Ben McKay warms up ahead of the R19 match between North Melbourne and St Kilda at Marvel Stadium on July 23, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

BEN McKay has nominated Essendon as his new home, with the North Melbourne free agent deciding on the Bombers ahead of Hawthorn. revealed on Friday the key defender had chosen the Bombers in a hot race for his services.

McKay had taken his time to decide on his future with the decision narrowing to Essendon, Hawthorn and Sydney in recent weeks. He advised the Swans earlier this week that he would be staying in Victoria.

As a restricted free agent, the Kangaroos are able to match a bid for him.

He will add much-needed strength to Essendon's key defensive group and play under coach Brad Scott, who was at North Melbourne when he was drafted.

North Melbourne list manager Brady Rawlings said the club would now consider its next move.

"We understand that free agency is part of football," Rawlings said.


"Given Ben is a restricted free agent, we have the option to match any contract that's on offer to him.

"The official start of the free agency period is still a couple of weeks away so we've got time to assess our options and make a decision in the best interests of the North Melbourne Football Club."

Ben McKay and Flynn Perez celebrate after the round 24 match between North Melbourne and Gold Coast at Blundstone Arena on August 26, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

McKay's departure on a long-term deal is seen by clubs as being likely to net the Kangaroos a first-round compensation pick, which would be pick No.3 after their current pick No.2. 

They also currently have pick 14, tied to Port Adelaide, while the AFL will decide on Monday whether another mid-first round pick, at No.11, could be handed to the club as part of its assistance package. 

The Roos also bid farewell to veteran ruckman Todd Goldstein on Thursday, with the 315-gamer to explore his free agency options elsewhere in 2024.

Essendon, as revealed on Gettable, has been considered the favourite for him but other clubs, such as Collingwood and St Kilda, have also been linked with interest at varying levels.