North Melbourne star Ben Cunnington has fought back tears in emotional scenes after playing his first AFL match in 385 days following two bouts of testicular cancer.
Cunnington entered Adelaide Oval along with his children and was visibly overcome with emotion when he shared an embrace with his wife Belinda before the Kangaroos took on the Crows.
While Cunnington’s inclusion wasn’t able to lead the Kangaroos to a win, with Adelaide running out 29-point winners, the on-baller admitted he couldn’t stop smiling after making it back to the AFL level.
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“Especially where we’ve come from, and Belinda’s been right there from the start,” he told Fox Footy after the match.
North Melbourne Kangaroos star Ben Cunnington (Getty)
“We have three little kids, we’d just had a newborn and then about a week later I started chemo, so she’s been a rock. I honestly couldn’t have gotten back without her.
“She’s cried about two or three times in our whole life and then seeing her in tears, it wasn’t the best prep but it’s good to just take it all in and appreciate where we’ve been.”
Cunnington offered a raw insight into his rehabilitation process from the cancer battle, admitting he’d overcome moments of doubt where he thought his career might’ve been over.
“Even during the treatment, I could barely get out of bed and go to the toilet without collapsing,” he said.
“The first month was pretty much learning how to walk and getting the strength under the legs.
Cunnington finished with 17 disposals as a spirited Kangaroos performance ultimately fell short (Getty)
“It started from rock bottom. There were a few hiccups where it definitely questioned me on whether I could get back because the time was ticking.”
Cunnington finished with 17 disposals in his return match, and said he is now focused on a strong pre-season.
Despite being out of contract, the 31-year-old believes he still has more good football ahead of him.
“I felt I really worked hard to get back this year, I didn’t really want to carry it into the off-season,” he said.
“If I could tick it off and go into the off-season feeling normal, I still feel like I could play some good footy next year.”
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