When Matthew Broadbent needed a little reassurance as he prepared to end a 651-day absence from AFL football last weekend he only had look into the Port Adelaide medical centre and focus on Michael Wilson.

Now the Power’s head physiotherapist, Wilson was 685 days between games due to two knee reconstructions in 2001 and 2002 before he returned in 2003 to complete one of the great Port careers.

Stuck on 98 AFL games during a gut-wrenching layoff that had outsiders questioning whether he would ever return, Wilson played a further 94 games, four finals campaigns, eight finals and the 2004 premiership after his comeback.

Broadbent, 28, had been anchored on 161 AFL games since his last AFL appearance on 29 July 2017.

How long it must have seemed for the hugely popular running utility player, who sits 18th on the Power’s all-time AFL games list after being drafted from Woodville-West Torrens with selection #38 in the 2008 National Draft.

Six teammates from that last game in Round 19 2017 are no longer at the club. Matt White has retried, Jackson Trengove has moved to the Western Bulldogs, Jarman Impey to Hawthorn, Jack Hombsch and Aaron Young to Gold Coast, and Jared Polec to North Melbourne.

Five other members of the 2017 playing group also have moved to other clubs. Chad Wingard is at Hawthorn, Jasper Pittard is at North, Matthew Lobbe is at Carlton, Brendon Ah Chee is at West Coast and Logan Austin went to St. Kilda before being de-listed.

Angus Monfries and Nathan Krakouer have retired, and Jake Neade, Jimmy Toumpas, Brett Eddy, Jesse Palmer, Will Snelling and Emmanuel Irra were delisted.

Lindsay Thomas and Dom Barry came and went, and 20 players not on the playing list when Broadbent last played have arrived – 2018 additions Tom Rockliff, Jack Watts, Steven Motlop, Jack Trengove, Trent McKenzie, Kane Farrell, Joel Garner, Sam Hayes and Joel Patmore, and 2019 additions Ryan Burton, Scott Lycett, Connor Rozee, Xavier Duursma, Zak Butters, Sam Mayes, Riley Grundy, Boyd Woodcock, Tobin Cox, Martin Frederick and Kai Pudney.

So long was Broadbent off the scene that when Port Magpies SANFL coach Matthew Lokan was interviewed by SEN’s Andy Maher on Thursday about Broadbent’s pending comeback Maher admitted most in Melbourne thought he had been de-listed or retired.

However, Broadbent successfully negotiated his return to AFL football on Saturday night, racking up 22 possessions against the Crows. In the process he became the 12th Port player since the club entered the AFL in 1997 to return after spending more than 500 days on the outer due to injury, non-selection, suspension or a combination of these reasons. This includes former Bombers Monfries and Paddy Ryder, who were suspended due to the Essendon doping scandal.

The longest period between games without leaving the club is Brendon Lade’s 742 games. Ironically, Lade is the only Port player to have worn the #5 jumper for Port in the AFL more than Broadbent. At 167 games he is nine ahead of Broadbent, who played his first three games in 2009 in jumper #32.

The list of breaks between Port games of more than 500 days is:

742 – Brendon Lade
721 – Josh Francou
708 – Angus Monfries, Brad Symes
685 – Michael Wilson
679 – Jarrad Redden
651 – Matthew Broadbent, Nick Lower
637 – Michael Stevens, Sam Colquhoun
627 – Danny Morton
567 – Paddy Ryder

Lade’s 167 games in jumper #5 all came after his extended absence and is easily the most games played after an absence of more than 12 months.

Wilson’s 94 games on return is next best among those sidelined long-term by injury, while at the other end of the scale, Redden’s comeback game was his 16th and last.

Josh Carr and Nathan Krakouer had even longer periods between Port games because they left the club.

Carr was 1646 days between his 105th Port game in the 2004 grand final and his 106th Port game in Round 1 2009 due to four years and 83 games at Fremantle.

Krakouer was 1714 days between his 40th Port game in Round 19 2010 and his 41st in Round 3 2015 after 13 games at the Gold Coast and a period in retirement.