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TOO OFTEN lost amid the obsession with the AFL's biggest stars is the romance of the struggle.

For every Robbie Gray, there are many more players like Matt White – the types good enough to play regular senior football, but who rarely feel safe.

White, best known for his blistering pace, played just his third game in the past two seasons on Saturday for his second AFL club, Port Adelaide. None of them were consecutive.

It was his 148th overall (105 for Richmond), so the 30-year-old – out of contract at season's end – has proven a stayer since the Tigers plucked him from the 2006 NAB AFL pre-season draft.

White's latest opportunity came only when defender Matthew Broadbent rolled his ankle at training on Thursday and was withdrawn from the selected squad a day later.

His lack of recent matches owed chiefly to a nasty injury: a torn right pectoral muscle sustained just four minutes into last year. A calf problem also put him behind the eight ball in 2017.

White is so accepting that time is ticking on his career that his wife, Tara, flew over from South Australia to watch him face Collingwood at the MCG – the venue he used to play at most weeks.

But he has far from conceded the fight.

White had a hand in the Power's opening three goals, won seven of his 21 disposals by quarter-time, soccered through the first of five-straight Port majors in the third term and gained more than 400m.

"I had a good chat with a few blokes, (assistant coaches) Matty Nicks and Garry Hocking, about taking the opportunity and playing as if it could be my last game," he told

"I went out there with a bit of gusto, had a bit of fun, and really enjoyed myself. It was a great game, the midfield did a great job and we won, so I'm happy.

"If I play only two more (to get to 150) for the rest of the year, then so be it. If I don't even do that, then fantastic – I loved every minute of it."

Broadbent will be back, as will Port's first-choice speedster Jared Polec, so White isn't even guaranteed a spot next week. But White said he "can't do any more" to convince coach Ken Hinkley to pick him.

Hinkley admitted as much post-match.

"I was really pleased for Matty, because he's struggled a bit to find a way back this year, but he's just showed he's still got some stuff to offer to us," the coach said.

"(There is a place for him) if he plays as well as he played today … he'll get some confidence out of that and we, as coaches, get some more confidence in him, too, so that helps keep him in the side."

White's pace remains his greatest meal ticket – and Hinkley makes sure he knows it.

At one stage on Saturday he zipped away from a well-populated stoppage and opened up a sizeable gap, only to take one step too many. His unbridled enthusiasm was easily forgiven.

But using his weapon the right way could be the difference between White becoming a regular fixture again, as well as potentially earning another contract.

"Every game means a hell of a lot for me now and every win means even more," White said.

"I absolutely love coming back to the 'G and I think we're back here in a few weeks' time, so hopefully I can hold my spot and keep the body right and come back and do it all again."

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