Roo undergoes ankle surgery after gruesome incident; big Blue concussed

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Key points

  • North Melbourne forward Charlie Comben underwent surgery to repair an ankle fracture.
  • Carlton ruckman Tom De Koning failed a concussion test after playing in the VFL.
  • Kangaroos coach Alastair Clarkson forecast the inclusion of more young players.

Injury-cursed North Melbourne key forward Charlie Comben faces another long stint on the sidelines – and his season could be over – after undergoing surgery to repair his fractured left ankle.

The young Roo’s setback comes as Carlton ruckman Tom De Koning gets set to miss at least a third straight AFL match after he failed a concussion test playing in the VFL. De Koning has been managed in round six and then left out of the Blues’ round seven team.

Carlton big man Tom De Koning sustained a concussion in the VFL.Credit: AFL Photos

Comben suffered what club football boss Todd Viney described as a “serious” injury in the first quarter of North Melbourne’s 90-point defeat to Melbourne at the MCG on Saturday.

He underwent the operation later that night at Epworth Hospital and could be discharged as soon as Sunday.

It was another tough game on the scoreboard for the Kangaroos, but also on the injury front, with another tall forward, Callum Coleman-Jones, sustaining a concussion that rules him out for next week and Tom Powell hurting an ankle.

Prized draftee George Wardlaw could make his debut against St Kilda next Sunday if a knee injury in a VFL scratch match against the Saints’ reserves, which required scans, proves to be minor.

Comben’s injury was “serious” and could cost him the rest of the season.Credit: AFL Photos

Comben landed awkwardly after an aerial contest with Demons star Jake Lever and immediately signalled for trainers, with the incident so gruesome that the broadcaster chose not to replay it. The game was paused for seven minutes while he was attended to, then stretchered from the field.

The promising 21-year-old was enjoying his most productive stint at senior level, having played all seven matches this year after only two AFL appearances in his previous three seasons due mainly to injury.

“[It’s] really bad news for Charlie, in particular, [and] his family, but the club as a whole,” Viney said.

“It looks as though he’s got a fractured ankle – a bit like big ‘X’ [Tristan Xerri] a few weeks ago – so he’ll have surgery in the next short period of time.

“Our hearts go out to him; it’s a serious injury. He’s had a lot of injuries over the first couple of years of his career and just when you thought he was starting to get some momentum, he’s hurt himself.

“We’ll try and rally around him in the next few days.”

Xerri suffered his injury in round one and is still as many as seven weeks away from returning.

Comben’s injury toll includes a back fracture, tibial stress fracture and broken collarbone, which have hampered his development and limited his opportunities to play alongside spearhead Nick Larkey.

Coach Alastair Clarkson said the 199-centimetre forward’s setback was a “blow” to the Roos.

“He’s a young guy trying to make his way in the game. It was his seventh game on the trot and just getting that continuity was going to be important for him,” Clarkson said post-match.

“But he’s shown in the games he’s played to date that he’s a great prospect for us, and we’ve just got to get his body right now and get him going again later in the year if we can.”

The defeat to the Demons was North Melbourne’s fifth on the trot, including two by 75 or more points in the past three weeks, with Clarkson forecasting the inclusion of more young players.

“We’ve just got to stay together and work our way through it, and give some players an opportunity,” he said.

“We’ve probably gone with a little bit of an older group in the early part of the year, and not exposed as many of the young kids, because we’re fully of the view that bringing in the young kids on mass isn’t all that beneficial for them – they need to have some experienced guys around them.

“But we’ll probably look to blood a few more kids over the next few weeks, to give them the exposure, because if you’re going to lose by 90 points; you may as well lose with kids. But we don’t want to throw them to the wolves either.

“We’ll probably have two or three changes out of the side next week and hopefully, there are one or two young fellas who can come into the side.”

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