North Melbourne's backline has been given a potential infusion of a much-needed player availability, with a trio of defenders all set to push their cases for recalls this week.
Jack Ziebell, Bailey Scott and Jackson Archer all look set to return to full training as they press for a return to defensive line that lost Aaron Hall and Kayne Turner on the weekend.
Ziebell has been out of the side since undergoing surgery on multiple facial fractures after suffering a knock to the face in the Round 13 clash with GWS.
Scott and Archer have both been sidelined with minor hip injuries. Scott picked up his issue in Round 15 against Adelaide while Archer was a late omission from the side that took on Geelong last week.
Head of performance Kevin White says Ziebell is the most likely to make his return this week.
“The last couple of weeks [Ziebell] has been in training but modified contact off the back of the multiple facial fractures he had. He slips back into full contact training this week and will be available to play,” White told North Media.
“Scotty and Jacko Archer both have similar injuries, but they’re different mechanisms. Hip-flexor strains that were really low level.
“[Scott] has gone through a really good week of recovery and built up his running. He had a really good functional assessment yesterday on the training track at about 80 per cent speed. He’ll take up full speed and full training tomorrow to be available to play this week.”
While Archer made an impressive debut against Adelaide in Round 15, he has the toughest run of the trio in proving his fitness.
“Jackson Archer unfortunately at the end of training last week was doing some surplus tackling drills at the end trying to improve got his hip joint caught as he was getting tackled and pulled up really sore,” White said.
“He’s following the same path as Bailey, but he's probably a couple of days behind. He’ll go through a functional assessment tomorrow and we’ll allow him up until Captain’s Run to press his case.”
The injury to Hall’s quad might not be as bad as first feared after the defensive veteran was substituted out of last week’s clash with Geelong.
It's not the first time Hall has been substituted out of a game due to injury - he also exited the Round 5 clash with the Western Bulldogs early.
White says his current quad injury isn't as bad as the defender's previous knock.
“'Hally' had a quad cork last week coming out of the game. He had no complaints about it early in the week and then early in the game he felt it when he was taking off with acceleration for a give and go,” White said.
“He had a scan on Monday morning that revealed a really low grade strain and the signs are really minimal which is pleasing, it’s his non-kicking leg which is another positive.
“He’ll go back to running tomorrow and build him up through footy function and see where he lies early next week.”
The Kangaroos are certain to be without Kayne Turner for this week’s clash with Collingwood, after the ever-present utility man suffered a concussion in the first term against the Cats.
Turner, who is capable of playing across all three lines, has taken part in every single one North’s senior games this season. This weekend’s game will be the first he has missed since a serious ankle injury kept him sidelined for the whole of the 2020 season.
“Kayne had a concussion so he’ll go through the mandatory 12-day protocol now,” White said.
“He was a little bit light headed and suffered some headaches the day after, but has been really good today and is in good spirits again at the club.”
The calf injury suffered by midfield veteran Ben Cunnington has only proved to be a minor setback in the club great's search to return to play.
Cunnington has missed the entirety of the season so far due to testicular cancer, but White says the much-loved member of the side is once again ramping up his training.
“Ben was going through that three-week training block where he was consolidating some football training with the main group plus top-up conditioning in the hope of building him as a chance to come back and play some football later in the year,” White said.
“Unfortunately in that last week he had a calf strain on the Saturday reconditioning session which set him back about a week.
He’s back on his running program this week, building strength and then he’ll progress to his footy function from there again.”
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