INFLUENTIAL Port Adelaide midfielder Jared Polec has shone in his return to competitive football, accumulating plenty of possessions in the Power's internal trial almost 10 months since he was sidelined with a stress fracture in his foot.
Polec fractured the navicular bone in his left foot early last year and failed to return to the field after round five.
He's since revealed the injury threatened to end his career, but the 23-year-old has recovered and was clearly his side's best on Friday night in front of around 4000 fans at Alberton Oval.
Polec ran hard and smoothly, covering the wings and then pushing back deep into defence to take kick-ins. His left foot didn't appear an issue at all.
Power coach Ken Hinkley was clearly pleased with the wingman's output but said the club would tread carefully with his training loads in the approach to round one.
"We were happy with the way he's been progressing but for him to go out and play three quarters of footy for us tonight (was great) and no doubt we missed him last year," Hinkley said.
"He got the ball a lot but he made some mistakes … he changes the ball for us a lot and we need that in our team.
"He just needs to get back amongst it a bit more. We've been putting him into quite a bit of training now for some time but there's no footy like contests.
"We've got to be very careful with the way we handle him now."
Polec is set to play two of Port's three NAB Challenge games and will likely rest before round one.
Chad Wingard (three goals) and Robbie Gray (one goal) were both impressive, as was Hamish Hartlett – but youngsters Dougal Howard (two goals) and Aidyn Johnson (two goals) both stood out as well.
Fresh from signing a new contract, Howard attacked the contest, pulled in some strong marks and slotted a great goal tight up against the boundary from 45m.
The 199cm 19-year-old was one of the most impressive players on the ground according to Hinkley, and almost certainly earned himself a place in the Power's opening NAB Challenge clash against the Sydney Swans on February 20.
Johnson sprung to life in the third term with two classy finishes in front of goal, but also showed the pace and tackling tenacity for which he was drafted last November with pick No.45.
Goals tonight (Black) Wingard 3, Howard, Butcher, Cooper 2, Amon, Clurey, Boak, Ebert, Ah Chee (Teal) Johnson 2, R.Gray, Lobbe— Port Adelaide FC (@PAFC) February 12, 2016
Late in the game Johnson threw himself into a contest – a show of courage that delighted the entire coaching panel.
The game itself was one-sided, with the team in black far too good for the 'teals'.
However, while the black side included skipper Travis Boak, Hartlett and Wingard, neither team represented an indication of possible round one selections.
Polec played in a teal jumper, as did Ollie Wines, Matthew Lobbe and Gray.
Wines' shoulder looked strong as be broke through several contested situations with typical force and he finished the game without issue.