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Harley Bennell to finally debut for Dockers as Freo farewell Domain Stadium

 Controversial Fremantle recruit Harley Bennell will make his Dockers debut in the side's final Domain Stadium match against the Richmond Tigers on Sunday afternoon.
Senior coach Ross Lyon said the former Gold Coast star would make his return to senior football following a string of solid performances with WAFL side Peel Thunder over recent weeks.
"Harley Bennell will play this week," he said. 
"It's a good story, he's worked really hard we all know the progression... he's overcome some significant challenges in rehab over a long period of time and it talks volumes to his character of hard work and resilience.
"We're aiming for it to be a longer journey than just this. There will be a bit of hype about it and we don't expect miracles, but certainly he brings some quality into the team."
Lyon said that there are no expectations for Bennell to play at the level that saw him kick 92 goals in 81 games for Gold Coast.
"Clearly, he's below his maximum but he had four shots on goal last week with 14 or 15 touches. It's more about his return. He could surprise on the upside or the downside obviously.
"He's got real belief in himself and he doesn't need too much room or too many possessions to be dangerous on the scoreboard, so that's exciting."
Sunday's match will be Bennell's first AFL outing since 2015 and his first since he was traded to Fremantle after falling out of favour at the Suns.
The 24-year-old averaged around 22 disposals in his 81 games for Gold Coast and booted 92 goals as one of the most exciting young guns in the AFL.
Bennell hasn't been able to be selected for the Dockers' senior side due to chronic calf problems and a series of personal issues, however Lyon said he believed Bennell was finally ready to make his mark at the club.
"He's prepared, we could hold him back another week but it's marginal difference. I think on balance with his family here, his support network, without travel - it's another step in his progression to returning to be a top-flight AFL midfielder, which is what he is," Lyon said. 
His Dockers debut will coincide with Fremantle's farewell to Domain Stadium, as AFL games next season will be played at Perth's new 60,000-seat stadium.
"It's our last game there, I think a lot of our fans and members will roll up," Lyon said.
"It's a bit of an emotional day I think farewelling the stadium. There's a bit to like about the whole day really."
A possible return for Bennell was slated last week, with the classy forward's inclusion a step in the right direction ahead of a gruelling summer training schedule where trouble-plagued recruit will hope to continue building his fitness in a bid to play for the Dockers on a regular basis in 2018.
Bennell is considered pivotal to Lyon's long-term projections for additional depth through his midfield if he ever recovers full fitness and important ball-touch to run on the ball.
It is understood he is an alternative as a clever, crumbing forward and goal-scoring source in the event that Ballantyne continues to falter or is not offered a new contract early next month ahead of extensive list assessments by Lyon and his staff.
Lyon said Bennell's inclusion would help to plug the hole left by reigning Doig medallist Lachie Neale, after the star midfielder was ruled out due to a persistent groin injury.
"He [Bennell] may play through the midfield but he'll play predominantely forward," he said.
Early reports claimed Neale could miss the remainder of the season due to soreness, but Lyon said he was hopeful the star midfielder would only miss a week.
"Neale has a sore groin, he's been carrying it since round one. He will have surgery post season... Neale will hopefully just miss a week," he said.
The last Dockers home game for 2017 will also be veteran small forward Hayden Ballantyne's 150th match, and will be played against Richmond Football Club at 2.40pm on Sunday afternoon. 

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