Michael Bennell: M & J Chickens Player of the Round

Wednesday, June 20, 2018 - 11:34 AM

HIS WAFL debut might have come at the advanced age of 24, but Michael Bennell has already made up for lost time and on Saturday he delivered a stunning seven-goal performance for Perth to earn M & J Chickens Player of the Round honours.

Bennell did play a handful of games for Swan Districts' reserves back in 2013, but he has spent recent years in Albany and playing in the WAFL did appear a faraway thought for most of that time.

He did play some impressive football in the forward-line for the Albany Sharks, but still he was settled down south and as he approached his 24th birthday, a career in the WAFL was beginning to appear unlikely.

But Perth approached him ahead of the 2018 season and he was willing to give it a go and join the Demons, and now player and club alike are earning the rewards for that.

While there were other strong candidates for the Round 11 Player of the Round honours including reigning Sandover Medallist Haiden Schloithe who had 32 possessions and kicked three goals in South Fremantle's win over Peel Thunder.

Subiaco's Lachlan Delahunty also had another 20 disposals, eight marks and three goals in the win over East Perth while Andrew Strijk kicked another five goals for West Perth against Claremont and Shane Nelson racked up 34 possessions.

And even Bennell's Perth teammate Cody Ninyette impressed kicking five goals from 13 kicks and five tackles.

But in the end, it was Bennell who earned the Player of the Round nod and deservedly so far after his display in Perth's 64-point win against East Fremantle at Lathlain Park on Saturday.

Bennell is a good size at 188cm and has shown he is more than capable of marking strongly overhead and going back to slot goals from set shots. But he's also quick, agile and elusive, and exciting at ground level and capable of kicking goals from anywhere.

He put all that on display on Saturday in the win for the Demons over the Sharks as he ended the afternoon kicking seven goals straight from nine kicks, seven handpasses, four tackles and three marks.

Making it all the more remarkable was the fact that it was just his third league game. After joining Perth this season from Albany, Bennell started off in the reserves and after a run of nine goals in three weeks, earned his league debut.

That came in Round 9 against Swan Districts at Steel Blue Oval where he kicked four goals from 14 possessions, five marks and four tackles. He backed up with another goal, 14 disposals and five tackles in the Round 10 win over South Fremantle at Lathlain Park.

Already in three league games, he has made quite the impact for the Demons and provided them with a goalkicking option sorely missing in the absence of Spencer White and Sam Garstone.

Now he will play a key role the rest of the 2018 season as Perth chases a first finals appearance since 1997 and if he continues to play well, it's not even out of the question that he could end up with an AFL future despite his mature age starting his WAFL career.

Perth coach Earl Spalding couldn’t be more impressed with the way Bennell has thrown himself into the WAFL system in 2018.

"He sort of just walked in the door, I think he was playing at Gosnells last year and came down with another young lad from there," Spalding said.

"We had a lot of guys come down during pre-season to have a trial and we weren’t quite sure how they would go, but he just showed that he had had something, and that's he's prepared to listen and work hard. 

"He is catching trains and buses to get to training, which shows a fair bit of dedication from a young man and thankfully he's getting his reward now. He's a really exciting player to watch and to coach. I've never seen anyone as relaxed before having a set shot and kicking seven goals straight attests to that."

Originally published by the West Australian Football Commission Inc.

Image Credit: RRB Photography.