A big game with Carlton in Round 19 calls for some big inclusions, and North Melbourne looks set to be bolstered by the return of Ben Cunnington ahead of the clash. Inclusions don’t get much bigger than that.
Having not travelled to Brisbane last week due to family reasons, Cunnington watched North’s clash with Essendon from afar. Now the side is back in Victoria though, he’s available and ready to go.
David Noble says Cunnington isn’t the only experienced player pushing for a return though.
“Ben did a load over the weekend and did a training session. It’s probably not a bad time for him to have a spell coming into the last four or five games, but he’ll be straight back in,” Noble said.
“Jared (Polec) and Jed (Anderson) had a session here on Saturday morning … ‘Boomer’ (Brent Harvey) came in and did some work with them.
“They’re both chances this week … they’re both ready for selection.”
With Harry McKay missing last season’s Round 8 clash between North and Carlton, fans were robbed of the opportunity to see the first battle of the McKay twins.
Much has changed in the time since. Harry currently leads the Coleman Medal race with 52 goals this season, while twin brother Ben is quickly establishing himself as one of the AFL’s premier key defenders and a potent part of North’s backline.
“We’ve got a number of good defenders down there, but there’ll definitely be a time when they’re (Ben and Harry) on each other. There’s no escaping that,” he said.
“The way our defence moves sometimes it does have flexibility, you need to cover different roles. There will be a point in time when they’re playing on each other.
“Harry’s got a certain style he moves with … Ben’s preparation is obviously around the types of forwards he plays on … the preparation is more on the mode of the forward rather than playing on his brother this week.”
After his remarkable return to competitive football in a scratch match last week, it can be expected that Charlie Comben will be putting his hand up for senior selection sooner rather than later.
The young forward kicked 4 goals in his first half of football in 17 months and impressed in all aspects of his game, with his huge tackle on Callum Ah Chee setting the tone for a quality individual performance.
With North utilising Tristan Xerri and Tom Campbell in a key forward and secondary ruck role at different stages this season, there’s a spot in the senior side for Comben, should he earn selection.
“What we loved about his (Comben) game wasn’t so much the goals, but his movement, his reading of the play and his connection with how the ball moved really caught our eye,” Noble said.
“There are five weeks ahead of us to see what capacity we’ve got from the big fella. We wouldn’t discount [a debut], but we’re certainly not going to risk it.
“We’ve tracked his loads really carefully … at this stage he’s pulled up really well and there’s no soreness.
“Internally we feel like there’s enough time should his form be good enough and should he warrant selection. He’s going to need to continue to show some good signs.”