North Melbourne midfielder Ben Cunnington will make his AFL return this weekend after being treated for testicular cancer.
- Cunnington will play for the Kangaroos against the Crows on Saturday
- He has not played an AFL match since last July
- Cunnington appeared in the VFL last weekend
Cunnington produced a stirring comeback in the VFL last weekend, having been kept out of the game since last July.
He underwent surgery to remove a tumour in July last year before completing a nine-week course of chemotherapy to treat a secondary diagnosis last November.
The gun on-baller tweaked a calf and produced a positive COVID-19 test as he neared a return in recent weeks, but he pulled up from his first match in 379 days with only some general soreness.
Cunnington will play against the Crows at Adelaide Oval and could then make an emotional appearance in front of home fans when the Kangaroos’ 2022 campaign ends against Gold Coast at Docklands in round 23.
He addressed his teammates on Wednesday to confirm he would make his long-awaited return to the senior squad.
“I love my life outside of footy and you think you can finish up [playing] and be happy with that,” Cunnington said.
“But until it sort of gets taken away from you and you’ve got no control over that, you soon realise that you’re still loving it.
“I went through what I’ve had to go through and without the support I couldn’t have got through.
“But I’m here now, hungry, and I feel I’ve worked hard to be in a position to hopefully help the boys out again. I’m keen as ever.”
Cunnington gathered 18 possessions — including the first clearance of the match — against Sydney in the VFL last Sunday.
The six-day turnaround between matches was one of the considerations around whether Cunnington was picked in the senior squad this week.
“It’s just about giving him the best opportunity to still contribute as well,” Kangaroos interim coach Leigh Adams said.
“He’s such a proud person, he’ll still expect to go out there and get 30 touches because that’s the sort of champion he is.”
Cameron Zurhaar will be looking to continue his strong form after kicking 13 goals in four matches under Adams’s coaching reign.
Key defender Ben McKay is expected to be available for the clash with Adelaide after being a late withdrawal last week due to a shoulder issue.
Source: AFL NEWS ABC