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Fyfe pain-free, Bennell still building to full fitness

Travis King  February 14, 2016 5:22 PM

AFL 2015 Media - Brownlow Medal

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 28: 2015 Brownlow Medalist Nat Fyfe of the Dockers addresses the media during the 2015 Brownlow Medal at the Crown Palladium, Melbourne, Australia on September 28, 2015. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)

[Fyfe's] been fully training and he's fine and raring to go

NAT FYFE'S back is pain-free but key Fremantle recruit Harley Bennell is still working towards full training just five days out from the Dockers' NAB Challenge opener against Richmond.

Fyfe booted two goals and starred in an intra-club match on Friday, proving he's ready to fire after post-season surgery to repair a fractured leg, and a bulging disc suffered in December.

The 24-year-old superstar is building towards Freo's round one road trip to face the Western Bulldogs, although a decision is yet to be made about how many NAB Challenge matches he will play.

"I think the best thing is to see how he gets through this week and we keep monitoring him," football operations manager Chris Bond told News Corp.

"But he's a training beast and he's training really well. He's been able to get a fair bit of work into him. He's been fully training and he's fine and raring to go."

Fyfe is likely to be thrown forward more often in 2016 as Dockers coach Ross Lyon seeks a more attacking edge and to relieve some pressure on veteran Matthew Pavlich.

Nat Fyfe hits a contest hard on Friday. Picture: fremantlefc.com.au

Small forwards Hayden Ballantyne and Michael Walters, who combined for 59 goals last year, could make up some of Fyfe's midfield minutes after roaming on-ball in Friday's intraclub.

Former Gold Coast gun Bennell should also unlock greater flexibility in Lyon's side with his ability to kick goals from midfield.

But six weeks out from round one, the 23-year-old is still on modified training duties due to calf issues.

"He's really shifting and working really hard at the moment, so he's certainly not too far away from full training," Bond said.

"We're really pleased with the amount of work that he's doing. He's got a lot of kilometres into the legs.

"Harley's going to be really important to us, not only this year, but for a number of years and we need to make sure that his body is going to be able to adapt to that."

The Dockers breathed a sigh of relief when gun midfielder Lachie Neale was cleared of serious injury after a knee clash on Friday, although promising key defender Alex Pearce will miss the start of the season due to groin trouble. 

"We don't think it'll threaten his season. Especially the way he trains and goes about it with his rehab, he's going really well," Bond said. 

"We're just monitoring his KPIs at the moment. Over the next couple of weeks we'll have a better view of where he's at."

After taking on Richmond in Mandurah this Friday afternoon, the Dockers will face Adelaide at a sold out Mt Barker match on February 28 before wrapping up their pre-season series against Geelong at Domain Stadium on March 12.