PORT Adelaide rookie Nathan Krakouer couldn't help but smile to himself late in Sunday's NAB Challenge 40-point win against West Coast – he was back in an AFL side and loving it.
Krakouer's career hasn't followed the typical path – if such a road exists.
He was originally drafted by the Power with pick No. 39 in 2006 but walked out on the club to join Gold Coast in 2010.
He retired from the game in 2011, but returned to Alberton early last year to play SANFL football with the Magpies.
His dedication to training and his obvious talent saw Port officially reclaim the 26-year-old at last year's rookie draft.
He was made to wait for his taste of top-level football until midway through the third term against the Eagles but made the most of it with seven possessions in defence.
"I was out there towards the last 10 minutes of the last quarter I started to have a bit of a smile, no disrespect to the Eagles, but just for myself ... being back out on the field is actually pretty fun," Krakouer told AFL.com.au after the win.
"It's been a while, obviously, but I had some fun out there and after a long pre-season of playing against one another it's actually good to play against an opposing team.
"It's good to see where you're at as well, because it's been a few years.
"The help from Tommy Jonas, 'Pate' (Alipate Carlile) to keep me up to date with my positioning on the field and my role to play … I missed a fair bit of footy so I'm still learning and those guys are like the generals back there.
"I think I've still got a lot of work to do – I only played a quarter and a bit – but I felt like was getting myself into positions."
Krakouer was hopeful he would travel with an inexperienced side to Albury next Sunday to take on Richmond.
The defender's fitness has been a focus since his return to the club, and although he's made serious ground he said he still had a long way to go.
Increased minutes against the Tigers would offer him a greater understanding of just how far away he was from the standard required at the elite level.
"Hopefully I'll get some more game time into me next week just to see where I'm at physically," he said.
"I'm feeling fine now [though]."