FOR ADELAIDE defender Kyle Cheney, football has become an outlet to deal with significant personal tragedy.

In early January, one of Cheney's closest mates was killed in a car accident near his hometown of Warracknabeal, in western Victoria.

Cheney told his football club had become a sanctuary in a testing time.

Within the walls of Adelaide's base is a teammate to confide in and a common goal on which to focus.

Some days are better than others, but footy has helped Cheney handle his grief.

"When I get time on my own you think about it a lot more, but football – probably not just for myself but for a lot of people in the industry – it's an escape from things going on in 'real' life," Cheney said.

"You get to footy and you're fully focused on what you need to do – it's a good release.

"To be able to talk to people when you need to is good, but when you get to footy training and you're having a laugh with the guys it takes your mind away from things.

"It had been tough but, like I said, I've got good mates around me, both from Warracknabeal that are going through the same thing, and good mates who have gone through similar things at the club."

Cheney will play his 50th senior game on Thursday night against his old club in Hawthorn, highlighting his reputation as a fighter.

Cheney's never been a star – he's fought his way through eight seasons and at three clubs (Melbourne, Hawthorn and Adelaide) to reach the milestone.

This year alone he's managed an irregular heartbeat and missed games with a hamstring strain.

But here he is, in round 12, playing a crucial role for the Crows deep in defence.

"This is my eighth season now and I've sort of just plugged away, never been a consistent starter in any of the teams," he said.

"To be able to stick around and stay positive through the tough times has been what's helped me stick in the system.

"I've been in the position my whole career to appreciate any opportunity that I get; I was a late pick at the 2007 draft – pick No. 53 – so I'm extremely proud to get to 50 games."

Cheney doesn’t possess elite speed or sublime skills, but his competitiveness allows him to play much taller than his 187cm frame – or smaller when required.  

The 25-year-old said being forced to be versatile had helped keep his career alive by adding strings to his bow.

Things haven't always gone his way on the field, but Cheney agreed he was better for the challenges.

"I've been thrown to the wolves a few times, but you cop that," he said.