After three years away from football and his beloved North Melbourne, Michael Firrito is on the way back.

The champion former defender leapt at the opportunity to get back involved, taking the role as Academy Coach.

“It’s really exciting to come back to the North environment that I’ve always loved and have been a part of for so long,” Firrito told North Media.

Following his retirement from the game in 2016, “Spud” as he’s affectionately known due to his family’s potato farming business, was working with Strategic Property, but has been eyeing a return to Arden St for some time.

“I had discussions about coming back last year, but the timing wasn’t quite right and I probably wasn’t sure there was the right role for me at the time,” he explained.

“Now with some changes and Rhyce (Shaw) coming in and a new coaching department, this position has opened up and I jumped at it.

“I am so passionate about North Melbourne and I want to help the club grow and succeed, so whatever I can do to help achieve that, I’ll do.”

Firrito will be the Roos’ new face of the Next Generation Academy and will also oversee the Father Son Academy.

“It’s going to be amazing to be involved with both boys and girls from an early age, and help them develop and adapt so they can potentially enter the system,” Firrito said.

“My aim will be to help fast-track them and make them as comfortable as possible so they can adapt and play senior footy.”

While developing young players is one benefit, Firrito himself expects to grow over the journey too.

“It will be a good role for my development also as it’s multi-faceted,” he said.

“There’s a bit of coaching, recruiting and football administration throughout Tasmania, Wyndham and inner-city Melbourne, so I’ll be learning a lot and seeing where it takes me.”

Firrito says he’ll be bringing a personal touch to the role with “people” and “relationships” at the forefront of his coaching philosophy.

“I think it’s critical to have lots of one-on-one teaching and development, and a lot of face time with these kids to show that the club cares about them and their futures,” he outlined.

“If I can help the club and the kids in those regions come through, then there’s a lot of upside for all involved. There are a lot of people that make an academy work, and it’s something I’m keen to really sink my teeth into and can’t wait to get started.”

The 275-game champion is also passionate about AFLW and has seen women’s football explode, first-hand.

“I’ve been playing local footy in Gembrook and we had a women’s team. It’s grown so much – it’s going gangbusters,” he said.

“The women’s game in general has taken the world by storm and there is so much untapped talent out there. 

“It will be great to work with the young girls in our NGA and I hope I can have an impact on the future of the game and the talent pool available to us through that pathway.”

Firrito will begin in early November.