North Melbourne can confirm it will take a long-term approach with Ben Cunnington’s back injury, and has elected to rest him for the remainder of the season.
Kangaroos’ GM football, Brady Rawlings, said the dual Syd Barker Medal winner has run out of time to make a return this year.
“Ben’s been working closely with our physios and strength and conditioning staff, but the reality is, he won’t be available before the end of the season given the time we have left,” he said.
“Although his strength measures have improved and his progress is encouraging, he’d still need to complete a mini pre-season before being available for selection and we just don’t have that luxury with six games remaining.”
Rawlings said Cunnington’s absence has been significant, but the focus will now be on getting him ready for 2021.
“Ben is one of the best midfielders in the competition, and arguably the best contested ball winner there is, so not having him out there has been a challenge for us obviously,” he said.
“Ben is disappointed but is now focused on doing everything he can to be ready for next year.”
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Rawlings said Cunnington’s injury had given some up-and-coming stars a chance to put their hand up.
“If there is one positive, it is that it has allowed us to give our emerging talent such as Luke Davies-Uniacke, Bailey Scott, Tarryn Thomas, before his injury, and even Cam Zurhaar some increased midfield minutes.
“We were also able to play Luke McDonald as a tagger and have seen the emergence of Jy Simpkin as a genuine star midfielder of the future.”