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.