McKay re-commits to North

Ben McKay says he is ready to take his opportunities with both hands in 2019, after signing a new two-year contract extension.

The key defender will remain at Arden St until at least the end of 2021, and is eyeing a permanent spot in North’s back six.

“It’s really exciting. Entering my fourth year now it’s an exciting part of my career and two years is a good deal,” he said.

“My first three years were a bit below par, by my standard, not playing as many games as I’d like but in the next three years hopefully I can really make an impact and start showing people what I’m capable of.

“Whether that opportunity comes early or late in the year, it’s just about making the most of it if I get it. I can’t wait for the year ahead and very happy to get the deal done.

“I don’t like to put pressure on myself but I’m one of those guys who thinks ahead and I really want to start making an impact at afl level and it does come down to opportunity, but I’ve got to focus on what I can do and not leaving any stone unturned, taking the game on and not being afraid to make mistakes and going for it.”

After a summer training alongside Robbie Tarrant, McKay is feeling confident and strong.

“I did a lot of training with Taz [Tarrant] over the break. We formed a really good connection I think so hopefully that blossoms on-field as well this year and we can work well together,” Mckay revealed.

“I reckon I was playing 97-98kg last year but I’ve done the whole pre-season with him [Tarrant] and there’s been a lot of weights sessions together.

“He has been fantastic for me. I owe a lot to him as well. I’m probably 3-4kg heavier now. Probably 101-102kg at the moment , when I first got to club I was 92-93kg.”

A much larger frame and more experience via the VFL has given McKay the belief he needed.

The 21-year-old has also been playing on the best opponents in order to develop and improve his craft.

“I played on Browny [Ben Brown] last week, which was good,” he said.

“Browny has been back the last week or two. I feel like, we did a bit of match sim, I did pretty well and he’s a great measuring stick.

“I played on the best forwards in the vfl and at afl that’s ideally what I want to do. I’m probably more comfortable on the best opponent.

“It’s a good feeling knowing the club want you playing on the best forward and it’s a challenge and I’m always up for the challenge. I’d love to take that role on in the AFL alongside our other defenders. That’s what drives me and excites me. Obviously at afl level there’s no easy opponent but i want to take the best and challenge myself.”

After making his debut in 2017, McKay had to bide his time in the VFL last season and didn’t register a single AFL appearance. However he never let the lack of opportunities get him down.

“It was a selection thing,” he explained.

“We had Taz, Scott Thompson and Maj [Majak Daw] all play really good footy. I was playing well at VFL level and Scotty [Brad Scott] was pretty good at saying, ‘You can’t do much more’ which was nice of him and the coaches were all positive about it.

“I’m a big one for everything happening for a reason, so opportunity didn’t come last year but I learnt a lot and ‘patience is a virtue’.

“You can always take something out of every situation and last year for me was being patient and keeping a positive attitude.

“It was a good character test to be positive and upbeat and hopefully I reap the rewards from that this year.

Out of contract at the end of this season, McKay said he never contemplated leaving North Melbourne.

“I’ve never thought about playing anywhere else,” he told the Herald Sun.

“The club’s been really supportive, I’ve got really good feedback and I can’t imagine playing at another club.

“When I do get an opportunity I want to grab it with both hands and start repaying the faith. They’ve waited a long time for me to burst on the scene and when I do, hopefully I make an impact and start showing everyone that I’m an AFL player.

Witts commits until 2024

Jarrod Witts has extended his contract with the Gold Coast SUNS in a deal that sees him commit to the club until the end of 2024.

Witts, 26, said he was thrilled about the opportunity to sign a long-term deal with the club.

“I’m so excited to have extended my contract with the club for another five years,” Witts said.
“I can’t wait to build on the hard work we’ve all been putting in as a group and continue aiming towards something special here on the Gold Coast.”

Witts said it was an easy process in making the decision to commit to the club long term.

“There were no hesitations at all in re-signing, as soon as I moved up to the Gold Coast, I knew I loved the club and I can see what we are all working towards,” said Witts.

“We’ve got a lot of new faces this year, both on and off field, but everyone has really come together over the last few months.

“We’ve all put in a huge amount of work to start the pre-season and I’m looking forward to continuing that momentum as we get closer to Round 1.”

In a strong message to SUNS members and fans, Witts was confident in the club’s direction.

“Our members and fans should be really excited in what we’re building towards,” he said.

“There has been a significant amount of change at the club in recent times and the boys have got full confidence in the program that the club has put in place, as a supporter I’d be really excited.”

After originally being drafted to Collingwood, Witts joined the SUNS as part of the 2016 NAB AFL Trade Period and has since gone on to play 40 games for the club.

Witts joins David Swallow in committing to the club long-term in recent months.

Dimma deal done

Young Hawk Blake Hardwick has put pen to paper, signing a two-year contract extension to remain at the Ricoh Centre.

The re-signing is the icing on top of a breakout season that saw the 21-year-old finish runner-up in Hawthorn’s Peter Crimmins Medal Count.

Hardwick was also named the club’s ‘Most Promising Player’ after averaging 16.4 disposals, 4.6 marks and 4.8 one percenters across his 24 senior appearances.

GM-Football Graham Wright said the club is delighted to have secured the youngster’s signature ahead of the Christmas break.

“We’re thrilled to have Blake recommit to the club until 2021,” Wright said.

“Blake has become an integral part of our defensive unit and, at 21 years old, we believe he could be a future leader of our club.

“His development over the last 12-18 months has been commendable, so we can’t wait to see what more he can produce in the brown and gold.”

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No ifs and Butts: Jordon leaves nothing to chance

He may have been overlooked in the 2017 AFL Draft, but waiting an extra year gave new Crow Jordon Butts a senior premiership he’ll never forget.

Jordon grew up in Shepparton, in country Victoria – a town of 50,000 with four football clubs, four soccer clubs and a thriving basketball scene.

He had his options, but for Jordon, it was always going to be the Shepparton Bears that became his second home outside of his TAC Cup duties with the Murray Bushrangers.

After all, his father Gerard was part of the premiership side who secured the victory for the Bears in the dying seconds of their 1993 clash with Rochester.

So, it was a no-brainer for Jordon to follow in his father’s footsteps at the Bears, where he played most of his junior football.

But it wasn’t until after he missed out on the draft that he had his chance to make history of his own back home in Shepparton.

Twenty-five years after his dad celebrated a premiership with the Bears, so did Jordon.

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New deal for Darcy

Exciting young ruck prospect Sean Darcy has committed to Fremantle for the long-term, signing a two-year contract extension that will see him at Freo until at least the end of the 2022 season.

The extension is on top of a deal signed in 2017 that secured the ruckman through to the end of the 2020 season.

Darcy is now set to play at least the next four seasons at Fremantle, joining Michael Walters and Rory Lobb as Freo Dockers who have signed on until 2022.

Only captain Nat Fyfe has a longer agreement with Fremantle, contracted until the end of the 2023 season.

Darcy has averaged 33.7 hit outs per match in his opening 15 AFL games, more than the likes of Aaron Sandilands, Brodie Grundy, Nic Naitanui and Max Gawn at the same point in their careers.

Having trimmed down ahead of the 2019 pre-season, the 20-year-old is expected to use the 2019 season to challenge the veteran Sandilands for the no.1 ruck role.

Darcy said the decision to remain at Fremantle was an easy one and highlighted his relationship with Ross Lyon and his teammates as a significant factor towards re-signing.

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Twos company for a young Cat

LOCAL product Tom Atkins has declared a move from midfield bull to small forward will give him the best chance in 2019 to emulate a long line of Geelong VFL success stories.

After five years in Geelong’s VFL program, a second best and fairest award for Atkins this season proved too much for Cats recruiters to refuse, selecting him at pick 11 in the NAB AFL Rookie Draft.

And while he has forged his name as an inside tackling machine at state league level, the 23-year-old believes a star-studded Geelong midfield might force him to look elsewhere.

“If I had to guess, I would probably say a small forward role and maybe helping out in the midfield where needed,” Atkins, who stands 180cm, said.

“I played midfield most of this year but might have played as a small half forward a few times, but two or three years ago I pretty much played the whole year in that role.

“From that I have learnt a bit of the craft, but obviously it is a different thing doing it at AFL level.”

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Campbell gives ruck hand

North Melbourne has secured an AFL-ready ruckman with Tom Campbell crossing to Arden St.

The 27-year-old ruckman will provide support to Goldstein, who returned to near career-best form last season, and replaces Braydon Preuss.

Campbell joins the club under the new pre-season supplemental selection period (SSP), after he was delisted by the Western Bulldogs. He has played 42 games since his debut in Round 13, 2012.

“We obviously identified the need to bolster our ruck division and we are confident Tom can come straight in and will be a great addition to the team,” North GM football Cameron Joyce said.

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Q&A — PAT MCKENNA

After an injury-interrupted four years on AFL lists with the GWS Giants and Melbourne, Pat McKenna was delisted at the end of the 2018 season. As he transitions out of the AFL system, McKenna has signed on as an assistant coach with Melbourne’s AFLW team. We went one-on-one with the Demons backline coach about his move into the coaching box, his plans for the future and whether or not he plans to continue his AFL dream.

You had quite an injury-interrupted career across your time at the GWS Giants and Melbourne. At what point did you start thinking about a career post-football and was coaching something you had always been interested in?

It was probably largely when I missed the whole season with hamstring troubles that I started helping out, just sitting in the coaches’ box with our VFL team Casey. I didn’t do much or say much, just listened to the coaches and tried to help out where I could. That gave me an idea that it was something I could see myself doing when I got out of football and then I had a similar year with some injuries this year and unfortunately got delisted. Coaching was something that I have grown into and the Melbourne job was lucky that it popped up when it did but I wasn’t expecting anything that soon or that big. I knew I wanted to complete my courses and get qualified and then give myself the option to enter into coaching.

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Big ambitions for Walsh, Stocker

CARLTON’s pair of first-round draftees will set their pre-season sights on potential Round 1 debuts.

While knowing and acknowledging it’s a long road ahead, Sam Walsh and Liam Stocker are keen to don the navy blue at the earliest possible opportunity.

After being taken with picks Nos.1 and 19 respectively, the new Blues both want to experience the thrill of the season opener.

“I want to play Round 1, that’s the goal. I’ll train hard and hopefully I can try and achieve that,” Walsh said to media yesterday.

“It’s certainly my goal as well. I’ll work through it with Bolts and figure out what I need to do,” Stocker said.

“I might have a bit more to go compared to Sammy.”

Carlton’s draftees reported for their first training session of pre-season yesterday, signifying the start of an exciting time for both the individuals and the Club.

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Fatherly advice holds new Crow in good stead

Footy runs in the family for Adelaide draftee Lachlan Sholl.

Dad Brett played 35 games for Carlton between 1992 and 1994, including the losing 1993 Grand Final against Essendon.

His father’s cousins were also more than handy – Craig was a dual premiership player with North Melbourne during an outstanding 235-game career in 14 seasons from 1987-2000, while Brad spent the majority of his 171-game career with Geelong after starting with the Kangaroos.

“Dad played a few games with Carlton, so I’m able to draw on his experience,” Lachlan told reporters on Tuesday.

“He’s pretty much been my main coach or my main guidance in footy ever since I started.

“He’s definitely a big reason as to why I am the footballer I am.

“He is always giving me advice, but he also always wants me to play for the love of it and just enjoy it as well.

“Brad and Craig have also been really supportive of everything I’ve done.”

Lachlan is a skillful half-back flanker and winger who the Crows picked up with the 64th overall selection in last Friday’s NAB AFL Draft.

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Atkins’ Story of Persistence

As the old adage goes, good things come to those who wait.

Words couldn’t be truer in the case of Tom Atkins.

The Geelong VFL captain and two-time best and fairest winner finally found his way onto an AFL list on Friday, completing his five-year journey from VFL development squad member to the Cats’ senior list.

“It’s still a little bit hard to believe,” he says.

“It feels great. A big relief more than anything. There’s obviously still a lot of work to do but it’s just nice to be given the opportunity. I’m just very thankful that I’m in this position.”

The dogged midfielder received the news via a text message from Geelong’s talent ID manager Troy Selwood.

“I was actually in the car, driving from work. There was a bit of traffic in Geelong and I sort of knew it might happen around that 6 o’clock time but it started a bit earlier.

“I was just driving home I was in the car and I pulled up at home and checked my phone and Troy Selwood had messaged me and said it had officially been done. It was a big relief, it’s nice when it happens because you don’t really have to stress about it anymore.”

Twelve months earlier, Atkins had received a message of a different kind. Geelong GM of Football Simon Lloyd got in touch to offer some support as Atkins went undrafted for yet another year.

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Lyons the Lion says he’s back in the running

JARRYD Lyons says off-season ankle surgery has him ready to dispel question marks over his running and make an impact for Brisbane in 2019.

In a move that surprised many, Gold Coast delisted Lyons last month with one year remaining on his contract.

The 26-year-old was then snapped up by the Lions on a three-year deal.

After his first official session at his new club on Monday morning – he joined on a modified program last week – Lyons spoke to the media for the first time since his move north.

He said there was “no bad blood” with the Suns and he understood why coach Stuart Dew dropped him twice in 2018 despite being in the top-10 in the AFL for average clearances and contested possessions.

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Jarryd Lyons ready to be #Uncaged

The Brisbane Lions are thrilled to land the signature of delisted free agent Jarryd Lyons, who arrives at the Den from the Gold Coast Suns.

Lyons will significantly boost the Club’s midfield group, as he has proved himself to be excellent in clearance work.

The 26-year-old’s game style and age bracket compliments the Lions’ trade strategy of acquiring 23-26 year-old midfielders with exceptional hands.

The Lions worked with the Suns to start conversations with Lyons as they felt he could help grow their midfield and assist the young, emerging group, while also developing his own game.

Lyons comes to the Lions on the first day of AFL Delisted Player Free Agency Period after being delisted by the Suns yesterday.

In 2018 Lyons played 19 AFL games for the Suns and was top of his team for clearances and contested possessions, while averaging 25 disposals a game.

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