Robbie Tarrant will make his return to AFL football on Sunday after having a tumour removed from his kidney in March.

The 32-year-old later discovered the mass to be benign and has opened up on the discovery and his recovery.  

03:22 Mins
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Robbie Tarrant interview (June 11, 2021)

Key defender Robbie Tarrant returns to North Melbourne's senior team this week for his first game of the 2021 season.

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“Obviously it’s had its challenges,” Tarrant told North Media.

“I went in for surgery to remove a tumour from my kidney, I guess when you’re sort of fit and healthy you don’t expect you’re going to go through that.

“Last year after the Hawthorn game I just had a scan on my ribs and it was just incidentally found. We thought it was a cyst at the time so I just had a follow-up scan six months after and I guess they just changed their opinion on what it was and then we just sort of looked at our options from there.”

Tarrant said he was grateful of the unwavering support he has received along the way.

"The amount of support I’ve had from everyone here at the club and outside of the club - supporters, past players, past coaches, everyone, it’s just been overwhelming and I’m really grateful for that,” he said.

“It was never pushing me into one way or the other, it was just support and it was amazing really.

“I think ‘Nobes’ [David Noble] and ‘Brades’ [Brady Rawlings] and the two doctors in particular, especially early doors, they were the only ones that really knew so I think that their support and I guess guidance a little bit was really helpful.”

With 269 days between games, Tarrant viewed the road back as an opportunity to challenge himself and to build on relationships with some of the younger players.

“I was actually really fit going into surgery and obviously I didn’t have any symptoms or anything … I was probably as fit as I’ve ever been, so I had a really good base to sort of build off again so after a couple of weeks I got stuck into it and sort of smooth sailing ever since then,” he said.

“I had feet up for a couple of weeks then I slowly integrated into bike and that sort of thing but as soon as I could start running we just did that.

“It’s [rehab] just another challenge and I was excited about trying to push myself and get back as quick as I could.

“I’ve had a really good run [since surgery] and had no setbacks or anything like that so unfortunately for the group but fortunately for me there was a few of us in rehab so it was really good to I guess spend some time with them and push each other.

“There’s some good boys in there that are going to learn some really good lessons like Flynn [Perez] and Charlie [Comben] about what it takes to become a good AFL player and I think that their time in rehab is going to set them up really well for the future.”

Tarrant was due to make a return to VFL a fortnight ago before Covid restrictions put a halt to the VFL competition. He said having an active role off field since his surgery has helped him stay in touch with the group.

“I’m obviously an experienced player and hopefully I can teach some of the boys a few things along the way,” he said.

“We’ve built a really good culture here in terms of everyone in the meetings and everyone’s having their say and that sort of thing, so it’s going really well.

“I guess it’s been frustrating in one aspect that I can’t be out there helping them but it’s been really enjoyable watching them through the first 11 weeks of the season.

“The development of Jack [Ziebell] going back for the first time and playing there and obviously ‘buckets’ [Ben McKay] is having an amazing year and really sort of stemmed from his year last year and he’s just carried it over and improved again.

“Also just the younger boys, I think Charlie [Lazzaro], Will [Phillips], Tommy Powell, there’s a few that are just floating through and if you just watch where they were at, at the start of the year to now they’re showing really good improvement and hopefully we can keep improving as a group in the second half of the year.”

Tarrant said he will be pulling on the royal blue and white striped jumper with pride come Sunday.

“I’ve been pretty much training fully for six weeks now and feel really good and really confident and I sort of feel like I could’ve been going a little bit earlier but I’m just as I said before really grateful to be playing this week,” he added.

“I’m just super pumped to get out there and play with blokes I haven’t played with but also just play with blokes that I’ve built relationships with over the past 14 years.

“I think that everyone can see, I guess, the process we are trying to do on match day and we just need to do it for a little bit longer and we can convert that into a few wins in the back half of the season.

“[I’m] excited to play with a couple of players I haven’t played with before and hopefully try and get our second win for the season.”