FORMER Fremantle and Gold Coast midfielder Michael Barlow will join North Melbourne as the Kangaroos' new head of development following a successful stint at standalone VFL club Werribee.
The 35-year-old has transitioned into coaching since departing the Suns at the end of 2018, starting as a playing assistant across his first two years back at Chirnside Park before being appointed as senior coach ahead of the 2021 season.
Barlow led the Tigers to their first grand final appearance in almost two decades on the back of a stunning 17-game winning streak in the second half of the season, before falling to Gold Coast in September's decider.
The Kangaroos have been in the market for the role since parting ways with Gavin Brown last month after the Collingwood great ran the development at the club since 2019.
Barlow is understood to have been pursued by a handful of AFL clubs following a season that not only led to great team success, but has enhanced the draft chances of several Werribee players.
Sam Clohesy won the Fothergill-Round-Mitchell Medal and is on the radar of clubs after producing a major spike in 2023, while 26-year-old Shaun Mannagh is expected to finally land a shot after finishing top-five in the JJ Liston Trophy before winning the Norm Goss Medal for best on ground in the VFL Grand Final, after kicking six goals from 28 touches.
Barlow was initially drafted out of Werribee at the age of 21 following a stellar rise in the Goulburn Valley Football League for Shepparton United.
The Victorian famously burst on to the scene in his first season in the AFL, amassing 33 disposals and two goals in one of the best debuts ever, emerging as a Brownlow Medal contender before he suffered a horrific broken leg in round 14 that ended his season.
Barlow played 126 games across seven seasons for Fremantle before being signed by the Suns as a delisted free agent at the end of 2016, where he added 15 appearances across two seasons but suffered another broken leg.
Since then, Barlow has been preparing to return to club land in a coaching capacity, building his experience in a full-time role at Werribee across the past three seasons around other work in the media.
North Melbourne has made an array of changes to the football department since four-time premiership coach Alastair Clarkson joined the club last year.
Veteran assistant coach John Blakey also departed last month, while former Carlton and St Kilda senior coach Brett Ratten has returned to Hawthorn after stepping in as caretaker coach in the middle part of the 2023 season.
The Kangaroos have also added Xavier Clarke as an assistant coach after the Northern Territorian went through the coaching process at Richmond and then chose to depart Punt Road after seven seasons in a variety of roles at the Tigers.