Bennell ready for Dockers debut in AFL

Star Fremantle recruit Harley Bennell will get the chance to push for a round-one berth when he lines up in Saturday’s pre-season clash with Geelong at Domain Stadium.

Bennell was struck down with calf issues over the summer, but the former Suns bad boy has been back in full training since last month and is finally ready to play.

Skipper David Mundy will also play his first match of the pre-season after overcoming a groin complaint, while goalsneak Hayden Ballantyne will return from a hamstring injury.

Fremantle hope the addition of Bennell will add extra potency to the club’s midfield, and also allow Brownlow medallist Nat Fyfe to spend more time up forward.

Dockers coach Ross Lyon said he wasn’t sure exactly how much time Bennell would play against the Cats.

“We’ll sort of suck and see a little bit, to see what he’s producing and how he’s feeling,” Lyon said.

Lyon has opted to leave out ruckman Aaron Sandilands, who will miss the season opener against the Bulldogs on March 27 through suspension.

Sandilands’ omission means he will have played only one pre-season match before making his return in round two against Gold Coast.

“He doesn’t need a lot of footy,” Lyon said of the 211cm ruckman.

“He missed 13 weeks and came out and was best on ground against Richmond a few years ago.

“This is our last opportunity to rehearse for round one.

“We’re trying to play everyone that’s in contention for round one.”

Veteran forward Matthew Pavlich will also front up against the Cats despite suffering a tight hip in the win over Adelaide a fortnight ago.

“We got him back to Perth and the hip was OK. He’s trained fully ever since,” Lyon said.

Pavlich has relinquished the captaincy to Mundy this season, and Lyon said the 34-year-old was making the most of his reduced responsibilities.

“He’s done that much heavy lifting for this club, and rightly so because of the player he is,” Lyon said.

“But he’s doing a little bit less heavy lifting in the press, in meetings, so he’s invigorated and he’s really enjoying his time.”

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