XAVIER Duursma is living the dream again - after his longest stint on the sidelines by injury.
And the "X Man" wingman is keen to shake off more rust after trying to find his feet - with a rebuilt right knee - in the 28-point win against Collingwood at Marvel Stadium last week.
"It is my dream come true," 21-year-old Duursma said on Wednesday. "It took me a long time to get back.
"Obviously I was very lucky in my first couple of years," added the No. 18 pick from the 2018 AFL national draft. "After 14, 15 weeks out, sometimes in rehab it seemed I was not going to get back. But it was really good to be playing again."
Duursma made his much-awaited return to AFL football on Friday night - in Travis Boak's 300th AFL game - after building match fitness in two SANFL matches. He spent almost three months on the sidelines recuperating from the knee injury suffered late in the preliminary final rematch with AFL premier Richmond at Adelaide Oval on April 9.
"I have never had a surgery (before this corrective operation)," Duursma said. "So it is definitely the longest I have been out of the game. I have been very lucky across my career in terms of only having a couple of soft-tissue injuries; I had never needed surgery (before). And hopefully it never happens again."
The right knee certainly has stood up to every test so far.
"Structurally, it feels just as strong as it did before," said the 40-game Duursma. "My surgeon did a very good job repairing it all up. So thank you to him. My knee feels strong. It is now about feeling good about feeling strong through it again and pushing off which I feel I have been able to do."
Now the task - that will be so critical to locking a top-four berth to September - is to re-establish the strong running game that makes Duursma a critical part of the Port Adelaide midfield.
"I think that being rusty is normal when coming in after such a long time away from AFL footy," Duursma said. "I was a little fumbly there and probably did not switch to defence as I would have previously. So, that is stuff I will work on and I will be better for the experience this week and have (more) match fitness as well.
"There are just little things that I will tinker with, but I think I will be fine this week. I definitely will be better for it. My mindset, my positioning around the ground - like when we go on offence and turn it over - I felt I was a little slow to man-up or go find my man. And that is a pretty critical role for a winger.
"And I felt I was a little fumbly with my hands, especially in the second quarter when Travis Boak fired a pretty clean handball to me and I double grabbed it. Little things like that I have to clean up and I think I can do quite easily. I will adjust.
"The first contest, I ran into (Collingwood ruckman) Brodie Grundy's legs and had the ball smothered. That was the 'welcome back' moment with a nice one to my ribs.
"It will take a week or two. This week I feel a lot better and more confident, especially after getting through the first one on Friday night. My second half definitely was a lot better," added Duursma who finished with 18 disposals. "I felt a lot more comfortable than I did in the first half.
"If I keep working my way into the game it makes sense I will hit the form I had at the start of the year."
There also is Duursma's famous goal celebration - with the arrow - to see again.
"It has been a little while since I put one through, so that might be a little rusty when I pull that out again - maybe I will have to practise that at training," said the 20-goal Duursma who last kicked a goal in AFL company in that fateful round 4 clash with Richmond.
Fourth-placed Port Adelaide (13-5) plays top-eight rival Greater Western Sydney on Sunday afternoon with the AFL still to confirm if the match will be played in Queensland (where GWS is based) or at the Docklands in Melbourne (where Port Adelaide has been domiciled since last Tuesday).
In the meantime, Port Adelaide continues to prepare its program with training sessions continuing at Punt Road, Richmond.
"There are a lot of unknowns but we do know where we are going to be training," Duursma said. "We have been handling it quite well. That has been a massive mindset for us. We want to prove we can be here (as a contender) and we have the right to be here and we are one of the best teams in the competition.
"Last year we definitely did that from the bubble (in Queensland) and we can do that again here (in Melbourne). And we have done it so far.
"We don't know where the game is this week. But we are going to have the same mindset - and hopefully a big win against GWS."
Duursma left the team when it was rated a genuine premiership contender off the back of the win against Richmond. On his return, Port Adelaide is still claiming wins but not as much kudos for its work against a heavy injury list.
"We had a decent start to the year and the boys have done a decent job by playing competitive and really good footy," Duursma said. "We have been pretty much in every game we have lost ... we have been competitive in all of them.
"We are starting to get a few people back from injury as well as starting to get some good form again. We are definitely on the right track. As long as we keep going in the right direction - which I feel we are - we are going to be alright.
"We are hitting the right areas at the moment to keep pushing towards finals and keep winning to hold our top-four spot and then just go from there."
Port Adelaide will need to secure an exemption from SA Health to return to Alberton next week in the lead-up to Showdown L, the 50th South Australian AFL derby.
"It is our home and we are very keen to get home," Duursma said. "We will first worry about the GWS game, but Showdowns are huge. We want to make sure we sweep the Crows (by winning both derbies) which we would all enjoy doing.
"But we have to focus on GWS first and then make sure we get the job done a week later in the Showdown."
Duursma will remember his comeback match for the milestone celebrations for Boak.
"It was pretty amazing - and we had to win for Boaky," Duursma said. "To see him come off at the end after such a topsy-turvy week with all the stuff we had to deal with on the travel and being in a hub now and not having crowds at the games ... Boaky just accepted it and got on with it doing as much as he could to play exceptionally well, as he did.
"He has been a massive part of the club for so many years now. A young player like myself looks up to him because of what he has been able to achieve and how he carries himself. I was very, very lucky to be led by someone like Travis; as a young player you idolise Travis as a player and a person.
"I am very lucky to be alongside him and to play in his 300th game. I was pretty excited - and I was hoping to get back for it."