MELBOURNE has signed midfielder Harley Bennell as a rookie for the 2020 season.
The former Gold Coast and Fremantle player, who began training with the Demons late last year, joins the red and blue under the AFL’s Supplemental Selection Period (SSP) rule.
General Manager of Football Operations Josh Mahoney said the club was thrilled to offer the 27-year-old a contract, giving him a fresh start on an AFL list.
“We are really pleased to welcome Harley to Melbourne through the SSP, and officially have him as part of our list for the 2020 season,” he told Melbourne Media.
“Since joining us to train in December, Harley has shown nothing but commitment to his individualised program and to the club.
“Although he has faced some minor setbacks over the past two months, he has taken this opportunity with both hands, and maintained a strong, positive outlook.
“Harley’s positive attitude has seen him been embraced by the playing group and seen him develop close relationships in a short time.
“We’re excited to be able to reward him for his efforts so far and give him further opportunity to reach his full potential.”
Bennell has played 83 senior games to date, but his chance with the Demons comes after a luckless run with injury.
Despite encountering another obstacle last week, straining his left calf during a rehab session, Mahoney said the club was committed to working with the midfielder to give him the best shot of a return to top level.
“Harley’s journey will be long-term, and both he and the club are aligned in where he’s currently at in terms of making a return to playing,” he said.
“He understands the importance of undergoing a slow, modified program, and he knows there may be further challenges to tackle along the way.
“We think that by making this decision early, it will take away an undue pressure and enable Harley to concentrate fully on this program.
“We’re confident that he has the right attitude to embrace these hurdles, and we’re looking forward to working with him throughout.”
Originally from Peel Thunder, Bennell was drafted to the SUNS with pick No.2 in the 2010 AFL Draft, before joining Fremantle at the end of 2015.
He was released from his playing contract with the Dockers in July last year, and has trained with the Demons since moving to Melbourne in December.