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Bennell to debut for Freo

Travis King & Tom Fee  August 16, 2017 11:27 AM

Harley Bennell finished with two goals with limited minutes in the WAFL.

Harley Bennell will make his long-awaited debut for Fremantle on Sunday against Richmond at Domain Stadium, senior coach Ross Lyon confirmed on Wednesday.

The game, Freo’s last at the ground before moving to the new Perth Stadium in 2018, will be Bennell’s first since 29 August 2015 in what was his final appearance for Gold Coast prior to being traded to Fremantle.

The 24-year-old has battled multiple calf injuries since his arrival at Fremantle, and Lyon says Bennell has proven his fitness from his four appearances at WAFL level for Peel.

“Harley Bennell will play this week,” Lyon said.

“It’s a good story, he’s worked really hard we all know the progression.

“He’s prepared, we could hold him back another week but it’s marginal difference.

“I think on balance with his family here, his support network, without travel - it’s another step in his progression to returning to be a top-flight AFL mid, which is what he is.”

Lyon said that the midfielder was most likely to feature in Freo’s forward line as he builds towards his best.

“He may go through the midfield a little bit, but predominantly forward,” Lyon said.

“He’s overcome some significant challenges in rehab over a long period of time and it talks volumes to his character of hard work and resilience.

“We’re aiming for it to be a longer journey than just this. There will be a bit of hype about it and we don’t expect miracles, but certainly he brings some quality into the team.”

Lyon said that there are no expectations for Bennell to play at the level that saw him kick 92 goals from 81 games for Gold Coast.

“He’s a high capability player,” Lyon said.

“Clearly, he’s below his maximum but he had four shots on goal last week with 14 or 15 touches.

“It’s more about his return. He could surprise on the upside or the downside obviously.

“He’s got real belief in himself and he doesn’t need too much room or too many possessions to be dangerous on the scoreboard, so that’s exciting.”

As the final game at Domain Stadium, Lyon hopes plenty of fans will be there to welcome Bennell to Freo.

“It’s our last game there, I think a lot of our fans and members will roll up,” Lyon said.

“It’s a bit of an emotional day I think farewelling the stadium. There’s a bit to like about the whole day really.”