Demons probe Bennell over possible Qld COVID breach
Melbourne has reported a potential Harley Bennell COVID breach to the AFL after a Saturday drinking session in Queensland.
The Herald Sun can reveal the Demons are still trying to ascertain the facts but have alerted the league's integrity team about his conduct.
The league has already told players they will be fined as much as $10,000 and potentially sent home by the AFL for any post-season breaches.
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Bennell was not yet released from the club's Maroochydore hub at the Twin Waters resort, with the Demons playing Essendon yesterday.
It is understood the club became aware he was drinking and away from the club's hub last night.
As a precaution he was kept away from the club's hub to ensure he did not further breach COVID provisions by potentially infecting Melbourne players.
The Herald Sun understands he was considered certain to win a contract for 2021 despite playing only five games after the Demons gave him a new home.
The Demons played at Metricon Stadium on Saturday so Bennell was not part of the travelling party.
Bennell has rehabilitated his reputation after a series of incidents including being "highly intoxicated" when charged with disorderly behaviour after an argument with a security guard outside a Surfers Parade nightclub in 2015.
Melbourne Football Club confirmed on Sunday it was aware of the potential breach.
"The Melbourne Football Club is aware of a potential breach of the AFL's COVID-19 protocols involving player Harley Bennell," the Demons said in a statement.
"The club has notified the AFL, who are investigating the matter.
"Whilst the club and the AFL are in the process of establishing the facts, Harley will remain in an off-site isolation location, to remove any possibility of contaminating the Twin Waters high performance hub.
"As the matter is being investigated, the Club is not in a position to comment further."
The Demons could be fined as much as $100,000 for what would be a second COVID breach for Melbourne after Charlie Spargo and Kysaiah Pickett were suspended after taking an Uber to a party while in Melbourne.
If Bennell could prove he had left the hub and was not planning to return he might be able to dodge a COVID breach.
But as his former coach Ross Lyon said on Triple M on Sunday, he was required at the Demons until his exit interview in the days after the club's season ended.
"It's very concerning. I spoke to Harley on Friday and we had a conversation about not being picked and the future and he seemed really committed to Melbourne and they seemed committed to him," Lyon said.
"If he's been out post the game the concern for him is that with the exit interviews, clubs were going to take 24 hours that you are still in the hub. So that's disappointing.
"I hope he's OK. A lot of pressure is going to come. He had been perfect. On the surface he seems to have maybe made an error."
In 2015, Bennell was dropped after drinking alcohol at a game despite Gold Coast agreeing not to drink in the week leading into a contest.
In July, News Corp published photos of him snorting a white powder alleged to be cocaine that was taken from a gathering in 2013.
Then, after the incident with the security guard in September, the Suns said they would trade Bennell, with the silky midfielder eventually finding his way to Fremantle.
Bennell played only two games for the Dockers in four seasons as he continually broke down with calf issues, but was still talented enough to secure a career lifeline from the Demons, with Sydney another suitor.
In June he made his Melbourne debut after his first game in 1021 days in a nailbiting victory over Carlton.
He revealed how close he had come to quitting football after suffering 25 calf tears.
I kept doing it … doing my calf, doing my calf.
"The last time I did it (seriously), I split the whole thing and thought I had snapped my Achilles.
"When I took my shoe off … my foot just dropped because nothing was working up the top.
"I actually thought I was done. That's what I said to my partner - 'I'm done'.
"I was mentally drained and thought it was all over."
But the cutting-edge surgery on his calves gave him one last chance at extending his career.
Originally published as Demons probe Bennell over possible Qld COVID breach