North Melbourne coach David Noble says his players are dealing with a range of emotions after star midfielder Ben Cunnington underwent surgery to remove a testicular tumour this week.
The Kangaroos' hierarchy has addressed the playing group multiple times since the shock news scans had uncovered a small tumour, which was removed on Tuesday.
The situation unfolded quickly after Cunnington played a starring role in North's upset 39-point win over Carlton last weekend, tallying 27 disposals and nine clearances.
The 30-year-old will miss Saturday's meeting with Geelong in Hobart and there is no timeline on his playing return as yet.
"There's always a range of emotions, I think, with these types of things," Noble said on Thursday.
"People have sometimes had their own previous experiences, fortunate or unfortunate, with these things.
"We need to be diligent in making sure that internally our guys feel supported with any previous experiences that these things tend to bring up.
"We'll work really hard in the background to make sure that we've got those mechanisms in place."
Noble backed his players to be able to focus on the task at hand in preparation for what looms as a huge challenge against the high-flying Cats.
"If you address it, that's the main thing, so the players feel like it's ok to discuss things if they need to," Noble said.
"That's really important from both a staff and player perspective, that it's ok to move on with things and it's ok to discuss things if you need to.
"We just need to be aware of that, but we certainly we feel like we'll get through today, get through our captain's run (on Friday) and by the time we end up down in Tassie on Saturday I'm sure we'll be ready to go."
The absence of Cunnington and emerging talent Tarryn Thomas (concussion) against Geelong means Jed Anderson will play more midfield minutes after his return from a long-term ankle injury last week.
Will Phillips will also be asked to step up, having been cleared to play after a heavy knock in the win over Carlton that left him bleeding from a fractured nose.
Jack Mahony (shoulder) and key defender Robbie Tarrant (adductor) will return from injuries, but tough forward Cameron Zurhaar is out for at least one week with a shoulder issue.
Thomas is progressing well in his recovery and is eyeing a return in the encounter with Richmond in round 21.
"He's progressing in line with what we would hope and that may make him available for next weekend's game, but there's a no-risk policy with those things," Noble said.
Australian Associated Press