North Melbourne has completed one of its most important player re-signings this year, securing Shaun Atley's signature until the end of 2018.
RELATED: Shaun Atley's player profile
Atley headed a list of young Roos set to come out of contract at the end of this season, including Aaron Mullett, Sam Wright, Majak Daw, Ben Jacobs, Brad McKenzie, Trent Dumont and Kieran Harper.
The 22-year-old's speed and ability to break opposition lines make him one of the most exciting talents among the Roos' emerging group of youngsters.
Atley told AFL.com.au on Tuesday he had no hesitation in signing a new three-year deal with North so early in the season.
"It's obviously good to be re-signed for another three years, the club's entering an exciting time so it's good to be part of it," Atley said.
Since joining North as pick No.17 in the 2010 national draft, Atley has played 89 of a possible 95 games, including the past 74 in a row.
He earmarked himself as a future star in 2012, his second AFL season, when he finished fifth in the club's best and fairest award after switching from the wing to defence.
Atley gave the Roos such a spark across half-back that opposition teams often played defensive forwards on him in 2013 and it took him some time to adjust.
However, he bounced back with a consistent 2014 season that earned him 10th place in the Syd Barker Medal.
Given the Roos' relative lack of speed in the midfield, Atley has long appealed to commentators and North fans alike as the player who can bring balance to the club's on-ball division.
Atley has been mixing his time between half-back and the wing this year and says he hopes to increase his midfield minutes over the remainder of the season.
But Atley's major focus this season is helping the Roos build on their preliminary final appearance last year.
"The team goal is to do better than we did last year and that's to go further in the finals," Atley said.
"We've got a long way to go before we get there."
North sits 1-2 and 11th on the ladder after its fighting eight-point loss to Port Adelaide last Saturday night.
The Roos' season does not get any easier over the next five rounds, with clashes against Geelong (Simonds Stadium), Hawthorn, Richmond, Essendon and Fremantle (Domain Stadium) awaiting them.
With the competition for finals spots seemingly more intense than ever this season, this five-week stretch could make or break North's season.
But Atley is looking forward to it.
"We've got some good games coming up against good opponents, we'll be able to test ourselves," he says.
"We've got to test ourselves against some of the better teams to know where we're at.
"If we can get over the line and beat those sort of teams it will give the boys enormous confidence.
"We've probably got to win those tough games against the opponents who are going to be up there at the top of the ladder – Fremantle, Geelong and teams like that – because if we can't beat them then we probably shouldn't be playing finals."
Atley says North's review of last Saturday night's loss to Port showed that the Roos' effort had been "really good" but "a few defensive inconsistencies" had let them down.
The former Murray Bushranger says the Roos' defensive slip-ups against the Power were mainly due to lapses in concentration, but he's confident North can tighten up against Geelong on Sunday.
"It's frustrating because we train all week to get it right and then a couple of little things late in the game let us down," Atley says.
"So it is a bit annoying but it's something we can fix out on the track and with an eight-day break we'll be able to fix that up this week against Geelong."