Despite being a late exclusion from last weekend’s clash with Hawthorn, Nick Larkey still has some way to go to prove his fitness ahead of this week’s game against Essendon.
Larkey was substituted out of the Round 18 victory over Richmond after landing awkwardly in a marking contest. He was replaced by Charlie Lazzaro at three-quarter time and, while he was close to getting up for the Hawthorn clash, he was always going to be a late test.
He was replaced in last week’s side by returning veteran Aaron Hall.
Larkey is currently North Melbourne’s leading goalkicker for the season having nailed 29 majors from his 16 appearances in 2022.
North Head of Performance Kevin White says Larkey will once again have every opportunity to prove his fitness over the course of the week.
"Nick was pretty sore in the early part of last week with weight-bearing on that heel. Towards the end of the week he began to feel improved and underwent a fitness test during Captain’s Run in Hobart," White told North Media.
"On assessment Nick still had soreness landing from marking contests, with all other functional tests passed prior to his high-end testing.
"This week we’ll look to progress footy function early in the week and train him uninhibited on Thursday in order to pass fit for the game this week."
Fellow key forward Charlie Comben is set to return to action in the VFL this weekend after successfully recovering from knee surgery.
The operation was to remove screws in Comben’s knee from a previous procedure, and White says the key forward has trained well in recent weeks.
"Charlie has had a strong three-week block of pain-free conditioning & football loading post-surgery recovery that has him well placed for a strong finish to the season," White said.
"He will fall into the main program this week of training on Tuesday and Thursday and available to play on Sunday."
Livewire midfield/forward option Tarryn Thomas has returned to the club after taking time away for personal leave and is well-placed to return to action this week.
Thomas last played competitive football at any level in Round 15 against Adelaide where he finished with just three disposals.
"Tarryn returned to the club over the weekend after personal leave and had a strong running conditioning session to get some high intensity loading under his belt again to start the week," White said.
"In amongst his last few weeks of not playing competitive games, Tarryn has had some really high game-load footy conditioning sessions at the club in order to maintain loading and serve as soft tissue protection.
"He will train with the main group on Tuesday and Thursday and be available for selection this week."
Kyron Hayden should also be available to play this week after missing two weeks due to a groin issue.
Hayden had played through the injury for a number of weeks, but the timing of last weekend’s VFL bye saw the conditioning staff rest the athletic defender in order to give him the best chance of finishing the season on a high.
"Kyron has made some considerable improvements with regards his overload symptoms and groin strength measures over the past two weeks since entering a down-loaded period of training. He will fall into the main program this week of training on Tuesday and Thursday and available to play on Sunday."
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Interim coach Leigh Adams and a number of Kangaroos players have tested positive for COVID-19 in the early stages of this week, with the club pushing its training program back 24 hours in order to get on top of the potential outbreak within the club.
With four players currently sidelined with the virus, White says a number of factors come into consideration in regards to their availability this weekend.
"Those players that contracted the COVID virus over the course of the trip to Tasmania are at home isolating currently with our club doctor monitoring their individual responses and symptoms through daily check-ins," White said.
"Their considerations for game availability this week will be assessed based off multiple factors including their symptoms, ability to absorb exercise during the week, recent training history and preparation leading into game day after they clear isolation."