HARLEY Bennell will play his first AFL game since 2017 after being selected by Melbourne for this week's clash with Carlton.
The talented former Suns and Dockers midfielder was congratulated at Demons training on Wednesday as a confirmed starter this week.
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The Demons also confirmed that last year's No.3 pick Luke Jackson and running half-back Trent Rivers will also make their respective AFL debuts against the Blues.
Jackson, an athletic ruckman who gave away a promising basketball career to pursue the football pathway, was a player in demand at the top end of last year's NAB AFL Draft as the Demons swooped with their prized selection.
Bennell's fairytale comeback marks the end of years of injury heartache for Bennell, who played just two games in four years with the Dockers due to debilitating calf injuries.
His career looked over at the end of last season but the Demons handed the 27-year-old a footy lifeline via the supplemental selection period in February.
He looks set to bring a new element to Melbourne's midfield with his brilliant class and finishing skills having impressed at training since returning to the club following the COVID-19 shutdown.
"It feels really exciting. It was a massive relief when [he was told] and I’m just happy I’m back playing AFL again," Bennell said.
"I did the work over the COVID-19 [break] and got a good program off 'Burgo' (Dees fitness boss Darren Burgess) and I stuck to the program and we’re here to today.
"I’m ready to play this weekend."
Bennell admits the chance of re-injury sits in the back of his mind.
But he said the disruption of the season had given him a silver lining to get ready by the middle of the year and yet not miss any more of the Demons’ games.
"Having that happen and me stick to the program put me in stead to train the way I’ve trained over the last three weeks and get to run out with the boys this week. It’s going to be fun," he said.