Fremantle coach Ross Lyon has delivered a sensational spray, claiming speculation around injured midfielder Harley Bennell’s calf injury has racist overtones.
Bennell missed all of last season with a right calf injury and will miss at least round one of this season after suffering an injury to his left calf.
Lyon was having none of critics questioning Bennell’s work ethic just because he has a ‘chequered past’, which includes being photographed with what were alleged to be lines of drugs in a Launceston hotel room in 2013.
“I heard speculation on radio questioning the injury, that no player had ever suffered a calf injury like Harley had,” Lyon said, in reaction to comments made on SEN radio .
“It’s my experience that a white footballer has a calf injury and it’s a calf injury and a black footballer has a calf injury and it’s a drug problem.”
Garry Lyon, speaking on his breakfast show, said Bennell had either had a freakish calf injury or had not properly prepared himself to return to the game.
“That’s speaks of their naivety and their sensationalism because Harley’s an incredibly hard trainer, he’s not scared to train,” the Dockers coach said.
“And the feedback from our playing group is he’s taken to levels in rehab that very few have matched. That talks to ill-informed commentary and that would disappoint me.”
Lyon went on to suggest the issue was broader than just a football issue.
“There’s ongoing challenges, we’ve all see that. And I think indigenous players themselves are quite vocal about that,” the coach said.
“The country itself has ongoing challenges with how we celebrate Australia and recognising our indigenous population and where it sits in history.
“I’m not political at all, but racism is an ongoing challenge, worldwide racism is ongoing challenge, isn’t it? So it’s topical.
“But with Harley, I’m supportive and protective of all my players, but as I told them, I will support you until I can’t.
“Harley is a good person, very emotionally intelligent and an incredibly hard trainer.”
Lyon expects to have Bennell back in the Fremantle team within the first five rounds and hinted that working on his pace was the main issue he was facing.