Relieved Bennell earns Demons AFL debut

Anna Harrington
1 / 2

AFL DEMONS TRAINING

Harley Bennell will play his first AFL game in 34 months when Melbourne play Carlton in round two

An excited Harley Bennell will play his first AFL game since August 2017 when he makes his Melbourne debut against Carlton on Saturday.

Bennell played just two games for Fremantle between 2016 and 2019 because of injury and off-field issues after previously kicking 92 goals in 81 games for the Gold Coast.

The Demons, confident of getting Bennell past a torrid run of calf injuries, handed him a career lifeline via February's supplemental selection period.

The 27-year-old had always worked towards a mid-year return but is one of the winners of the AFL season shutdown, which gave him time to regain his fitness in preparation for the rescheduled campaign resumption.

"It feels really exciting," Bennell said.

"(It was a) massive relief when (Simon Goodwin) got us all out there (and told me); I'm just happy I'm back playing AFL again.

"I was thereabouts, I've obviously done the work. I did the work over the COVID-19 (shut down).

"I got a good program off 'Burgo' (fitness boss Darren Burgess), stuck to the program and we're here today, ready to play this weekend."

Bennell said his injury history was in the back of his mind but didn't bother him and emphasised he wouldn't look beyond Saturday's game.

"I'm just looking forward to this weekend," he said.

"Whatever happens past that happens but this weekend is where it starts."

Goodwin flagged Bennell would move between the midfield and forward line against the Blues.

Melbourne's No.3 draft pick Luke Jackson will make his AFL debut alongside fellow draftee Trent Rivers.

Jackson is an athletic ruck/forward while Rivers is set to play a role off half-back.