NORTH Melbourne has locked away a key piece of its future, with star midfielder Ben Cunnington shunning free agency to pen a two-year contract extension at Arden Street.
AFL.com.au understands Cunnington, who was due to become one of the competition's most sought-after unrestricted free agents at the conclusion of next season, has secured his future with the Kangaroos until at least the end of 2022.
His extension comes in the midst of another stellar campaign for the 27-year-old, who leads the League for both clearances and contested possessions this season.
Having celebrated his 200th game in North Melbourne's last match, Cunnington has developed into one of the game's most consistent inside midfielders.
He is averaging career-high numbers in disposals, clearances, contested possessions and score involvements this year, highlighting his importance within a young Kangaroos midfield group.
Cunnington, who is in his 10th season at North Melbourne, won the club's best and fairest in 2014.