NEW DEMON Harley Bennell has taken the next significant step in his recovery from chronic calf problems, graduating to skills training on Tuesday with the main group at Melbourne.
The Demons are treading carefully with Bennell's rehabilitation program, and coach Simon Goodwin told reporters last week a mid-year playing return was "a really good-case scenario".
Progress - however cautious - for Demon Harley Bennell, who’s taken part in a warm-up and kicking drills with Melbourne’s main group this morning at Gosch’s Paddock pic.twitter.com/afjVgEWWTp— Marc McGowan (@ByMarcMcGowan) March 3, 2020
Even so, this latest development is encouraging for the richly talented 27-year-old, who played the last of his 83 games at AFL level in round 23, 2017.
Bennell completed a warm-up with the main group - at a more conservative pace, especially off the mark - before moving into kicking drills.
He went through stationary kicking before progressing to kicking on the run.
Now Bennell’s taking shots at goal pic.twitter.com/SKYdV8ITb5— Marc McGowan (@ByMarcMcGowan) March 3, 2020
Bennell was yanked from the main group and instructed to return to the rehab crew after about half an hour.
It is unclear how long it will take Bennell to progress again but this hurdle is typically the one before players step up to join full training, even in a limited capacity.
AFL.com.au understands he privately passed other tests in recent weeks, including sprints away from the club's main training oval at Gosch's Paddock.
Bennell has otherwise been mostly restricted for many months to stationary kicking and monotonous running that's gradually increased in intensity, with a long-term view in mind.
That's partly why there was never any great concern with his minor calf setback in late January, highlighted by him inking a one-year rookie deal with Melbourne a fortnight later via the pre-season supplemental selection period.
The ex-Docker and Sun is fitting in well at the Demons and his pledge to give up alcohol to try and revive his once-promising AFL career made an impression on the list management team.
Bennell remained in Melbourne during the Christmas break to dedicate himself to his rehabilitation and is doing mindfulness work away from the club.
The birth of his now almost nine-month-old daughter, Carter-Ivy Logan, with his partner, Amy, has also had a major impact on his life off the field.
Club stars Max Gawn and Steven May, who’ve both been sidelined by knee injuries, looked good in completing all of Tuesday’s session.
Gawn elevated to take a strong grab in one marking contest with May, who trained without any strapping and was involved in full-ground match simulation and running drills.
Wouldn’t even know Melbourne defender Steven May’s had a knee injury. Taking part in everything, no strapping and looks good. pic.twitter.com/XooqnJGI6q— Marc McGowan (@ByMarcMcGowan) March 3, 2020