Key defender Ben McKay is officially an Essendon player after North Melbourne decided against matching a bid for the free agent.
The club is reported to have offered a deal of at six years at about $800,000 per season for the 25-year-old.
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Based on the contract offer and McKay’s age, the AFL has decided on handing the Kangaroos pick No.3 as compensation.
McKay decided on joining Essendon, led by McKay’s former Kangaroos coach Brad Scott, after eight years at North Melbourne.
Defender Ben McKay is set to become a Bomber. Credit: AAP
He will slot straight into their best side as a direct replacement for Brandon Zerk-Thatcher, who has requested a trade to Port Adelaide.
His presence will free up Jordan Ridley and Mason Redman to continue the work they continued this year as the Dons’ two intercepting and rebounding talls.
“I’m extremely humbled to start a fresh chapter in my journey at Essendon,” McKay said.
“The opportunity that has presented itself at Essendon is something I’m very grateful for. With Brad working hard to create a world class football program, it’s something that I really want to be a part of and contribute strongly to, in the pursuit of taking this proud and powerful club back to where it belongs.
“I’m eager to play alongside and work with guys like Jordan Ridley, Andy McGrath, Mason Redman and Jayden Laverde in the backline, as well as working under coaches such as Daniel Giansiracusa, Blake Caracella and Dale Tapping.
“I would like to thank everybody at North Melbourne for my eight seasons at Arden Street. They have been nothing but supportive across my journey and wish them the very best moving forward.”
He will also team up with Todd Goldstein, who sealed his free agency move to Essendon on Monday.
And St Kilda free agent Jade Gresham and contracted Port Adelaide midfielder Xavier Duursma are also expected to join the Bombers.
McKay’s departure is set to see the Roos, who already boast pick No.2 and two late first-round picks in this year’s draft, add pick No.3 to their haul.
They have also been armed with two first-round selections in 2024 that they will likely trade.
“We understand that free agency is part of football and, after consideration, ultimately decided it was in the best interests of the club not to match the offer presented to Ben,” North Melbourne GM of footy Todd Viney said.
“Right now, that gives us two picks at the top end of the draft. That’s similar to last year when we were able to take Harry Sheezel and George Wardlaw with two really early picks.
“Making the call on allowing Ben to leave was a tough one. He’s made a significant contribution during his time at the club as a key part of our defence and, more recently, a member of the leadership group.
“We respect his decision to exercise his free agency rights and wish him the best in his next chapter.”
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