NORTH Melbourne midfielder Ben Cunnington is on track for a return to his best this season after his debilitating back injury last year.
The 29-year-old managed only three games last year as he battled a crippling back injury that also affected his quad muscles.
The best and fairest winner left a huge hole in the Roos midfield, with the club plummeting to second-last on the ladder in a horror campaign.
But new North coach David Noble is set to have the tough ball-winner ready for round one, with Cunnington completing the pre-season without any hiccups.
"We're getting some really good loads into him at the moment so it's just about managing those knowing the history with his back. But so far, so good and he's been really good," Noble told AFL.com.au.
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"He's hardly missed a session – the only ones he's missed are the sessions we've managed for him. But as an out and out person who wants to play footy he wants to be out there every session so that is a great sign in itself."
The Roos are pushing their midfielders to be more versatile this season, with Cunnington likely to spend more time in the forward line with the rotations per club cut by the AFL from 90 to 75 a game.
"With 75 rotations where do your midfielders go? Do they go forward, do they go half-back? Luke McDonald has played some inside midfield tagging roles, so what does that look like?" Noble said.
"Kyron Hayden came as a midfielder who has been playing back so does he now go back into a midfield rotation? What do we do with Ben Cunnington? Probably more forward. Jaidyn Stephenson has got great flexibility. Cam Zurhaar I'd like to get into the midfield a couple of times a quarter.
Prime Cunnington content ???? pic.twitter.com/ZeyueMMAJ3— North Melbourne (@NMFCOfficial) January 6, 2021
"I think what we've landed with is some really good flexibility that maybe hasn't been explored previously. But through necessity and limited rotations we're going to have to explore that."
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North opens its home and away season against Port Adelaide but will play an AAMI Community Series clash with Hawthorn on March 6.