PLENTY has changed since Western Bulldogs defender Dale Morris last played for the club, but on Saturday he made a seamless return to the side.

In his first home and away match since he broke his leg against Essendon in August 2011, Morris lined up in the Dogs' new-look defence as the elder statesman.

And despite his 152 games of experience, Morris, 30, admits the match against the Brisbane Lions felt like his debut.

"To get up and play round one this year, I was just rapt to be out there," Morris said on Tuesday.

"(I was) nervous, probably more nervous than my first game."

Gone are many of the teammates with whom he used to share the back line.

Instead, a batch of new players is holding down the fort, much to Morris' excitement.

"The last time I played we had Lake, Hargrave, Gilbee, and I played all my games with them.

"To come in with guys that I hadn't played much, if any footy with, it's just fantastic to see the growth over the last year and the off-season."

Morris admits to some dark times when coming back from the compound fracture to his leg, but his support network proved a saving grace.

"I had a lot of support around me - the club, at home and just everywhere I went.

"Everyone asking how the leg was. People come up and say 'Sorry to bother you, but how's your leg?'" Morris said.

"I just love it because it shows that people care.

"People want to know how I am and how my leg's going, and that kept me going and made me want to succeed that much more, to show all these people that I can come back from this."

Much to Morris' delight, his leg has responded well after his first game back.

"The leg pulled up really, really well.

"I'm always going to have a little bit of pain down there.

"As you can imagine, there's a fair bit that happened down there, but it's the best I've pulled up after NAB Cup, training, anything."

Jacqui Reed is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow her @JacquiReedAFL