Fremantle’s disastrous recruitment of Harley Bennell has taken another wrong turn, with the injured star booted off a plane while under the influence of alcohol.
The Dockers have confirmed Bennell was asked to leave a Virgin flight from Melbourne to Gold Coast shortly after boarding on Saturday.
Bennell told club officials he had been drinking the previous day, as well as on a connecting flight from Perth.
He had also visited an airport cafe in Melbourne while waiting for his flight.
The Dockers say Bennell co-operated with airline staff when asked to leave the plane and returned to the Virgin lounge.
It is unclear why Bennell was travelling to the Gold Coast, although the Dockers said he had been on approved leave since Friday.
Bennell had been embroiled in several off-field controversies during his time at Gold Coast, including being photographed with what were alleged to be lines of illicit drugs in a Launceston hotel room in 2013.
The 24-year-old has proven to be a spectacular trade bust for Fremantle, with persistent calf injuries keeping him from playing a game for the Dockers since joining them at the end of 2015.
There are significant doubts about whether Bennell will manage to play at all this season.
The Dockers had been hopeful Bennell was close to a return but confirmed last week he had suffered yet another calf injury which will sideline him for up to 10 weeks.
Fremantle football boss Chris Bond and chief executive Steve Rosich have spoken to Bennell, with the Dockers pledging to continue supporting the troubled midfielder.
“Due to a recurring injury problem … Harley has been dealing with the frustration and disappointment of not being able to play AFL football,” Bond said in a statement on Sunday.
“We are disappointed that Harley consumed alcohol to the extent that airline staff felt he was unfit to take the flight.
“As a club, it is important that we continue to support and provide guidance to Harley on how best to cope with the frustration and disappointment of not playing football.”
Selected by Gold Coast at No.2 in the 2010 draft, Bennell showed glimpses of becoming one of the most dominant players in the AFL during his five seasons with the Suns.
But despite travelling to Germany over the off-season for treatment, he has been unable to overcome injuries to both of his calves.
Bond had earlier spoken glowingly of Bennell’s positive attitude towards his rehabilitation.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Bond told ABC radio on Saturday.
“His desperation to set records, and do stuff that he can do to get himself better, is fantastic.
“We’re really confident he will (play again). When that is, I don’t know, and I’m very much with everybody else … I understand we’re doing everything we can and we’ll leave no stone unturned.”