A whole generation of Saints fans grew up with the No. 12 on their backs.
Max King was in that number of wide-eyed Sainters, dreaming of one day playing like his idol, Saint Nick.
And while for most, the AFL dream was just a fantasy, Max was determined to make it to the big-time.
More than a number ??— St Kilda FC (@stkildafc) March 21, 2020
Nick Riewoldt presents Max King with his iconic No. 12. pic.twitter.com/8d6jVs4cb1
His subsequent years were spent training with the same focus and intensity for which Riewoldt was so renowned, and saw the boy become one of the best young talents in the country.
But when his knee gave way in his draft year, the dream took a hit.
The coveted No. 1 draft ranking he’d been tipped to achieve faded away.
The knowledge that he wouldn’t run out alongside his twin brother and best mate Ben every week began to sink in.
And with the weight of the football world bearing down on him, Max was unflinching.
Rehab, train, rehab, train.
Fast-forward two years, and this Sunday, he’ll pull on the jumper he dreamt about as a kid – the number he idolised on his back.
It will be a debut to remember for Max, but with the world in uncharted waters, the setting will be surreal.
"What do you want to do this weekend, Max?" ??— St Kilda FC (@stkildafc) March 19, 2020
The moment Max King found out he'd be making his debut. pic.twitter.com/cGi6UqNwIM
He won’t hear the excited frenzy of the faithful when he clunks his first mark, or feel the stadium shake when he slots his first.
But he’ll know we’re behind him.
Nagging at the back of his mind, the fact that his extended family and friends – who’ve been with him from the start – won’t be there in his moment.
But he’ll know they’re behind him.
A message to fans from Max King ?? pic.twitter.com/Pbk3JUwR9l— St Kilda FC (@stkildafc) March 20, 2020
Ben, too, will be unable to watch his best mate fulfil his AFL fantasy.
But he’ll know he’s behind him.
The weight of expectation, the weight of that number and the weight of a champion’s legacy will press down on him.
But just like Roo, he’ll rise.
It won’t happen right away – just look at Riewoldt’s debut – but for Max, pulling on his hero’s famous No. 12 will affirm a lifetime of hard work.
A lifetime of dreams occupied by red, white and black.
Hundreds of hours spent alone in the gym, desperate to seize his moment.
That moment is here.
And now, the No. 12 is reborn.