HARLEY Bennell’s ill-fated four-season stint at Fremantle is officially over, but the injury-ravaged midfielder is refusing to give up on his AFL career.
After just two games in purple, Bennell has negotiated his exit and will not be at the club next year.
The 26-year-old former Sun was recruited to help take the Dockers to the promised land after the minor premiers fell short of the Grand Final in 2015, however his body never allowed him to showcase his elite talent while in the west.
He was on the verge of a senior comeback last month before suffering a right calf strain during his fourth-straight game at Peel which effectively spelled the end of his Freo career.
Despite countless calf setbacks, Bennell is not throwing in the towel yet and wants another chance at a third AFL club.
“I’m not retiring at this stage,” Bennell said.
“I’m going to work really hard on rehabbing my calf injury with a view to giving myself the chance to have another crack at playing for an AFL club.
“I firmly believe that I am capable of getting back out there and playing at the highest level.” – Harley Bennell
Dockers coach Ross Lyon has been among Bennell’s staunchest supporters during a tumultuous four years when the former No.2 draft pick was embroiled in several high-profile off-field incidents.
But even Lyon conceded recently there was nothing more Fremantle could do for Bennell, who sought treatment in Germany and from a ballet physiotherapist without success.
He was offered a one-year contract last August as his initial three-year deal came to an end and trimmed down noticeably over summer ahead of a make or break season that ended with more disappointment.
“It’s been an incredibly frustrating and disappointing period for Harley and the club trying to get his body right to play,” general manager of football Peter Bell said.
“Harley’s resilience and determination to overcome numerous set-backs has been amazing and a pointer to why he has indicated to the club that he wants to seek an opportunity elsewhere to play at the elite level.
NINE THINGS WE LEARNED No excuses for Dockers’ collapse
“We believe we have done everything we possibly could as a club to support Harley during his time at Fremantle and we will continue to support Harley post his departure from the club, as we would with any former player.
“On behalf of everyone at Fremantle, we wish Harley and his family all the very best for the future and he will always be welcome here at the club.”
Bennell kicked three goals in his two games for the Dockers, after a brilliant start to his career at the Suns, when he managed 92 goals and 81 games in five seasons.
The history of Harley Bennell’s calves
Sunday, March 2, 2014 – Bennell plays a pre-season game for Gold Coast against Collingwood but a problematic calf issue means he doesn’t return, via the NEAFL, until April.
Pre-Christmas, 2015 – Suffered a calf injury and has ‘ongoing calf problems’ during the pre-season.
Saturday, March 19, 2016 – Calf strain while playing for Peel Thunder. Picked up 23 disposals and slotted four goals in that display.
Friday, November 18, 2016 – Left calf strain at training, which was then considered his ‘good’ calf.
Sunday, December 10, 2016 – Bennell leaves for Munich, Germany, to consult with world-renowned soft-tissue expert Dr Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt for his problematic calves.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017 – Another left calf injury. Initially diagnosed as a minor tear but further scans showed it was more serious than first thought. Had yet to resume full training before that setback.
Wednesday, February 14, 2018 – Grade one tear in his left calf while training with Peel.
Saturday, June 2, 2018 – Calf tightness in his fourth-straight game for Peel. Sat out the second half of the clash with Claremont.
Saturday, July 28, 2018 – Left calf injury while playing for Peel. Pulled up short early in the last quarter after a 27-disposal and two-goal effort against West Perth and went to the bench, but eventually returned to the field.
Saturday, August 18, 2018 – Calf injury while playing for Peel in the second half of a match against Claremont, attempting a comeback after three weeks on the sidelines.
Week of January 21, 2019 – Bennell experiences calf tightness during a pre-season training session.
Friday, February 8, 2019 – Bennell strains a calf while training.
Tuesday, April 16, 2019 – Bennell experiences calf soreness at the end of training. An ultrasound showed no abnormalties, but an MRI confirmed he had re-injured his right calf.
Saturday, June 23, 2019 – Bennell suffers a ‘significant right calf tear’ early on in his fourth straight WAFL game as he was closing in on an AFL recall.