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McGuire’s debut game “couldn’t have gone better”.

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Lyon's empathy for Bennell

Travis King -  July 17, 2017 10:59 AM

Watch Ross Lyon's post-match media conference.

Fremantle coach Ross Lyon would have retired if he'd suffered the same run of injuries as Harley Bennell, calling the star Fremantle Docker a "better man" than himself.

Dogged by injuries to both calves, Bennell is yet to debut for the Freo Dockers after he was traded from the Gold Coast Suns at the end of 2015, where he played 81 games for 92 goals.

The 24-year-old played his first competitive match in 16 months on Saturday, lining up for Peel Thunder against East Perth.

The explosive midfielder was lively in gathering 12 disposals and a goal from 60 minutes' game time and appeared unhampered by his calves in heavy conditions at Leederville Oval. 

"I was really nervous watching it because I thought if that calf was to go again, we'd have to pick up the pieces," Lyon said after the Freo Dockers' 30-point loss to West Coast on Sunday.

"It was a positive step and he had a lot of support there from the club, a lot of family and I think his quality just shone through, didn't it? It was frightening what we saw in patches. 

"It's been a tough road, but he's working his way through with great character and great resilience.

"I can tell you, I would've crumbled. I would've been out of the system and I would've flicked the bails.

"He's got great mental toughness, he's a better man than me."

"It was emotional, wasn't it?"

Despite showing promising signs, Bennell's return to AFL ranks still seems a distance away, with Lyon confirming the club will seek to build continuity into his before he finally makes his Freo Docker debut. 

"Harley will be desperate to play AFL senior footy but there's no rush from me here," Lyon said.

"In context he played 60 minutes – seven on, seven off – it's pretty gentle, but he was explosive and clean (with) a little bit of razzle-dazzle there at some point.

"It's a small step. We'll take another one next week and we'll build it up.

"We're hopeful (Bennell will play AFL in 2017)."