Torn North on Cunnington AFL comeback path


North Melbourne is torn between picking plucky midfielder Ben Cunnington from the AFL or returning to football through the reserves.

The Kangaroos veteran hasn’t played since Round 19 of 2021 after battling testicular cancer.

But Cunnington should finally be available to play this weekend in a major boost for the struggling club.

North caretaker manager Leigh Adams is debating whether to bring in Cunnington for their AFL clash with the Sydney Swans at Marvel Stadium on Sunday, or bring him back via the VFL against the same opponents at Arden St.

The 31-year-old was tracking well to come back last month before polishing his calf in training, and last week he tested positive for COVID-19.

“He needs to master the main skills and then we’ll talk to the performance team about whether we think it’s better for him to race in pairs for a week or bring him straight in,” Adams said Wednesday. .

“I’m pretty sure what his and the coach’s preference is, it’s just going to be what’s best for his body going forward.

“At this time of year, it’s a great story for us and a motivation for the group and for the football club.”

Adams admits the coaches face a tough decision but will be guided by the medical staff.

Cunnington was still one of the Kangaroos’ best midfielders before his battle with cancer and he has been greatly missed by the club this season.

He has played 227 games with North since being selected with the fifth pick in the 2009 draft.

“The last thing we would want to do is have him break down and be out for the rest of the year,” Adams said.

“It will probably be the VFL, although we would like him to come back straight.

“Deep down I know he would love to play against the seniors, especially in a game in Melbourne this weekend and we are traveling next weekend.

“Having his support network and his family who went through so much with him during the game would be fantastic.”

North is bottom with a 2-17 record going into the final three games of the season.

The Kangaroos will remember their 1996 premiership victory on Sunday with club greats gathering to celebrate the famous grand final against the Swans.


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