you’re OK with that because they’re only going to get better and they’re only going to bounce back the next week. I didn’t have a problem with them showing their emotions or feelings.

How much was the Age article written by Robert Walls mentioned among the boys?

I think Jack brought it up at the start and wasn’t too impressed. But we all had a bit of a laugh about it, you know, it’s someone’s opinion and so be it. The thing is that it’s not about sitting and dwelling on that one week of football and the boys were just rapt that they could actually stick it up him a little bit.

You were ranked 18 for tackling. Was that something Damien Hardwick made a focus of leading into the match?

Yeah, it was. We’ve always said that we have to get our competitiveness up a hell of a lot, and a lot of people judge it all on competitive footy and contested possessions but tackling’s also a big part of it. It’s something that we’re going to continue to work on because we want to be known as one of those ferocious sides like the Tigers of old.

On the subject of your coach, how would you describe Dimma?

He’s a ripper, to be honest. He’s one of the boys when it’s not football, but in saying that, when push comes to shove, he’s the boss and he makes that clear. Dimma’s a big believer that to have a strong football club, you must have good people, and he’s really driving that, and I think he’s doing an outstanding job.

Do you think he sees a bit of himself in you?

I’ve never asked him, to be honest. Everything that relates to me and him I’m a bit worried because he gets a bit nasty and tells me to go away.

You didn’t make your debut until you were 23. Tell me about your football journey before then.

Growing up during under 18s football, I kept hearing that I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t tall enough, skills weren’t clean enough, so for me it just drove me further and made me compete even harder. From 16 to 18 I was getting told I wasn’t good enough for under 18s footy, which hurt. I then went back to playing local football at North Heidelberg and I had a lot of good people around me. I had Robbie Powell, Jason Heatley and I had my brother and my uncle sitting there helping me out as much as they could with my local footy. I was just lucky enough that Essendon’s recruiting manager Adrian Dodoro rang me when I was 21 after we won the grand final and said ‘come down and do a pre-season’. I went down and did the pre-season with the Bombers and then I got told that I was probably a little bit too old for them but I had to take the next step and play VFL the following year. I was lucky enough that Coburg took me in, and Andrew Collins pretty much started my career there and helped me out enormously, and I was lucky enough to then get a chance as a rookie at the Tigers.

You’re a plumber by trade, was playing AFL something you wanted from a young age?

I guess it’s always someone’s dream but when you get told that you’re not good enough and you’re not going to make it, it’s a bit of a kick

in the guts … Most people wouldn’t dream of being drafted at the age of 22 and I guess when that happened for me, things took a turn for the better. When I had to choose between digging a hole and kicking a footy, it was a pretty easy decision.

In your first three years at Richmond you played 41 games for eight wins, three draws and 30 losses. It must have been tough going in the back pocket during that time?

Yeah, it was quite difficult. Although we didn’t win many games, we were very tight and the boys always stuck together. We had good leadership in Kane Johnson, Troy Simmonds, Nathan Brown and

Matthew Richardson who were always up and about and making the boys laugh. There wasn’t a day where you’d think that you didn’t want to be there. We were hurting but the players are like a second family, so we stuck it out, which was good.

Is 2013 the most confident you have been in the Richmond playing group?

I guess so, yeah. When you’re playing, you can have all the skill in the world and you can go out there and be as fit as you can possibly be, and we believe we’ve had those things over the last couple of years. The next biggest one is belief – and that the boys have a strong belief of what’s in front of them, and what

they can achieve. Richmond’s a good place to be right now.

Tell me how your move to the forward line came about.

That was made by Jade Rawlings when he took over from Terry Wallace in 2009. Jade said he wanted me to play a defensive forward’s role on Sydney’s Rhyce Shaw. It was a real defensive role that I had to play and I ended up kicking a few goals, and I played there for Jade from that moment on. Then when Dimma Hardwick came as coach, he said, I like the way you go about your defensive work and continued to play me there.

You average two goals a game this year and you’ve laid the most

tackles inside forward 50 of any Tiger this season. You must be happy with your own form?

Yes I am, but in the end I just like winning as a team. It’s funny because one of my most enjoyable games was against the Bulldogs. I actually didn’t kick a goal in that game but we had won the previous two games so it was an important game for us to win. We had a game plan to beat them on the inside and it worked. The four points is more important to me than anything individual.

You’ve got a hard image and you’ve been suspended a fair few times but is it true that you’re very conscious of it now?

Definitely, as you get older you get a bit smarter and a bit more mature in the way you go about things. Everyone gets frustrated but I guess it’s just the way you’re channelling it, and I guess I’m learning to channel everything in the right way now. When you’re missing games it hurts the team and you start to realise that and you see it. I get frustrated just like anyone else, but you don’t see Trent Cotchin doing anything silly, or Dustin Martin or Brett Deledio, so why should Richmond accept it from someone like myself.

How do you think Trent Cotchin is handling the captaincy this year?

I think he’s stepped into it quite well. Chris Newman’s been outstanding helping him and was able to direct him in the pre-season, and Trent’s now taken the reins and he’s leading the way. His leadership with training has been outstanding, and then on game day he always stands up when he needs to, but then also verbally will let the boys know what he thinks. He’s got a good presence about him and the boys have huge respect for him.

You’ve captained a few NAB Cup games and practice games yourself. Is leadership something you want to be part of?

I believe that everyone’s a leader in their own way. My issue is that I hate meetings and I hate sitting down with paperwork and everything like that. But I love the physical training and I love helping out my teammates and trying to get the best out of them. So if I lead, I try and do it in the ways that I know best.

Is it true that you only ever eat steak and potatoes? So on the night before a game, everyone gets pasta, you get steak and potatoes?

Oh, I do have a bit of a weird diet. I do like my red meat, yes. But the night before a game I have been known to have a fair few steak and potatoes on the interstate trips. It’s just easier to cook and it fills the stomach so it makes me happy.

Where did the tag ‘the push-up king’ originate?

We did a gruelling boot camp several years ago with the SOG boys that a few clubs have used. We had to do a whole heap of push-ups and the winning team won Mars Bars and I think some soft drink. My team needed about 270 push ups to win and I was lucky enough to actually pump those push-ups out and ended up getting 303 and the boys ended up calling me ‘push-up’ after that. Then James Brayshaw took it to the next level.

How would you like to be remembered when your career’s done and dusted?

To be respected by the blokes that I’ve played with and all of the Richmond supporters. Also that no matter the circumstance, I always had my teammates back and that I was a hard-working, honest bloke, I guess.

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