Luke McDonald in action during North Melbourne training at Arden Street on November 13, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

NORTH Melbourne co-captain Luke McDonald and star forward Cam Zurhaar will be eased into the pre-season but are expected to transition back into full training just before Christmas after suffering late-season injuries.  

McDonald underwent hamstring surgery at the end of August after sustaining a high-grade strain against Richmond in round 23 that ruled him out of the final round of the season.

The 28-year-old is closing in on a return to full fitness after building up his running speeds and volume across the off-season, spending part of his break rehabbing alongside key defender Griffin Logue at a high performance facility in London. 

McDonald reported back for training with North Melbourne's first-to-fourth-year players on Monday and will follow a modified program across the first phase of Alastair Clarkson's second pre-season at Arden Street.  

Zurhaar missed the final six rounds of the season after suffering a syndesmosis injury in the round 18 loss to Hawthorn, leaving the West Australian stuck on 99 games. 

The 25-year-old will start pre-season training when the main group returns next Monday but needs to tick off a few targets before being cleared to return to full training in December.  

Recruit Dylan Stephens made an impressive start to life at North Melbourne by winning the 1.8km shuttle run at Arden Street on Monday, after moving from Sydney during the Trade Period in October after the 2019 No.5 pick struggled for opportunities in 2023. 

Co-captain Jy Simpkin finished second after reporting back for pre-season ahead of schedule – along with a large group of senior players – while Darcy Tucker, Harry Sheezel and Bailey Scott rounded out the top five. 

Prized pick George Wardlaw has started the pre-season with the main group but will be monitored closely across the summer after dealing with hamstring setbacks for the second straight year in 2023.

The 19-year-old played eight games in his debut season due to his hamstring issues, polling Brownlow Medal votes in his third and fourth games to highlight his quality, but the Kangaroos' high-performance department are wary of his load given his injury history. 

George Wardlaw in action during North Melbourne training at Arden Street on November 13, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Former Carlton utility Zac Fisher has also been around the club ahead of starting pre-season next Monday after being traded in a deal that also netted pick No.17 in exchange for picks 21 and 25.

SANFL star Toby Pink started with the Kangaroos on Monday after the 25-year-old key defender was signed as a delisted free agent last month, earning a second shot on the back of his form at Glenelg after spending three years on Sydney's rookie list between 2017 and 2019. 

Toby Pink in action during North Melbourne training at Arden Street on November 13, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Key defender Bigoa Nyuon was also spotted on the track on Wednesday after securing a trade from Richmond late in the Trade Period after playing one senior game during his time at Punt Road. 

North Melbourne's new coaching panel has been out on the track this week, including assistant coaches Jed Adcock and Xavier Clarke, head of development Michael Barlow and recently appointed development coach Adam Marcon, while Jarrod Leinert has also been promoted to development coach.