PLENTY has changed since Trent McKenzie last ate at his favourite Japanese restaurant – Etsu – in Mermaid Beach.
Wind back to the end of 2017 when he had just spent seven seasons as a rebounding Gold Coast defender, McKenzie was delisted and searching for a new home.
Having lived on healthy contracts at the Suns from the age of 17, McKenzie's options were limited, reduced to just 14 games in two seasons due to various groin and soft tissue injuries.
Then Ken Hinkley called, offering a base one-year deal.
Kenny was one of the first people to give me a call and straight away I knew that Port Adelaide was where I wanted to be," McKenzie told AFL.com.au this week.
"I had the connection from my time at the Gold Coast (with Hinkley as assistant) and obviously (former teammate) Charlie (Dixon) was there as well which made it easier.
McKenzie managed only one AFL game and battled quad setbacks in his first year at the Power. He was made to wait until after Trade Period in October to learn his fate for 2019 where he quickly contemplated life as an NFL punter.
Winning another one-year deal, a bout of shoulder surgery was to follow before a year in the SANFL ended with one solitary AFL game in round 23, 2019 and another 12-month contract.
Now he finds himself back on the Gold Coast, this time living in a quarantine hub, as a lock in a back six that has driven the Power to a 4-0 start to 2020.
"I've shown a few of the boys cafes and takeaway places and things like that," McKenzie said.
"I have my favourite Japanese restaurant, Etsu, up in Mermaid Beach so I took a few of the boys there and we got some takeaway and pretty much ordered the whole restaurant.
"It was nice to get back there and there's a couple of nice coffees down in Broadbeach so we've been floating around.
"I have been out for a few years and felt like I was long way away but I'm just enjoying being out there playing footy and lucky enough to get a few wins.
"I owe pretty much everything to Ken.
"He could've quite easily have dropped me off the list, but he showed faith in me and I know I haven't really done anything yet so I'm just continuing to work hard.
"Hopefully we can get to the end of the year and I can say I've achieved something, and I'll pretty much owe everything to Ken."
The 28-year-old acknowledges that the one game to finish 2019 acted a springboard into this season, placing him as one of the great comeback stories of the season.
"It was only the one game, but I had to take my opportunity, (Tom) Clurey was out injured and it opened up a spot to show what I could do," he said.
"I played one of my better games and that went on into the SANFL finals, pre-season and into this year."
And with persistence came reward, two key moves in the off-season vacating a permanent role in defence.
"The last few years have been tough to break in; we've got some solid players down there," McKenzie said.
"Clurey and (Tom) Jonas, who I was probably fighting for a position with, are great players. Lucky enough Dougal (Howard) moved onto St Kilda and Housto (Dan Houston) moved into the midfield and that has opened up a spot.
"Our back six is tight off the field and I think it's starting to show on the field playing a few games together now and knowing how each other plays."
Nicknamed 'The Cannon' for his lethal left boot at the Suns, McKenzie is now playing deeper in defence, using his 191cm frame to play as the third tall option alongside Jonas and Clurey.
"It's always funny when you hear the nickname, I don't mind it and I go along with it and it's all good fun," he said.
"You've got to have different strings to your bow, I'm trying to evolve my game, (so it's) not just the long kicking but also the defensive side of my game and I think I've done that."
His new-found defensive traits were put on show with a gripping one-on-one against West Coast All-Australian Jack Darling last week.
"It's not where you want to be as a defender," he laughed."There was a turnover in the middle of the ground and most of our players were out of position and we didn't really have much help. It's not the easiest to be chasing a ball out the back when your opponent's got the best position but lucky enough I got the fist in.
"We do practice a fair bit of that.
"I've put a lot of work in on the training track especially with my defensive coach Brett Montgomery, he's been a huge help.
"We work on it pretty much every session, the one-on-one battles and Tom Jonas and Tom Clurey have been great."
With Jonas and Clurey likely to take Lions Eric Hipwood and Dan McStay when they meet on Saturday night, McKenzie could find himself using his defensive prowess between Oscar McInerney (204cm) and Charlie Cameron (183cm) in the top-four clash at the Gabba.