FREMANTLE has sent another stern message to troubled midfielder Harley Bennell, who was a notable absentee from the club’s 2018 photo shoot.
Bennell was told by the Dockers to stay away from their team photo day at Cockburn on Tuesday after they banished him last week to train at WAFL-aligned club Peel Thunder for at least eight weeks. They also fined him $15,000 — a third of which was suspended.
The sanctions came after Bennell was involved in a scuffle at a Perth nightclub and for consuming “an excessive amount of alcohol” the day before a training session, which he subsequently missed.
AFL Media reported on Tuesday that Fremantle deliberately left a space at the back of the shot so they could digitally add Bennell into the 2018 full list photo at a later date.
Veteran Docker David Mundy confirmed the reasoning behind Bennell’s absence but said it wasn’t necessarily uncommon for a player to miss team photo day.
“I’m not sure about the specifics. All I know is that’s part of Harley’s sanction at the moment, so he’s not here,” Mundy told reporters.
It was the latest in a long list of indiscretions for Bennell, who has just entered the last season of a three-year contract with Fremantle after moving from Gold Coast.
Bennell has played only two AFL games for the Dockers — their final two games of last season — due to persistent calf injuries.
The Dockers have previously carpeted Bennell: Last year, they ordered him to undergo counselling and fined him $10,000 — half of which was suspended — after bizarre behaviour while watching a WAFL game. The 24-year-old interrupted the three quarter-time huddle of a match involving the Dockers’ WAFL-affiliate Peel Thunder to speak to his cousin Traye Bennell.
In April last year, Bennell was ejected from a Gold Coast-bound flight before it departed because he was intoxicated.
The incidents followed a chequered stint with the Suns for Bennell, who was drafted with the second pick at the 2010 national draft.
Mundy said he hadn’t spoken to Bennell since the sanction.
“I sit next to him in our lecture theatre in our meetings and had a quick chat to him as it was all kind of happening, but not since,” Mundy said.
“We often say with things like this, or people are going through illness or family issues, that people close to him feel free to contact him, but Harley’s got enough on his plate at the moment. To add on 46 guys constantly touching base with him would just add to his burden, we think.
“The guys who are really close with him and have that connection with him already I’m sure will be talking to him and helping him through it as best as they can.”
Fremantle enters 2018 after finishing 14th on the ladder last year with an 8-14 record.
A constant external criticism of the Dockers has been their lack of scoring, with Ross Lyon’s men ranked among the bottom three clubs for average points over the past two seasons.
But it’s a criticism that doesn’t bother Mundy.
“We want to win games of football. Regardless of how we go about that, that’s our ultimate goal,” Mundy said.
“Sometimes we mightn’t play as well as we like and fans mightn’t think it’s as attractive as it possibly could be, but our ultimate goal is to win games of football. Personally, if we kick five goals and the opposition kicks four, I’m more than happy to win games like that.
“There’s 22 new guys that are into the club over the last few years, so the education process is really heavy at the moment and really intense for those guys. We’re just trying to get everyone up to a base level of confidence as quick as we can.”