I had just turned 17 when I admitted to my parents that I had been living a double life.

My big secret? I was a closet Christian. Yep, every Sunday, and sometimes during the week as well, I would dress for the gym and tell my parents that’s where I was off to. But I would drive to church, change, go to church and then change back into my gym gear before coming home.

I have a great relationship with my Mum and Dad – love them dearly – but back then I found it difficult to discuss with anyone my faith and my beliefs.

That’s why now I am really enjoying my role within the Gold Coast’s Glow Church as a youth leader. I can relate to the issues facing 13-to-17-year-olds.

As a professional footballer you have a unique opportunity to be able to become a role model. You can inspire younger people to be whatever they want to be … including being a Christian.

My faith has helped me through many things, but especially right now while I am out for the rest of this season after having shoulder surgery – my fourth major shoulder operation in five years.

Max King exclusive insight nrl gc titans

So, while rugby league is a major part of my life, I also know God has bigger plans for me. I know I can achieve some of those plans as a professional player, but I also know those plans go well beyond my playing career.

If you want to pigeon-hole me, then call me a Christian. But the reality is: I have a relationship with God.

That is the only way I can describe it … the same as you might have a relationship with anyone – your parents, friends, your coach.

From when I was about 13 I knew I had a calling, that God was telling me that he had a future mapped out for me.

I loved playing footie when I was young, but I was no star. I was a skinny hooker.

My interpretation of God’s calling was that whatever I was to achieve, I was to achieve it through football. I thought: ‘OK, there is a God … and I think he wants me to play NRL’.

Max King exclusive insight nrl gc titans

I had no religious reference points here. Neither of my parents were religious and any ‘Christians’ I knew at the time appeared really weird.

So, by the time I was about 16 I definitely knew that I wanted to follow this ‘calling’. It was also about that time when mates were starting to get into house parties, drinking and drugs.

But the combination of rugby league and God kept me on the straight and narrow.

But the ‘God thing’ was my secret.

And by the time I reached 17 I just felt I had to stop doing this journey by myself. I had to unite with other Christians and learn more about this pathway.

Max King exclusive insight nrl gc titans

I couldn’t find anyone to use as a role model. But also, I didn’t want to be labelled. For a whole bunch of reasons I felt ashamed of being a Christian.  

That’s when I started going to a local church where we lived, in Maitland, NSW. When I eventually told my Mum and Dad, of course they were cool with it and very accepting.

Now Mum comes to church with me when she is up here on the Gold Coast and Dad … well, I’m still praying for him to find his own relationship with God.

Coming to the Gold Coast and discovering the Glow Church was another key part of my faith journey.

Max King exclusive insight nrl gc titans

It is a real ‘home’ for me where I feel close to God. I am inspired by people there and hopefully I can also be an inspiration, especially for younger people.  

These days I have no reservations around explaining to people what my beliefs are, especially my teammates at the Titans.

Of course they will give me some stick about it from time to time, but the same as they would about any subject.

It is just fun locker-room banter. Last year, my first year with the top squad, I was fortunate to have Eddy Pettybourne as part of the squad.

He was a great role model on and off the field. We formed a group of about nine players who would meet on a weekly basis and talk about life as a footballer, including the pressures we were under – all under a Christian banner.

Although many of those players have moved on, this year we have a new chaplain at the Titans, Tom Vieyra, who I actually met at the Glow Church.

He has been a very positive influence for me and the other members of the playing group can also see what a quality bloke he is.

Tom is working on forming a group similar to what we had last year. Rugby league can be a rough and tough environment and so it is good to have something that can help you with the pressure that comes with being in that environment.

Sometimes you need that base of knowing that there is someone looking out for you.

My faith has certainly helped me through the injuries I have had, especially the current one.

There is so much more I want to achieve in rugby league. I want to establish myself as a first grade player and also, hopefully, one day play representative football.

Max King exclusive insight nrl gc titans

My Dad (former Gold Coast Seagulls NRL player David King) always impressed upon me the importance of continuing to improve as a player and that is a major goal of mine.

I am lucky to have such a rich rugby league heritage – now four generations who have played top grade rugby league.

My great granddad Cec played for the Rabbitohs. My ‘Pop’ (Johnny King) played for St George (and also NSW and Australia) and Dad played for the Gold Coast. Even if I had to retire tomorrow, I would be disappointed, but proud that I was able to keep that NRL heritage alive.

However my family always emphasised that there was no pressure to follow in those family footsteps, that I should only play rugby league because I wanted to.

At 21 I am loving the game more than ever and hope I still have a long NRL career in front of me.