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North locks in gun midfielder Cunnington until 2020

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 9: Ben Cunnington of the Kangaroos in action during the North Melbourne Kangaroos training session at Arden Street, Melbourne on December 9, 2015. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Ben Cunnington has signed a contract extension with the club

STAR North Melbourne midfielder Ben Cunnington will not feature in next year's free agency crop after signing a three-year extension with the club.

The 24-year-old was already contracted until the end of 2017, but his new deal will see him remain at the club until at the least the end of the 2020 season.

Cunnington has played 123 games since his debut in 2010 and has become one of the Kangaroos' most important inside midfielders.

He won the club's best and fairest in 2014 and was runner-up to Todd Goldstein last year.

"It's exciting, we were just going about the pre-season as usual knowing that I had a contract for this year and next year, when the club approached me and my manager about a new deal," Cunnington told News Corp.

"It's worked out really good for me. I never wanted to leave, and now I won't have to deal with all that free agency stuff (next year) and all the media and speculation that goes with it.

"I've always been brought up to be loyal in whatever you do, and North has been very good to me. This place is a part of home for me.

"It is a great family club. The culture is really good. I want to be here for as long as I can, and this deal means it will probably end up with me being a one-club player, which is what I've always wanted."

With his future secure, Cunnington is now setting his sights on helping North to improve on consecutive preliminary finals and win a premiership.

We definitely feel we are around the mark at the moment. Looking back at our first prelim final (against Sydney Swans in 2014), that was such an adrenalin rush and everything happened so quickly.

"But last year we genuinely felt we had West Coast covered (at stages), even though they were a bit too good in the end. We look back and feel we could have won that game against them.

"That's what we play footy for (to win premierships). And if we can finish in the top four this year, it will help us even more."