Jamie Bennell was born on the 7th of June 1990 in Bunbury, Western Australia. He was drafted in the 2008 AFL National Draft, at pick number 35, by the Melbourne Football Club. Bennell played 57 games for the Demons, before being injured in 2012.
He moved back home to Western Australia earlier this year after being picked up by the West Coast Eagles in the 2012 Rookie Draft. Recently I spoke to him about dealing with injury as well as moving clubs and his plans of being a small defender for the West Coast Eagles.
Image via: www.westcoasteagles.com.au
Growing up in Bunbury, Western Australia, Bennell started playing footy when he was about 6 years old.
“I loved playing footy when I was young. Growing up, I loved having a kick around and when I was 6, I decided to join the under 10’s. Everyone, including all of my mates and cousins played footy so it was just the common thing to do.”
When asked who influenced him to start playing, Bennell said, “It was [his] Dad. He always took me to games and stuff like that and was always there for me.”
Bennell was drafted by the Melbourne Football Club at pick number 35 in the 2008 National Draft. He made his debut in round one 2009 and played sixteen games that season.
After only 56 games for the Demons, Bennell suffered a serious knee injury in round sixteen 2012.
“When I first got told, it was pretty hard at the time. As soon as the doctor did a couple of tests on it, he told me straight away that I’d done my ACL, and that was pretty emotional for me.”
“It hit me pretty hard, but after that, I just had the mindset that I was going to recover. Over the whole process of the ten to eleven months I was out, I was pretty positive. I always knew I was going to play footy again. It just never came into my mind that I wasn’t going to play ever again.”
Bennell said, physically overcoming the injury involved “a lot of little fidgety things.”
“It was my first major injury, so I didn’t know what to expect coming into it.”
“There were a lot of little things I had to do. Once I had my operation I wasn’t doing anything on my legs for a while, so I had to do little things like activating the muscles, just to keep them working because they disappear pretty quickly.”
“Once I was up and going back into the club, I was using the gym and doing a lot of single leg exercises, so just building the strength back up in my left quad and muscles around my knee.”
“At times you’d think you were okay to train, but you have to do all of these little things to get it right. There was a lot of hopping, a lot of jumping, side-to-side movements and a lot of balance work. It was just a matter of building the muscle back up.”
“There was a lot of stuff in it, but you have to tick all of the boxes if you want to be back to one hundred percent.”
“When I first got injured I did a lot of work with Mitch Clark because he was injured at the same time. We did a lot of gym work together, so we kind of rebounded off each other and just motivated each other each day because at times it was tough. It was just physically draining and emotional so we were there for one another.
“Aaron was there, just for support really, whenever I needed a chat, or something like that, just to catch up, he was always there for me.”
Bennell also acknowledged Sam Pietsch, the physiotherapist at Melbourne.
“When I first did it, he looked after me. When the season was over and I was still contracted at Melbourne, I did a lot of work with him in the offseason. He took good care of me and I was in there every day and he was doing everything he could to help me get better.
At the end of the 2012 season, Bennell was delisted from Melbourne Football Club after 57 games.
“It was hard, but that’s the footy environment. I came to realise because I hadn’t got a contract offer and the season was nearly over, you know, you had to weigh these things up. You have to think about all of these things; if you’re going to be contracted there, or if they’re going to get rid of you, or if another team is going to pick you up, and being injured made it a bit harder as well.”
In the 2012 AFL Rookie Draft Bennell was picked up by the West Coast Eagles at pick number 26.
“I think the move was really good. It was something I think I needed, just [to have] a fresh start somewhere else. West Coast is a good professional club with high quality players. It was hard leaving teammates, although, like I said before, that’s the footy industry.”
Moving clubs also meant Bennell had to move back home to Western Australia, a move he said was made easier with the help of family and friends including fiancée Stef Perna.
“The playing group were all fantastic over here anyway, so they all made me feel a part of the team as soon as I got here.”
“I had Mark Finucane, (the physiotherapist and rehab specialist) over here. I also had Brad Dick here for support. He was in the same boat as me a year before. He was delisted from Collingwood after having a knee reconstruction as well, and West Coast picked him up. It was good to just have a chat with him about what he did and stuff like that.”
When comparing the training regime between both clubs, Bennell said, “The training standards were good at Melbourne. It was something the boys always wanted to do, and the coaches always wanted to get better.”
“I was in rehab for about the first 6 months over here [at West Coast], so I was just an onlooker looking in. I used to do my training at a different oval by myself with the other injured players. Looking on, it was pretty intense and it’s quite a game-like training that you used to do in the preseason.”
“But just having all of the older guys like Darren Glass, Cox, Kerr and stuff like that around you, you know they just really drive it. You know they have been there, they have won premierships and they are All Australian players so just having that experience around you really lifts the whole playing group.”
Bennell sees himself fitting into the West Coast side playing as a small defender.
“I’ve been training in the back line, and have been playing most of my footy in the back line, so I see myself coming in, if I do get the chance for West Coast, playing as a small defender.”
He has recovered from injury and hopes to be back playing AFL as soon as possible.
“I was an emergency last week for the team so I’m getting closer, so hopefully one or two weeks away before I’m back playing out there.”