North Melbourne didn’t have to play hardball and their staggering haul of draft picks has improved again after the AFL conformed the club would get pick 3 in the draft as compensation for departing free agent Ben McKay.
The Bombers confirmed McKay had signed a six-year deal to join the club and the 25-year-old defender said he was “extremely humbled to start a fresh chapter in my journey at Essendon”.
The Kangaroos, who have also been given a two-year package of draft picks, including one at the end of the first round after two successive wooden spoons, now hold picks 2, 3, 15 and 21 and could even try to trade up to pick No.1 and young gun Harley Reid.
Essendon’s six-year offer triggered the massive band 1 free agency compensation for the Roos.
“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,” North Melbourne general manager of football Todd Viney said.
“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.”
North Melbourne had declared it would play hard ball and match a bid and force a trade with Essendon if McKay’s departure did not trigger the top-end draft pick.
“The opportunity that has presented itself at Essendon is something I’m very grateful for,” McKay said.
“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 we’re it belongs.
“I’m eager to play alongside and work with guys like Jordan Ridley, Andy McGrath and Mason Redman 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 going forward.”
The Bombers secured veteran ruckman Todd Goldstein from the Kangaroos on Monday and are working on deals to secure Jade Gresham from St Kilda and Xavier Duursma from Port Adelaide.