WHEN Trent McKenzie runs out for Port Adelaide on Sunday, it will continue one of the more incredible career arcs of the past decade.
The 'Cannon' has seen just about everything in his 125-game journey, from Gold Coast's historic first match, to being dropped, suspended, injured, delisted, recruited again, and last year becoming an unlikely cog in Port's preliminary final backline.
McKenzie has ridden AFL's version of a rollercoaster.
Now 29, he was first recruited by the Suns in late 2009 as a 17-year-old, one of 12 under-age players chosen as part of the fledgling club's initial list build.
He is one of only two players from that 12 still on an AFL list.
The other is Western Bulldog Alex Keath, who turned his back on football for six years to pursue a professional cricket career before returning to the sport.
All the while McKenzie took off.
He was a favourite of original Suns coach Guy McKenna, playing 92 games in his first five years.
He became well known for his prodigious left boot, hence the nickname, kicking long-range goals and wowing fans with the ease in which he did it.
It was also a time when McKenzie would form relationships with two other important coaches in his life – Ken Hinkley and Dean Solomon.
Hinkley would ultimately revive the Victorian's career with a contract at Port ahead of 2018, while Solomon worked closely with him as Gold Coast's defensive coach during his seven seasons at Carrara.
"He'd be the first to put his hand up and say he didn't work as hard as was required at AFL level in those early days," Solomon told AFL.com.au.
"It probably didn't hurt him in those early days, he just had so much raw talent.
"But the comp is so tough, (talent) takes you to a certain point and then your daily habits have to be spot on to get you to next level.
"It took him a bit of time to mature in that space and then he got into a good headspace and got himself fit, but unfortunately that's when his injuries occurred."
McKenzie didn't help himself, among three Gold Coast players – with Brandon Matera and Harley Bennell - suspended by the club for breaching team alcohol rules in 2015.
And the injuries followed, coming in many forms across 2016 and 2017, including groin, hamstring and ankle setbacks.
Once Rodney Eade became the second Gold Coast coach to be sacked late in 2017, it spelt the end for McKenzie and a fresh start at Alberton.
Solomon said Hinkley, who was an assistant at the Suns in 2011 and 2012, had formed an iron-clad relationship with the lethal left footer in that period.
"Trent thrives on knowing he had the support and love of a coach, but also the balance of a pointed and honest message and direction," Solomon said.
"Some blokes you can tell them what to do and they'll do it, Trent was a bit more 'arm around' type that needed some direction.
"Once he knew you were invested in him and there to help and that your intentions were from a positive place, he was there for you… that's what Ken had from an early time with him.
"If anyone could get the best of Trent, it was going to be Ken."
It wasn't all smooth sailing at his new club though, with McKenzie playing just one game in each of 2018 and 2019 before his true revival last year as an undersized key defender.
McKenzie has always shown defensive traits that could work against the toughest opponents. His fifth place in Port's best and fairest last season was testament to a player with so much more than a penetrating kick.
"He's brave as anyone," Solomon said.
"He played on the wing for us (Suns) but didn't have the tank to really play that role long-term.
"Then we worked out he was really brave in the air, and to have the game in front of him and cut the angles was shining through.
"Some players get it from day one like Sam Walsh, some take a little longer. Every player has a different arc.
"Trent always had a lot of talent and ability to become a top liner, it just took him that little bit longer.
"I still believe the best of Trent McKenzie is yet to come… we saw that last year.
"He just needed to delve into his soul and get his belief back.
"Kenny has that unique ability to understand players take different paths. He's the perfect coach for Trent to get the most out of himself to complete a really good AFL career."