Ben Cunnington back for North Melbourne Kangaroos after battle with cancer

Kangaroos veteran Ben Cunnington is set to play his first game of the season after overcoming two bouts of testicular cancer.

Saturday afternoon’s clash against the Adelaide Crows will be the player’s first game since Round 19 last year.

Cunnington’s selection to the North Melbourne roster was confirmed on Wednesday with caretaker manager Leigh Adams asking the 31-year-old’s teammates what it meant to play alongside him.

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“You know what you’re going to get every time. We really missed him last year. I have goosebumps,” said defenseman Luke McDonald.

“You just know he’s got your back no matter what. He’s the heart and soul of this club so it’s a pretty big occasion,” added Roos skipper Jack Ziebell.

Then it was Cunnington’s turn to share a few words, and the two-time Best and Fairest Club winner was overwhelmed with emotion.

“I thought I loved my life outside of football…you think you could end it and be happy with it, but until it’s taken away from you and you have no control over it, you realize soon that you still love her,” he said.

“I went through what I had to go through and without the support I couldn’t have gone through.

“I’m here now, hungry and feel like I’ve worked hard and hopefully able to help you boys again. I’m more excited than ever.”

After being drafted fifth overall in the 2009 draft, Cunnington has been at the center of North Melbourne’s on-ball squad for the past decade.

He played a key role in a Kangaroos side that reached two preliminary finals in 2014 and 2015 and had been one of the competition’s most enduring players before his battle with cancer.

Cunnington’s footballing future beyond this season remains uncertain, with his current contract expiring at the end of the season.

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