NORTH Melbourne coach Brett Ratten has praised troubled utility Tarryn Thomas’ “classy” return to AFL action in the Kangaroos’ gut-wrenching defeat to Essendon.

Thomas’ career hung in the balance when he was stood down by the club for a second time in March amid concerns over his behaviour towards women.

The 23-year-old was put through a respect and responsibility education program and spent three weeks in the VFL before earning a senior recall.

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On Sunday at Marvel Stadium he had 17 disposals, laid five tackles and kicked a clever goal against the Bombers but couldn’t save North from a six-point loss.

“What he did was classy in the game,” Ratten said.

“When the ball’s in his hand we keep the footy and he’s quite electric.

“He’ll be better for the run but it was good to get him back into senior footy and be a part of the group and play. He did a good job.”

Thomas had not played an AFL game since round 15 last year, but Ratten did not see many signs of nerves in the build-up.

“We didn’t speak about it a heap but I think he was just happy to be playing,” Ratten said.

Thomas initially returned to North Melbourne through their VFL program and only rejoined AFL training last month.

He had to prove to club leaders he was ready to return to senior football through his actions on and off the field.

“He’s been good. He’s trying to do his extras and trying to improve as a player,” Ratten said.

“The second-tier group have really led from the front in that space and he’s been a part of that, which has been great.”

North Melbourne pushed Essendon right to the wire despite losing senior midfielders Jy Simpkin and Hugh Greenwood to concussion by half-time.

The pair will miss the clash with Greater Western Sydney in Hobart in round 13 as the second-from-bottom Kangaroos (2-10) attempt to snap a 10-match losing streak.