North Melbourne star Ben Cunnington is ramping up his training loads but the club says the well-respected midfield general is under no pressure to return to the field this season.
The Cobden export - who recently overcame testicular cancer - hasn't played a game of AFL football since the round 19, 2021 win against Carlton but is slowly re-integrating with the main group as he nears a potential return to the field in 2022.
The 30-year-old was drafted in 2009 has played 227 games and is still considered one of the club's most important players, having won two best and fairest awards as an inside midfielder.
North Melbourne head of performance Kevin White said the veteran was progressing well in his recovery and would ramp up his loads in coming weeks.
"'Cunners' is going really well, he's moved to two high-condition sessions on ground to three," White said.
"He's probably had three to four weeks of that now and has integrated back to some of the football drills.
"Over the next few weeks it's about getting him in a percentage of training and a percentage of conditioning."
White said the two-time Syd Barker Medal winner would be given as much time as needed, both physically and mentally, before considering a return to the field.
"We're looking now at a really strong three-week block for Cunners to start that integration with the group and then we'll re-assess where he lies in terms of his head and his body for a return to play," he said.
"There's no real pressure on him of having a date to return to play but the pleasing thing is he's got a real return-to-play mindset at the minute.
"He's graduating week-on-week through some really good loads and consistent loading so it's another really good step for Cunners."
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