NORTH Melbourne will use the next three weeks to decide on a potential return date for star midfielder Ben Cunnington, as he continues his recovery from a secondary diagnosis of testicular cancer.
Cunnington returned to football drills at training on Tuesday, having recently increased his high-conditioning loads, with the Kangaroos to use an important next period to decide upon if and when the veteran will return this season.
The dual North Melbourne best and fairest 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 club will continue to be patient with Cunnington, putting no pressure on his return, though head of performance Kevin White said on Tuesday the Kangaroos were pleased with the 30-year-old's progress.
"He's going really well," White said.
"He's moved now from two high-conditioning sessions on the ground to three. He's probably had three to four weeks of that now. He's integrated (on Tuesday) back into some of the football drills. Over the next few weeks, it's that percentage of training and percentage of conditioning with him.
"We're looking now at a really strong three-week block to progress and integrate into the main group. We'll take it then at the end of that three weeks to assess where he lies in terms of his head and his body towards a return-to-play at the end of that point
"But, like always, there's no real pressure on him at this point in terms of having a date to return to play. The pleasing thing is that he's got a real return-to-play mindset on him at the minute.
"He's graduating week-on-week through some really good loads and consistent loading. (Tuesday) was another really good step for 'Cunners' in reintegrating with the main group through some skills."
By Riley Beveridge
Don't think there's any evidence that activity will change the likelihood of recurrence, so thanfully that's not a concern. It's going to be whether someone feels they've reached the appropriate level of fitness, both mentally and physically.Just wonderful news. Just hope that it is not too soon to be contemplating a return to footy, in case it triggers another bout of cancer.
If he's interested, he has my vote for Captain next year.