MICHAEL Firrito's remarkable 2014 return to form has earned him a new one-year deal with North Melbourne.
And the 30-year-old defender is keen to extend his career for as long as possible, confident that the Roos are on the cusp of an exciting new era.
However, this time last year, Firrito's AFL career looked like it might be over.
The former rookie was coming off an injury-plagued 2013 season, when he spent five weeks in the VFL late in the year, and remained unsigned for almost a month after North's season finished.
However, the Roos kept faith in Firrito resigning him for 2014 and the veteran repaid them with one of the best seasons of his 12-year career.
The 190cm defender played on his usual mix of talls and smalls this year, keeping most of them on a short leash as he finished second at North for one-percenters.
He was also one of the Roos' best counter-attackers, averaging 16.3 possessions and 3.9 rebound 50s (second at the club) a game.
After such an outstanding season, it seemed inevitable Firrito would play on in 2015.
But the veteran told AFL.com.au he was so excited by what the future held at Arden Street that he was not putting any end date on his career.
"It's a very exciting time at the footy club so to be a part of it is pretty nice," Firrito said on Wednesday.
"I'm getting older too, so I certainly cherish the times playing finals.
"It's a funny game footy. I'm just excited to kick on for another 12 months, but who knows what lies ahead?
"I will certainly put my head down and bum up and work pretty hard because it feels like – and this is just my opinion – that we are on the cusp of something pretty exciting and I certainly want to be part of it.
"However long that's for we'll just have to wait and see, but I'll definitely be there for another 12 months and I very happy about it."
This year, Firrito played in his – and North's – first finals win since 2007, when the Roos came from 33 points down early in the second half to beat Essendon in the second elimination final.
North backed that up a week later, beating Geelong in a thrilling second semi-final, before bowing out with a lacklustre preliminary final loss to the Sydney Swans.
Firrito says North's players, especially the younger ones, would take great confidence out of their finals wins, along with their ability to cover the prolonged 2014 injury absences of Andrew Swallow (Achilles), Daniel Wells (foot) and Nathan Grima (foot).
However, the defender says the Roos will take valuable lessons from the Swans loss into 2015: first, that they need to be at their absolute best against the top teams at the pointy end of September; and, second, that they need to perform consistently enough in the home and away season to finish in the top four and give themselves the best platform to launch a premiership assault.
Firrito stressed he had no inside knowledge of whether Waite and Higgins will be at Arden Street next year, but said the fact they were being linked with North underlined how far the club had come since chairman James Brayshaw and his board assumed power at the end of 2007.
"It's a pretty exciting place to be part of with the other players that are being bandied around as wanting to come to the club," Firrito said.
"I don't blame any player from another club wanting to come in and be part of the footy club because it feels as though we're on the verge of something.
"While there's still a lot of work to do, there's been a massive turnaround from seven years ago when 'JB' (Brayshaw) and his board came in and it looked like we were Gold Coast bound – it's a credit to the whole organisation.
"If we are lucky enough to get some of these opposition players, it's going to add probably more depth to our footy club than we've ever had before.
"So it will be really tough for spots, but it will put the club in a great position."