Fremantle may have suffered a 104-point loss, but Harley Bennell’s return to AFL football was filled with positives from an individual perspective.
While his overall performance of six disposals and three tackles was modest, the Peel region product received a mighty cheer from the purple haze when he first ran onto the ground and again when he booted two goals to mark his debut for the Dockers.
“The intensity was high, it was a tough test,” Bennell told fremantlefc.com.au.
“My fitness will, hopefully, get better but the game’s still quick and a lot different from WAFL.
“I’ll need a big summer under my belt.
“But I’ll come back refreshed and I’ll need a big pre-season.”
It had been 722 days between games at the top level for Bennell, but the lightning-fast on-baller is viewed as a required player at Fremantle as the club continues to rebuild towards a return to the finals.
Fremantle coach Ross Lyon was full of praise for Bennell following the game.
“I think Harley Bennell showed what he’s capable of doing. He just looked all class and high end,” he said.
“He handled the ball well he kicked well and took his opportunities and we need to get more of that in the team.”
Lyon was hopeful for Bennell’s chances next week, but also urged caution as they travel to play on the hard surface of Etihad Stadium.
“I think if he pulls up well and he can play, we will play him,” he said.
“Then it might effect him for the week after, but we are pretty keen to expose him.
“I think to extend it out to next week is unrealistic off the back of two years off with a calf injury.
“We want to get on firmer ground with Harley over a period of time. He got through unscathed was my understanding.”
Bennell thanked his family for their support after they greeted him in the rooms post-game.
“It’s good to have that support from family,” Bennell said.
“For my dad to come down today and watch, it was good to have him there and it’s good to have my family here.”