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AFL: Roos back Tarrant

North Melbourne is planning to have star defender Robbie Tarrant on the trip west to face Fremantle in next week's opening round.

The 29-year-old will have to pass a fitness test before getting on the plane in 12 days' time, but is on track to play in a welcome boost for the Roos' depleted backline.

Midfield bull Ben Cunnington (corked thigh) is a certain starter after missing North's pre-season finale against Port Adelaide.

Tarrant was racing the clock from the time he underwent right shoulder surgery in mid-February after hurting his AC joint in an intraclub match.

The timing could hardly have been worse, given the state of the Kangas' tall defensive stocks, which were under such duress that Brad Scott told AFL.com.au they were hunting for state league reinforcements.

Majak Daw (pelvis/hips) may miss the entire season, Scott Thompson is ineligible to play until round two because of suspension and Sam Durdin (finger) faces six more weeks out.

A first-up date with the Dockers' new tall forward set-up, including recruits Jesse Hogan and Rory Lobb, plus potentially Matt Taberner and Brennan Cox, exacerbated the issue.

One-gamer Ben McKay and Ed Vickers-Willis, who has managed only 14 appearances because of repeat injuries since being drafted in 2014, will assume extra responsibility in the early going.

Injuries threatened Tarrant's career in his early seasons in the AFL, but he played no fewer than 21 games in each of the past four years and won the 2016 club best and fairest and was third in 2018.

Further complicating matters were setbacks last week for backmen Jamie Macmillan (calf), who didn't play in Saturday's JLT2 loss to Port Adelaide, and Marley Williams (calf) and Sam Wright (quad).

Williams sat out the contest from early in the second term as a precautionary measure, but both he and Macmillan are also likely to be available for round one selection.

Wright's status is less clear and he appears to be in doubt for the season-opener.

The news is not so good for Jed Anderson, whose return date from his latest hamstring injury is unknown at this stage.

Fellow midfielder Ben Jacobs (sinusitis) remains out indefinitely, while second-year pair Will Walker (knee) and Tristan Xerri (osteitis pubis) and fresh draftee Tom McKenzie (back) are also some way off.

Oft-injured forward Taylor Garner (hamstring) is set to return to competitive football, likely to play in the VFL this week.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs