A few months ago, Gippsland forward Harry McKay seemed to bolt from nowhere. The 200 cm forward has remarkable agility, and he impressed with his skill for a big man.
Harry is predicted to be a top 15 pick, but it is his brother Ben who has one of the best draft stories from the past few years. Both have gone from relative unknowns to being invited to the national combine.
At the start of this year, Ben was training with the TAC Cup club Gippsland Power, but he didn’t think he had the ability to make it to the next level.
“I got invited to the Power for the pre-season. I did most of that, but then I had a fair bit going on and I was lacking the self-belief as I’d never been in the system,” Ben McKay said.
“I played for Warragul in the seniors – I didn’t know what to do. I was holding up Leigh Brown (Gippsland Power coach), I just kept putting it off. I thought I’d do the right thing and tell him no.”
A St Pauls boy, Ben is an identical twin. Both McKay boys are 200 centimetres, and both play with the agility of midfielders.
“When club recruiters found out Harry McKay was coming through, he was a late sensation who recruiters graded as a ‘prospect to watch’,”AFL.com.au’s draft expert Callum Twomey said.
“Then when they realised he had a twin brother who was the same height as him, same size as him and similar capabilities: I think they (recruiters) started to get a bit curious about whether he had the same capabilities.”
Harry displayed his skills as a key forward in the under 18 championships for Vic Country. Perhaps after seeing his brother Harry do so well, Ben realised playing at the highest possible level “was what he wanted to do”.
The boys were born on the 24th of December, which means they will be 17 at the time of the draft. That plays as a serious strength, as they are almost bottom-agers.
Given the promise both boys have shown, recruiters will be intrigued, given they both plenty of development left in them.
Ben played a few games for the Power, going by relatively unnoticed: that was until the Power took on Oakleigh.
He ended up with 16 disposals and seven marks, five of which were contested.
“If you went to that game knowing that there would be a 200 centimetre prospect who looks like a possible top 15 pick, most recruiters would have pointed to Ben,” Twomey said.
He’s a skilled big man, which is what clubs are looking for at this stage, but he is a raw prospect.
“I’m pretty confident in the air, I enjoy flying for marks. I’ve got pretty good skills I would say, and I’m pretty quick and agile for a big man,” McKay said of his strengths.
He’s also aggressive, something he’s had to bring into his game in the last year.
“I need to work on my offence. I wouldn’t mind working on my leadership too.”
Ben has been nothing but a pleasure to talk to. From the outside, he seems like a very unassuming guy who treats every achievement as an honour.
He asked “why did you request to interview me of all people?” Indeed, he’s gone from playing local football only a few months ago, to someone who might become one of the most interesting players in this draft.
He was more interested in finding more out about me than pumping himself up. He’s a well-grounded young man.
“Neither Harry nor I expected this. It’s been a whirlwind this past month. I’ve been interviewed by four clubs and it’s fantastic. I’m really grateful for the opportunity,” McKay said.
“Pete Francis (talent manager for the Power) came into the change rooms after the game on the weekend and got all the boys around to say who had been invited to the combine. Both Harry and I were invited, and we were both really excited.
“I didn’t really know much about the process, but I think six clubs have to nominate their interest in you.”
It’s a very real situation that Harry and Ben may be split up at the end of the year, but Ben said he’d be “grateful to play wherever”.
“I’d come home as often as I can, but I’m sure I’d find my feet,” he continued.
Ben is one of just 76 players invited to the national combine, and one of only four players who didn’t get a chance to play in the national championships to get an invite.
We wish Ben and his brother Harry the best of luck for the rest of the year, and hopefully they can continue their great story at AFL level.