North Melbourne's Taylor Garner. Picture: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images via AFL Photos

NORTH Melbourne's free agent forward Taylor Garner will play his first senior game of the year on Sunday after another season ravaged by a hamstring injury.

The talented Kangaroo has made only nine appearances since his breakout 2017 campaign – all last year – where he looked ready to realise his potential before a series of injuries cut him down again.

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North football boss Brady Rawlings told Garner made it through a practice match last weekend and performed well enough to earn a recall for the Fremantle clash.

One of the 26-year-old's career highlights came against the Dockers early in the 2017 season, when he soared for a huge mark over multiple players.


Aiden Bonar (AC joint) also returns, while prime-mover Jy Simpkin passed all concussion protocols and will take his place, but young pair Jack Mahony and Tristan Xerri (both shoulder) will miss again.

Roos coach Rhyce Shaw was equally as pleased as Rawlings to see Garner make his way back to AFL level.

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"I'm bloody rapt for him. He had a really good pre-season, he was looking sharp and he came back from the COVID break in the best nick I've seen him in," Shaw said.

"I've been here for only a couple of years, but by all reports it's the best nick he's been in, then at training he does his hammy, so it's just one of those innocuous (ones).

"You see it and you can't believe it. He's worked really hard to get back and I'm really excited to see what he can do on the weekend and I'm really proud about the way he's gone about it."

Simpkin copped a head knock from a glancing Zak Butters blow in the third quarter of North Melbourne's defeat to Port Adelaide on Saturday night.


Butters received a two-match ban for the incident, and Shaw said all precautions were taken before clearing Simpkin for contact training on Friday and then to play this weekend.

The game also doubles as champion ruckman Todd Goldstein's 250th match, a year after Geelong made a big play to try to lure him out of Arden Street as a free agent.

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"Todd's a North Melbourne man and we spoke about it this morning at our team meeting; about how much he means to us as a footy club and how much he means to the players," Shaw said.

"He just provides us with absolutely everything. He's a team-first player and the conversation around last year coming into this year and beyond was just about him being that one-club player.

"He's been fantastic this year – I know we've struggled – but in terms of ruckmen in the competition, I don't think there's anyone better than him at the moment and … I'd be pretty disappointed if he didn't get the call-up in the All-Australian squad."