Port Adelaide’s Nathan Krakouer had to wait almost two months to make a serious statement after a club-imposed suspension.
The AFL club’s leadership group slapped Krakouer with a six-week ban after the rebounding defender’s jaw was broken in a nightclub altercation.
Krakouer’s chance to shine came in a crunch clash with Richmond at the MCG on Saturday night.
Recalled on limited evidence amid five changes to the side, the 27-year-old didn’t disappoint.
Krakouer’s run from defence provided a spark, while he laid five tackles and kicked a goal that was both classy and crucial after Richmond threatened to rally in the third quarter.
“Krak’s played basically half a game of football since the start of the year and it was a big show of faith by the match committee to pick Krak,” Port coach Ken Hinkley said.
“But I said when he made his mistake, Krak’s a really good person and he won’t want to let people down. That’s not the way he operates.
“I thought he showed that and he came back and responded really well.”
Krakouer slotted a showstopper goal off one step from outside the 50m arc, the perfect response after an inspirational effort from Richmond’s returning vice-captain Brett Deledio had reduced the margin to 14 points.
“He’s a really composed footballer. When he’s out there playing, that’s where he’s most comfortable,” Hinkley said.
All the talk in the lead-up to the game was the enforced omission of Port stars Robbie Gray, Jackson Trengove and Chad Wingard.
Hinkley was thrilled with the performance of the men he recalled for the match against the Tigers: Krakouer, Jared Polec, Brendon Ah Chee, Jarman Impey and Dougal Howard.
“I was particularly pleased for Jared,” he said.
“A throwaway line at the airport was portrayed as ‘Jared’s been put under enormous heat from the coach’.
“That wasn’t the case.
“But it was an honest conversation, ‘you have to turn up and play if you want to be in the team’.
“He certainly did that.”