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Bennell closing in on sweet AFL return

Harley Bennell of the Dockers. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Fremantle coach Ross Lyon says he should send a box of chocolates to the team’s new physio weapon for her wonder work on Harley Bennell.

Bennell has been blighted by calf injuries since arriving at Fremantle at the end of 2015, playing just two AFL games since.

Even German specialist Dr Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt couldn’t find a permanent fix to the issues.

But ballet conditioning expert Paula Baird has made some significant inroads since starting work earlier this year with Bennell.

Bennell, after a successful WAFL return earlier this month, will line up again for Peel Thunder in Saturday’s clash with Subiaco in Mandurah.

“I need to send her a box of chocolates – the physiotherapist from the ballet,” Lyon said.

“What she’s done with him has really contributed strongly and complemented the program we had in place.

“He’s actually running as freely and with high-end speed and power as we’ve seen since he’s been here.

“If that can keep happening, we can all start to get a little bit excited.”

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Bennell’s time at Fremantle has also been plagued by off-field misdemeanours.

Lyon is hopeful the story will have a happy ending.

“The kid’s been to hell and back,” Lyon said of Bennell, who could make his AFL return early next month.

“(He’s been) under a lot of scrutiny – sometimes brought upon himself; sometimes not fair; not accurate.

“But he’ll just keep working through. He’s showed great resilience and we don’t want to lose players with his level of talent out of the game for whatever reason.

“In recent history, there’s been some sad stories. We don’t want another one.”

Bennell suffered a perforated ear drum earlier this week, but it was not expected to rule him out of Saturday’s WAFL match.

The Dockers have been boosted by the return of Michael Walters (knee) and Nathan Wilson (back) for Saturday night’s clash with Sydney at the SCG.

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But Stephen Hill will miss another week with a quad injury.

No timeline has been set for Brad Hill’s return from a knee issue.

Hill suffered the injury in round two, and Lyon said the club needed to tread carefully, given heavy bruising like that could be a precursor to a stress reaction or a fracture.

Once the former Hawk is ready to return, he’ll have to spend a week in the WAFL as part of his club-imposed suspension for his run-in with police earlier this month at a Scarborough night spot.

Hill was also ordered to undergo an alcohol education program as part of his punishment.

“Good people sometimes get it wrong. He sits in that basket,” Lyon said.

“He’ll work his way through. He’s been, overall, fantastic for us as a club.”

Sydney produced a selection surprise by naming Lance Franklin and Dan Hannebery.

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