Injury-plagued midfielder Harley Bennell has emerged unscathed from his comeback match at Leederville Oval this afternoon in a blessing for Fremantle.
Playing his first game in 16 months with Peel Thunder, Bennell lacked his trademark polish, but was lively in playing exclusively at full-forward.
He finished with 12 disposals and one goal from 60 minutes of restricted game time in the club’s league win over East Perth.
The 2010 No.2 draft pick started the game on the ground and was used in seven-minute bursts throughout the contest.
He enjoyed one short stint on the ground in the final quarter before being pulled from the field and put in cotton wool for the day.
With Dockers coach Ross Lyon looking on from the stands, Bennell provided several nervous moments for Fremantle in a first half where his troublesome calves were put to the test in driving rain.
The 24-year-old was at one point knocked to the ground as he attempted to lay a shepherd for teammate Gerald Ugle followed an extended run back towards goal.
But Bennell got back to his feet and was able to run out the match in encouraging signs, fulfilling Lyon’s pre-game wish for the prized midfielder to simply get through the hit-out injury free.
Bennell’s goal came six minutes into the second half when he was awarded a free kick after being held by opponent Callum Hart in the forward pocket.
He took three steps and snapped truly from 25m out in a classy finish to put Peel back in control of the match.
Bennell’s impact was otherwise understandably modest after his extended time out of the game.
His first four shots on goal for the match returned just one behind, with two snaps that sailed out on the full in what proved a relatively low-key return.
Fremantle chose not to shield Bennell during the game’s early moments in starting the midfielder on the ground.
It only took five minutes into the contest for the 24-year-old to get his first possession, but he looked scratchy early.
Bennell took a mark deep in the forward pocket before unselfishly trying to give off a handball in board only to get back possession and snap a hurried shot out on the full.
He had two more shots on goal in the first quarter, but failed to convert either chance.
One set shot from 50m out just scraped in for a behind, while the second was pushed across the face of goal.
Bennell showed his sublime skills in one brief passage in the opening term where he scooped up a loose ball off the ground with one hand and gave off a slick handball inside Peel’s forward 50m.
He managed six disposals for the term despite coming from the field twice. His first spell on the interchange bench came after just eight minutes of game time.