Troubled and injury-plagued Docker Harley Bennell should get a new contract at Fremantle for 2019 provided he can stay clear of off-field strife, according to coach Ross Lyon.
Speaking exclusively to the Weekend West this week, Lyon said Bennell’s behaviour, rather than on-field performance in 2018, would be the key to whether he gets a fresh deal.
The 25-year-old, who has played just two AFL games for the Dockers since being traded in from Gold Coast, will finish a three year deal at the end of 2018.
He has just completed a two month club-imposed suspension for the latest in a series of off-field indiscretions, a scuffle with a nightclub bouncer early this year. He is also recovering from the latest in a string of calf muscle problems that have plagued him since he joined the Dockers.
The suspension is understood to have prompted a shift in Lyon’s thinking on Bennell. The Dockers coach had previously been a staunch defender of the star but admitted in a press conference during the suspension that he hadn’t spoken to him.
This week he said: “I haven’t got a strict timetable for him. In the eight weeks away he had a minor grade one calf issue. It is separate to other calf issues but linked because in short he has got a lot of scar tissue in his calves because of all his injuries. We are working through that,” he said.
“He has come back in and I shook his hand and welcomed him back but you act your way in and you act your way out. He has got to button down.
“He is back running and training but until we see a body of work of durability of training.....which he had for a period but then he fell away mentally.”
But Lyon made it clear that the lure of Bennell’s talent would hold him in good stead provided his behaviour met club standards.
“If he can hold himself together and train - he is a level of player we would love if we can get him right. Even if it took another 12 months and he carried himself well he would be here next year but that is all up to him,” he said.
“If we eventually get him right and we can throw him in we know we are going to be a better team but we need to be able to get him right. That is the opportunity.
“As a coach, I haven’t been able to coach him bar two games. What occurred occurred. We took action and gave the time frame. He has come back in pretty good nick. He needs a run at it and if he gets a run at it he can create an opportunity. I can’t predict the future but I know what I would like to happen.”