AFL great Kane Cornes has questioned whether Essendon signing Ben McKay can silence the pressure that comes with his price tag after the high-profile move. McKay is reported to be the highest paid player in the AFL in 2024 with the forward signing for Essendon in a blockbuster move.
North Melbourne have netted a round one compensation draft pick in exchange for McKay, with the pick currently sitting at pick No. 3. Because McKay was an unrestricted free agent, North Melbourne had the ability to match Essendon’s offer for the key defender. However they decided not to and let McKay walk to the Bombers.
McKay's contract is front loaded with the Essendon signing reportedly earning between $1.4-1.5 million in his first season. This would see him surpass Dustin Martin's reported wage in 2023. The front loaded contract for McKay could free up space for Essendon after the 2025 season.
And Cornes believes the 24-year-old talent could find it hard to live up to the price tag placed on him. “Is he ready for the scrutiny that comes with $1.5 million a year and being the highest paid player? I don’t know if he is,” Cornes said on SEN Radio.
Cornes was critical of the huge salary with McKay performing well in an under performing North Melbourne team. McKay was determined to reunite with former Kangaroos coach Brad Scott at the Bombers, and was delighted the deal went through.
But Cornes questioned whether Essendon fans feel comfortable spending the money on the 25-year-old.
“Are you comfortable with him earning $1.5 million a year? It’s going to come with some scrutiny. He’s played in eight wins throughout his career, he’s never had a Brownlow Medal vote, rarely if ever top five in their best and fairest ... has had some issues with his body.
“Now he’s going to be the highest paid player in the game."
Ben McKay's high-profile move to Essendon
McKay will join former Kangaroos teammate Todd Goldstein at Essendon, after the veteran ruckman's trade was also made official this week. He was determined to reunite with former Kangaroos coach Scott at Essendon.
"We're not accepting end of first round for a 25-year-old key defender in our leadership group," Kangaroos list boss Brady Rawlings said previously. "If it's first round then it's a different story."
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