Joel King's rise to an Olympic debut may feel like a whirlwind for football fans. But for those who know the Shellharbour talent best, his reward has finally come after years of hard work.
Taren King - a football star in her own right - will be cheering from her living room back in Sydney when her younger brother takes the field for the Olyroos' first game against Argentina on Thursday night.
The moment will cap a huge year for Joel, with the left-back named the A-League's Young Player of the Year after representing Sydney FC on 28 occasions in his third season. The Sky Blues finished their regular campaign as runners-up before falling 3-1 to Melbourne City in last month's grand final.
While that result was disappointing, Joel received a huge boost two days later when he gained his ticket to Tokyo. The 20-year-old is joined by Mount Warrigal-born talent Kye Rowles while Graham Arnold's squad also boasts the likes of young guns Denis Genreu, Daniel Arzani, Nathaniel Atkinson and Connor Metcalfe.
Following their Games opener against Argentina, the Olyroos will face Egypt and Spain in their remaining group C games.
"Being footballers, the Olympics aren't really something that you think of, but this opportunity has come up for Joel and we're proud family members,'' Taren, who plays for Newcastle Jets in the W-League, said.
''We're proud of him all the time, but this year, he's had so many achievements and had a breakout year where he's accomplished so many different things.
"As much as he's getting the rewards now, he's put in so much work since he was a young kid. It's awesome to see that's finally getting reward and props to him, he's taken it with two hands and he's absolutely killing it."
The King siblings have always been close despite a six-year age gap and always had a football at their feet. Despite playing for rival NSW clubs, Taren and Joel still live together in Sydney and support each other in their endeavours.
"We were almost like twins growing up. We're very similar in personality, though he probably thinks my jokes are pretty lame these days," Taren said.
"I've become a bit of a mother to him, which is probably a bit nagging for him. But he's great to live with and it's nice to be able to live away from home but with family, it's something that I appreciate."
Taren found a second home in 2021 in her debut season with Newcastle, after moving from Canberra United. It was a difficult campaign for the Jets who finished second last on the W-League ladder with two wins, however, Taren played all 12 games and was a strong presence in the midfield.
"It definitely was a tough season in terms of results. It was hard to cop a few results when I think we deserved a few better results to sit a little bit higher on the table," the 24-year-old said.
"When I moved up there, the coach (Ash Wilson) wanted me to play more of a leadership role in directing players around so it was probably a bigger role than I've played in the W-League before. It was definitely a good step for me and one that I tried to take with two hands, and do my best with.
"All in all, I enjoyed myself and it's a great area up there. It's quite similar to Shellharbour actually, so I felt quite at home. With the beach lifestyle and being a small community, it was just nice."
Taren had returned to play for her NSW NPL club Sydney University before the latest COVID outbreak in Greater Sydney occurred. She is now off-contract with the Jets but hopes to remain there next season, encouraged by signs that she sees on and off the field.
"We had quite a few local girls play, some with lots of experience like Tara Andrews and Hannah Brewer who have played for the Matildas, and a lot of younger players that have come through. There was were also debutants who have taken their shot moving into a W-League role. It was a good mix of players and hopefully the club can build on that," the Shellharbour talent said.
"COVID has definitely thrown a spanner in the works. We were pretty much halfway through the NPL season and COVID has come in and now we're on a break, which is kind of a good thing for me. It gives me a bit of a break to rest and re-set, and have some time off.
"It's (W-League) off season and I haven't made any specific agreement or signed anything, but I am in talks with the head coach at the moment. It's definitely on the cards but I'm not entirely sure what will happen yet."
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