HARLEY Bennell’s ill-fated four-season stint at Fremantle is over, but the injury-ravaged midfielder isn’t giving up on his AFL career.
After just two games in purple, Bennell has negotiated his exit from the Dockers.
The former Sun was recruited to help Fremantle claim the ultimate prize after the minor premier failed to get the job done in the 2015 Grand Final, but his body never allowed him to showcase his prodigious talent while in the west.
The 26-year-old was on the cusp of a senior comeback last month before suffering a right calf strain during his fourth consecutive game with Peel Thunder which effectively spelled the end of his career as a Docker.
Despite numerous calf setbacks, Bennell believes he still has the potential to play the game at the elite level.
“I’m not retiring at this stage,” said Bennell.
“I’m going to work really hard on rehabbing my 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.”
Fremantle coach Ross Lyon has been among Bennell’s staunchest supporters during a tumultuous four-year period in which the former number two draft pick was caught up in several off-field incidents.
But even Lyon conceded recently that there was nothing more the club 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, but despite trimming down over the summer ahead of a make-or-break campaign it has been another season of frustration for Bennell.
“It’s been an incredibly frustrating and disappointing period for Harley and the club trying to get his body right to play,” Fremantle football manager Peter Bell said.
“Harley’s resilience and determination to overcome numerous setbacks 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.”
“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 booted three goals in his two games for the Dockers, after a brilliant start to his career at Gold Coast where he managed 92 majors and 81 matches in five seasons.