Injury-plagued Bennell suffers another setback
High-profile Fremantle midfielder Harley Bennell has suffered a blow in his bid to play his first AFL game since 2017 after straining his calf on Friday.
The Dockers on Monday night confirmed Bennell had scans on Saturday which showed he had suffered a minor strain.
Fremantle are yet to place a timeline on the injury and he will now reduce his training to give him the best chance of a quick return.
Bennell had been enjoying strong pre-season but injured his calf less than a fortnight after having his workload reduced due to tightness.
It is a blow for the former Gold Coast star whose calf has struggled to handle significant increases in training loads since breaking down in the opening game of the WAFL season in 2016.
He didn't play another game for the rest of that season and has continued to be plagued by the injury ever since.
The Dockers have sought assistance from the Australian Institute of Sport and experts in Germany to help him during his recovery.
Bennell finally played the last two AFL games in 2017 on restricted minutes after completing four WAFL senior games and one reserves match. But problems resurfaced last year and while he managed 11 WAFL games for the season, he didn't get an opportunity to wear the Fremantle jumper.
Having signed a one-year contract at the end of last season, there were promising signs that Bennell was on track to get through the summer unscathed. Players and coaches had spoken about their excitement at watching him training strongly.
Just last week, coach Ross Lyon said the 26-year-old had done more work that at any point since the initial injury.
"He's on a program where we're building him up to three sessions a week," Lyon said.
"As he said, he's done more this year than he's done in four years - his body has allowed him to.
"He still hasn't been able to do the exact level of work of Andrew (Brayshaw) or Nat Fyfe, but he's not far off."
Fremantle's first JLT Community Series game is against Collingwood is less than three weeks away. That game will be played in Joondalup on Monday March 4.
The Dockers then have a clash against West Coast in Mandurah on March 10 before opening their home-and-away season with a home game against North Melbourne on March 24.
Bennell was expected to resume his AFL career as a forward where his class would allow him to have an impact around goals.
The Dockers will be without Stephen Hill (quad) and Connor Blakely (hamstring) at the start of the season, power forward Jesse Hogan is working his way back from a serious foot injury and veteran ruckman Aaron Sandilands is still battling a calf injury.