NORTH Melbourne tagger Ben Jacobs has taken the first steps towards a potential AFL return.
The 27-year-old has started a modified training schedule as he continues to recover from concussion-like symptoms that kept him sidelined for all of last season.
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Jacobs suffered neck pain, headaches and blocked ears after sustaining a ‘whiplash’ injury against Brisbane in round 11, 2018.
He made two more appearances that season before pulling the pin to focus on his treatment, and has not returned to the field since.
Jacobs’ last AFL game was against Gold Coast in Round 16, 2018.
“It’s been a very frustrating time for Ben and the club,” then-football chief Cameron Joyce told the club website at the time.
“We sat down this week and decided the best way forward was to take the pressure off him for an imminent return and allow him all the time he needs to prepare for the pre-season.
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“Our sole focus has been Ben and his health for the short, medium and long-term.
“While we’ve seen some improvement, unfortunately it hasn’t been to the level where he’s been able to train consistently and ultimately get back to playing this season.”
Kangaroos coach Rhyce Shaw said this week that the signs are promising for Jacobs, who was widely recognised as one of the AFL’s best taggers.
“It’s a very tough situation for Benny. He’s shown a lot of courage,” Shaw told SEN radio.
“It’s a real hard one. You get a bit emotional talking about it because you see the fight he goes through every single day to get himself up.
“He’s in a really good spot now, he’s starting to do a bit of running, he’s joined in some stationary skills with us and he’s on a path that may take a little bit longer than people want but for me it’s more about his life than footy and he’s getting better, so that’s the main thing.”