It’s touch and go as to whether North Melbourne's Nick Larkey will be fit for this weekend’s clash with Hawthorn after the key forward was substituted out of the Round 18 triumph over Richmond with a heel injury.
Larkey had just seven disposals before being removed from the game at three-quarter-time, with medical substitute Charlie Lazzaro replacing him for the final period.
Head of Performance Kevin White says Larkey is "a genuine test" to be fit this weekend.
"'Larks' injured the fat pad under his heel just landing in a marking contest and was pretty sore during the game. He just couldn't function with his change of direction, his agility and his marking," White told North Media.
"As the game wore on we had to make the decision to take him off the ground. He's pulled up pretty sore and it's a bit tender.
"He's walking pain free today (Tuesday), but he's very much a test and we'll run him right up until game day for his availability … we'll give him all the time he needs this week."
Aaron Hall looks to be pressing his claim as an addition to the backline as he continues his recovery from a quad injury sustained early in the Kangaroos' Round 16 defeat to Geelong.
It was the second time he had to be substituted out of a game this season, following a hamstring strain against the Western Bulldogs in Round 5.
White says the medical staff have been cautious in Hall's return to action.
"'Hally' has gone really well. We probably could have squeezed him in last week if we wanted to in terms of his return to play," White said.
"Given we had a little bit more time with him we figured we'd try and bulletproof him further. He had an extra two sessions up his sleeve where he could get more exposure to high speed running, acceleration and deceleration and footy function.
"(It's) main training tomorrow (Wednesday) and if he ticks that off he'll be available to play this week, so looking forward to having 'Hally' back."
The Kangaroos' main training group is set for a second high-profile inclusion on Wednesday, with midfield veteran Ben Cunnington set to re-join the group for the first time since injuring his calf.
Cunnington has been absent from the side all season after suffering testicular cancer, and the fan favourite was closing in on a potential return to play before the ill-timed calf issue.
"Ben's going really well. He's had a really solid last two weeks. The plan for Ben is tomorrow he'll slide back into the main training group with the AFL squad and top up [run] after that," White said.
"He'll have two high load sessions in the next two weeks and then we'll update post that … we've had really strong conditioning blocks in the last few weeks with Ben and now it's about getting some solid football with the group in the next two weeks and see how he goes with it."
Charlie Comben is also closing in on an anticipated return, with the exciting young forward progressing well in his recovery from a minor knee operation.
Comben has been in fine form in the VFL this season, and has kicked 13 goals from his six appearances. In his most recent game before undergoing the operation, he kicked three goals in a dominant performance against Williamstown in Round 10.
"Charlie had the screws removed from his knee and was building up on the Alter-G in his running program," White said.
"Now in the last week and a half he's graduated through his football conditioning program. He'll take a big step tomorrow in re-joining the main football group: he'll do a 10km session tomorrow through footy work, and look to reintegrate back into the VFL next week."
Some Charlie Comben Content™️ to brighten a gloomy Monday in Melbourne 🍯 pic.twitter.com/G2Bj06s4E9— North Melbourne FC (@NMFCOfficial) May 30, 2022
Kyron Hayden continues to progress in his recovery from a groin injury, with the athletic defender excluded from last week's VFL clash with the Tigers as a result of the issue.
White says the injury had been impacting Hayden's training for a number of weeks, but he should be ready to return after this weekend’s VFL bye.
"'Ronny' had a little bit of groin soreness in the last couple of weeks, and we were managing his training loads during the week," White said.
"With the upcoming VFL bye we thought we'd use last week plus this week as a two-week period where we can really manage his loads, get some more treatment into him and have some medical intervention.
"He's tracking in a really good direction at the minute and we’d expect Kyron to slip back into training next week and be available for selection next week."
>> Click here for the full injury list, thanks to AIA Vitality