A quartet of Victorian clubs are said to be expressing early interest in contract Gold Coast forward Ben King, with a "huge race" to secure the Suns star's signature set to take place.
King is currently contracted to the Suns until the end of 2024, having re-signed with the club on a two-year deal last year to stave off initial interest from clubs looking to lure the key forward back to his home state.
The 22-year-old missed the entirety of last year due to an ACL injury and has returned for the opening rounds of Stuart Dew's 2023 campaign, looking to lead the Suns to finals contention for the first time in their history.
Gold Coast have struggled to build a list capable of competing for a top-eight spot due to the long list of rising stars that have opted to land at rival clubs over recommitting to the Queensland side's cause.
The Suns have managed to secure the likes of King and fellow top draft selections Matt Rowell, Noah Anderson and Jack Lukosius to new deals across the past 12 months, however their battle to retain King beyond the expiry of his current deal is set to face some pull from Victorian clubs.
Essendon, Collingwood, Melbourne and St Kilda have all been linked to King's services, with the latter hopeful of pairing the tall forward with his twin brother Max at Moorabbin.
"There will be strong interest from the Bombers, Melbourne, Collingwood and St Kilda, to name a few," AFL reporter Tom Browne revealed to Triple M.
"He is out of contract and a restricted free agent at the end of next year, and clubs will come hard.
"It is interesting, my understanding is that there is already a degree of interest from Essendon, Melbourne and Collingwood, behind the scenes, and certainly St Kilda.
"There is a huge race for Ben King. He will earn an absolute fortune.
"(St Kilda) want to reunite the brothers, I'm sure (getting King) is Stephen Silvagni and Graeme Allan's number one priority."
While the Saints are already home to one King, Collingwood, Melbourne and Essendon will also be looking to pair Ben King with a spearhead of their own.
The Magpies recently recruited Daniel McStay through free agency last year, while Essendon were buoyed by Peter Wright's 53-goal campaign in 2022.
Melbourne are home to a handful of key forwards, with veteran Ben Brown and swingman Tom McDonald their leading two options. The Dees do have a pair of former first-round picks at their disposal, with Jacob van Rooyen and Matthew Jefferson each yet to play a senior game in the red and blue.
King has played 55 games for the Suns since making his debut in 2019, booting 92 goals to average 1.67 per game. He would kick 47 goals in a breakout 2021 campaign, with a similar tally sure to be in his sights this season.
King and the Suns will take on Geelong at home on Sunday as the look to claim their first win of the 2022 season.