Zak Butters in action against Central District on Saturday afternoon.

FOR Zak Butters, Tom Clurey and Jackson Mead, the journey back to playing football has been a lengthy one.

The impact they made immediately is one that was felt around the competition as Port Adelaide came from behind to defeat Central District 9.3 (57) to 6.12 (48) to snap a three-game losing streak.

The defensive general

Clurey has been a pillar of the Port Adelaide AFL side for years, playing 90 games since the start of 2017.

He would endure his longest stint out of the side – six weeks to be precise - after copping a broken jaw in the loss to the Western Bulldogs.

In his return against the SANFL Bulldogs, Clurey was the general in defence with 16 touches, eight marks and five rebound 50s.

Despite being under siege early, the gun defender had the perfect word to sum up his return – ‘fun’.

“It was good fun, I don't think I've played SANFL for four or five years, so it's good to come back here,” he told

“I got a few touches early, I ran out of legs late but it was just good to be back out there after having time off.

“It's good to be back around the boys having a bit of fun.”

Clurey admitted he learned earlier in the week he’d be making his return via the SANFL.

“It's probably been the plan for the last week or two, I got it ticked off early in the week, so it's been a pretty exciting week,” he said.

The rising youngster with a big battle 

When Jackson Mead left the field on April 17 after a loss to South Adelaide, he didn’t know what he was in for in the next few months.

The 19-year-old suffered a ruptured spleen, which he discovered in hospital that night.

“I got home that day and I just felt like a bit crook in the stomach and then just passed out at home and then I had to get out of the hospital for five nights,” he told

“I was pretty scared at the time, and to be told you might not play footy for the rest of the year is pretty daunting, but I'm so glad to be back.”

The recovery process was the next challenge, and Mead said it was lengthy.

“It's been pretty out of the ordinary,” he said.

“The first six weeks was just letting the scarring heal and then the next five or so weeks building up the intensity a bit week by week. And then once we got into more training, I could get into some games and I'm just lucky enough to be back playing this year.”

Mead was more than serviceable in his return game for the Magpies with 17 touches and five tackles, showing he’s still willing to put his body on the line.

“It's just great to be back with the boys and then getting the win as well is pretty nice,” he said.

“We just want to keep winning games in the SANFL.

“We had a few boys back today and over the last few weeks we've been struggling for a few numbers, but to get the numbers back and you know keep getting wins, we still want to play finals.

“We've got a few more games left, we've got a few more important ones.”

The match winner

 Zak Butters’ injury journey had been a rollercoaster.

The third-year youngster was expecting to be returning to the field within a month of the injury sustained against Richmond.

His time on the sidelines would blow out to three months including a second surgery to relieve pressure on a nerve around his knee, but it looked as if he didn’t miss a beat in the win over Central.

Butters showed glimpses in the opening three quarters before doing as he has done so often in his short career - win a game off his own boot.

He would mark and convert a set shot to put the Magpies in front in time on in the last quarter, and with the game in the balance, crumbed a pack, snapped around his body and kicked the winner a few minutes later.

Speaking post-match, Butters said he didn’t know what to expect from his performance when he woke up on Saturday morning.

“I woke up and didn't really know what to think, I felt like I was playing footy for the first time in forever really,” he told

“I was out of my groove, but when I got in and the siren went, it felt like another game and it's the best feeling in the world.”

During the week, Butters said he had ticked the right boxes in one training session before it was finally decided on Thursday evening that he would play.


“I had a session on Tuesday and I probably trained better than expected, then the question started getting raised and I was feeling good, I wanted to get back out there,” he said.

Despite sealing the win with two clutch goals against the Bulldogs, the humble Butters chose to deflect attention and instead compliment the teammates around him.

“I'm feeling pretty sore, I was pretty gassed early out there,” he said.

“I found my groove a bit late. I was stoked to get the win with the boys and play with some teammates I've missed out on in the last couple of months.

“Thanks to [Sam] ‘Hayesy’, he got me involved for most of the day and it's always nice kicking a few goals and especially late, but overall, I’m just happy with the win and it was good by the boys to bounce back. Everyone chipped in and did their bit.”