ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 13: Ben McKay of the Kangaroos leads thje team off at half time during the round 22 AFL match between the Adelaide Crows and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Adelaide Oval on August 13, 2022 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

The tussle to secure free agent North Melbourne defender Ben McKay has reportedly been narrowed to just two teams, as one previous player is understood to have dropped out of the running.

McKay, who can exercise his restricted-free-agent rights this off-season, has been tipped to depart Arden Street this year after eight seasons at the fledgling club.

While Essendon has been the club most heavily tied to McKay throughout the course of this year, there has been competition for the key-position backman's long-term services, with the likes of Sydney and Hawthorn joining in the race.

However, according to AFL Media journalist Cal Twomey on Wednesday morning, the Swans are no longer in contention to be McKay's new club, leaving just the Dons and Hawks to fight it out for the Kangaroos stopper.

"The Ben McKay race, the race for the free agent from North Melbourne is down to two clubs; Essendon and Hawthorn," Twomey said on Wednesday.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 20: Ben McKay of the Kangaroos handballs during the round 10 AFL match between North Melbourne Kangaroos and Sydney Swans at Marvel Stadium, on May 20, 2023, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

"Sydney [is] no longer a part of that now, so [it's] down to two clubs. McKay [is] set to stay in Victoria."


Whether it's Essendon or Hawthorn -- or even North Melbourne, still -- McKay is expected to land a lucrative long-term deal.

His impending agreement, if with a club other than North, is a near-certainty to gift the Roos 'band one' draft compensation at this year's National Draft due to the AFL's regulations regarding the ages of free agents and the lengths of the contracts they sign.


This year's free agency period is scheduled to commence on October 6, with the trade period's opening to follow suit on October 9.