AFL Rd 5 - Western Bulldogs v North Melbourne
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 04: Ben Cunnington of the Kangaroos looks on from the bench during the 2020 AFL Round 05 match between the Western Bulldogs and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Marvel Stadium on July 04, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

North Melbourne have put a line through tstar midfielder Ben Cunnington, with the club declaring he will miss the remainder of the 2020 AFL season.

Brady Rawlings, the general manager of football at North Melbourne, told NMFC.com.au that they will take a long-term approach with the dual club best and fairest winner.

“Ben’s been working closely with our physios and strength and conditioning staff, but the reality is, he won’t be available before the end of the season given the time we have left,” he said.

“He’d still need to complete a mini pre-season before being available for selection and we just don’t have that luxury with six games remaining.”

Cunnington’s ongoing back issues have impacted North’s 2020 campaign, only winning three games so far and sitting 17th on the ladder.

“Ben is one of the best midfielders in the competition, and arguably the best contested ball winner there is, so not having him out there has been a challenge for us obviously,” Rawlings said.

There is a silver lining to this, as Cunnington’s injury has meant that it gives some of North Melbourne’s more younger players a chance to shine.

“If there is one positive, it is that it has allowed us to give our emerging talent such as Luke Davies-Uniacke, Bailey Scott, Tarryn Thomas before his injury, and even Cam Zurhaar some increased midfield minutes,” he said.

“We were also able to play Luke McDonald as a tagger and have seen the emergence of Jy Simpkin as a genuine star midfielder of the future.”

Cunnington, who won North’s Syd Barker Medal as the club’s best and fairest last year, has not played a game since round five this year.