THE REIGNING NAB AFL Women's best and fairest, Emma Kearney, has left the Western Bulldogs and will join North Melbourne ahead of the Roos' AFLW debut in 2019.
Kearney, a dual club champion at the Bulldogs, led the club to the 2018 AFLW premiership in thrilling fashion last month.
However, speculation has been swirling about the 28-year-old's future at the club in recent weeks and North Melbourne confirmed the recruiting coup.
"It was quite an easy decision and I feel like Arden St is sort of my home (she plays for VFLW club Melbourne University, which is affiliated with the Roos) and I’m really excited to be here," Kearney said.
"The ultimate is winning a premiership, but for me it’s developing that list we have and forming a really good group and growing from there.
"I’m hoping we can build a good list for 2019 and I’m really confident we will."
As well as leading the women's side on the field, Kearney will leave her job in the AFL's coaching department to join the Kangaroos as a full-time employee.
North's football operations manager Laura Kane said that Kearney's move would be completed when the AFL finalised its player movement rules ahead of the 2019 season, when the Roos and Geelong would make their AFLW debuts.
"We identified Emma very early on as someone we wanted at North Melbourne and she will commence employment here soon, with player terms to be agreed in the coming weeks," Kane said.
Not surprisingly, the Bulldogs said they were disappointed to lose Kearney, who last week won the club’s best and fairest award.
"[But] we also understand the expanding landscape of the competition," said the club’s general manager of women’s football, Debbie Lee.
"Emma had a great year with us in 2018 … we wish Emma all the best with her move, and we thank her for her efforts during her time with us."
A dual sport star who has played for the Melbourne Stars in the women's T20 Big Bash League, Kearney declared football would be her priority in the wake of winning the AFL best and fairest award last week.