Pinjarra product Harley Bennell only played 60 minutes for Peel Thunder in his return to football, but the Fremantle Dockers’ prized recruit showed glimpses of his enormous talent in a win over East Perth.
Bennell played predominantly forward between lengthy spells on the bench as he made his way back from recurring calf injuries, finishing his hour-long game with 12 disposals and a goal.
Fremantle coach Ross Lyon said it was a “step in the right direction.”
“I was really nervous watching it, because I thought if that calf was to go again we would have to pick up the pieces,” he told reporters in a Western Derby post-game press conference on Sunday.
“It was a positive step and he had a lot of support there from the club and a lot of family. I think his quality just shone through, it (Bennell’s talent) was frightening what we saw in patches.”
“He has a fair bit of work to do, but it’s been a tough road. He is working his way through with great character and great resilience,” he said.
“I can tell you I would have crumbled, I would have been out of the system by now. I would have flicked the bails. He has great mental toughness, he is a better man than me.”
The head coach said Fremantle would be patient as Bennell eyes a return to the elite level.
“This is a really slow build here. Harley will be desperate to play AFL senior football but there is no rush from me here,” he said.
“In context he played 60 minutes, seven on, seven off, that’s pretty gentle.
“He was explosive and clean and showed a little bit of razzle-dazzle at some points. It’s a good step, without going over the top about it.”
The Thunder’s 28-point win over the Royals was Bennell’s first outing in 16 months.