Harley Bennell at Melbourne training last week. Picture: AAP
Harley Bennell at Melbourne training last week. Picture: AAP

Bennell fairytale return tempts Goodwin

MELBOURNE coach Simon Goodwin wants to select Harley Bennell in the Round 2 team to face Carlton on Saturday at Marvel Stadium but the decision hinges on the club's medical department.

Bennell, 27, has ticked every box since signing with the Dees to be squarely in the frame to make a "fairytale" comeback after more than 1000 days in the AFL wilderness.

Ex-Gold Coast Suns livewire Bennell spent four seasons on Fremantle's list for two games - the last in Round 23, 2017.

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But a clean bill of health from the lingering and potentially career-ending soft-tissue setbacks has resuscitated the West Australian's footy dreams.

"It's very tempting," Goodwin said.

"He's going to be around the mark, he's very close."

A decision will be made in consultation with Melbourne fitness boss Darren Burgess on whether Bennell suits up in a curtain-raiser for non-selected players on Saturday or for the senior team.

"I want to (name him)," Goodwin said.

"But we'll certainly take a cautious approach, we said all along we want to set him up for the whole season. It's going to be an interesting discussion (with Burgess)."

Harley Bennell has a playful push and shove with Corey Wagner at training. Picture: AAP
Harley Bennell has a playful push and shove with Corey Wagner at training. Picture: AAP

Bennell has starred in both of Melbourne's match simulation sessions, injecting elite speed, smarts and skill in the Demons midfield and forward line.

Goodwin reiterated Melbourne has not gone lightly on the comeback star, determined to "really test him out" under AFL conditions.

"We do have to temper our expectation," Goodwin said.

"He hasn't played a lot of footy in the last four years and it may take some time to adjust."

 

Bennell has put in a power of work since joining the Demons to get his body right and doubled down in isolation to make the most of the COVID-19 shutdown.

"He's lingering around my office a fair bit the last three weeks," Goodwin said.

"He's got incredible confidence in the game … and he knows he's done the work in the period away.

"He'll have some reservations about his body, no question, that's normal but I think the work he's done puts him in a position of confidence heading in."

Simon Goodwin wants to name Harley Bennell. Picture: AAP
Simon Goodwin wants to name Harley Bennell. Picture: AAP

Goodwin has almost a full complement of players to choose from, with up eight Demons right on the fringes of Round 2 selection.

Jake Lever will train on Wednesday and definitely play Saturday after sitting out of the final intraclub with "general soreness".

Former captain Nathan Jones, Christian Salem, Joel Smith and Mitch Hannan will also be considered after strong showings in recent weeks.

Melbourne and Carlton have agreed on a curtain-raiser on Saturday for the non-selected players.

"While squads are healthy and available I'm sure most clubs will look to play (match simulation) games," Goodwin said.

"It might get to a point (player availability due to injury) where that will become a training session but certainly (now) we're going to be looking to play as many games as we can."



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