Best On Ground: Comebacks dominate footy's coronavirus restart week

FOOTY IS BACK: Matthew Parker and Jack Lonie train during a St Kilda Saints training session at RSEA Park this week. Picture: Morgan Hancock
FOOTY IS BACK: Matthew Parker and Jack Lonie train during a St Kilda Saints training session at RSEA Park this week. Picture: Morgan Hancock

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The AFL isn't the only entity set to make a long-awaited return this week.

Harley Bennell - at his best one of Australian football's most damaging outside midfielders - is set to end a 1018-day absence from the elite game.

The 27-year-old's stock rose at the Gold Coast Suns but he was promptly traded to Fremantle after a drunken altercation in Surfers Paradise.

His time in the west was marred heavily by injury and the speedster managed just two games in four years. Melbourne threw Bennell a lifeline in 2019 when he signed a $63,000-a-year contract plus match payments.

Bennell was delighted to be named in the Demons' best 22 for Saturday.

"It feels really exciting," Bennell said. "(It was a) massive relief when (Simon Goodwin) got us all out there. I'm just happy I'm back playing AFL again.

"I was thereabouts, I've obviously done the work. I did the work over the COVID-19 (shut down).

"I got a good program off 'Burgo' (fitness boss Darren Burgess), stuck to the program and we're here today, ready to play this weekend."

Bennell isn't the only player to complete a comeback against the odds.

Richmond livewire Jack Higgins will mark a return from two bouts of brain surgery against Collingwood on Thursday night.

"It's a great story, Jack, he'll play tomorrow night so it'll be his first game back since that significant injury last year and it's a testament to the lad," Tigers coach Damien Hardwick said on Wednesday.

"His professionalism and his dedication to his craft is incredible. The one thing he's done is gone away and improved some facets of his game as well.

"There was a chance he may never play again."

A number of subplots also feature. Can Geelong fend off Hawthorn in one of footy's great modern rivalries? Will Fremantle improve on its promising round one loss to the Bombers against Brisbane?

Which team will rule South Australia in the showdown? And can the new-look Saints finally piece it together against a high-flying Western Bulldogs?

Comebacks, drama and entertainment are a certainty. Buckle up for footy's long-awaited return.

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