When Robbie Gray tore his ACL in 2012, some feared the young Port Adelaide star might never realise his enormous potential.
Then aged 24, Gray suffered the horror injury during an innocuous marking contest in the dying seconds of Port’s round-four AFL loss to Collingwood.
Having shown glimpses of explosive brilliance as a small forward and part-time midfielder, there was every chance Gray would return as a shadow of his former self.
Instead, he came back stronger than ever, earning All-Australian selection in 2014 and emerging as one of the competition’s elite midfielders.
The 28-year-old will play his 150th game against GWS at Adelaide Oval on Sunday, a milestone which Port coach Ken Hinkley described as remarkable.
“It’s been pretty significant when you consider the knee injury that he’s come back from and the footy that he’s played,” Hinkley said on Friday.
“I doubt that there’s been a more consistent player in the competition since Robbie came back from his knee.
“He’s set a really high standard and we look forward to the highlights tape because there’ll be some special stuff in it.”
Other ACL victims weren’t so lucky.
For every successful recovery, there are footballers like Anthony Morabito whose careers have been irreparably damaged.
Taken by Fremantle at number four in the 2009 draft, Morabito’s persistent knee injuries hobbled his potential and have kept him from playing at AFL level since 2014.
But with ninth-placed Port’s finals hopes on the line on Sunday, Hinkley doubted Gray would be giving much thought to his own remarkable recovery.
“Robbie will be like anyone that’s in a milestone game,” he said.
“All he’ll be worried about is playing well and helping the team win.”