Ben Cunnington in action during North Melbourne's VFL clash with Sydney. Picture: AFL Photos

INSPIRATIONAL North Melbourne midfielder Ben Cunnington will make his AFL return this week against Adelaide.

Cunnington made a stirring return to football in the VFL last weekend after recovering from two bouts of testicular cancer, and being kept out of the game since last July.

The gun onballer tweaked a calf and produced a positive COVID test as he neared a return in recent weeks, but pulled up from his first match in 379 days with only some general soreness.

North Melbourne caretaker coach Leigh Adams said on Wednesday morning that Cunnington was being strongly considered for selection against the Crows, and the news was confirmed that afternoon.

"He deserves to have a little bit of a say in it," interim senior coach Adams said at his media conference.

"He's done so much for this footy club for such a long period of time that basically between our coaches, the medical team and Ben, we'll make that call.

"But I'm pretty sure he'll want to be on that flight."


Cunnington gathered 18 possessions – including the first clearance of the match – against the Sydney VFL team last Sunday.

With the Kangaroos set to face the Crows at Adelaide Oval on Saturday, the short turnaround was one of many considerations on Cunnington's selection this week.

"It's just about giving him the best opportunity to still contribute as well," Adams said.

"He's such a proud person, he'll still expect to go out there and get 30 touches because that's the sort of champion he is.


"We know he's going to help us, but is it off a six-day break with a flight? Or is it giving him another week in the VFL to get some more conditioning and then getting him right for the last game of the year."

In the end, the Roos opted to bring in Cunnington for his first game since round 19, 2021. 

Cameron Zurhaar will be looking to continue his strong form after kicking 13 goals in four matches in Adams' time as caretaker coach.

The out-of-contract forward is reportedly a trade target for Essendon but Adams expects Zurhaar to make a decision on his future once the club's next coach is confirmed.

Cam Zurhaar celebrates a goal during North Melbourne's clash with Essendon in round 20, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"He's playing some good footy at the moment. I'd personally love him to stay," Adams said.

"He'd probably want to know who is going to be the coach next year. That's fair enough, everyone would like to know who their boss is when they're going to work.

"Hopefully that gets sorted and then that makes it easier for him to make a decision, and hopefully that is to stay here."

Key defender Ben McKay is expected to be available for the clash with Adelaide after being a late withdrawal last week due to a shoulder issue.