Relief was the main emotion Jarrod Witts displayed after completing his first full game in Gold Coast colours on Thursday night against the Western Bulldogs.
The recruit had only lasted one quarter against the Brisbane Lions in the opening JLT Community Series game before he split the webbing in his hand for the second time in 12 months and was sent to surgery.
Having recovered quickly from the operation, he threw a protective glove on his left hand then shouldered the rucking load – with occasional support from Peter Wright – against the Bulldogs with 13 handballs and a kick, as well as 31 hitouts in a promising performance.
Only a dropped mark in the last quarter diminished his rating, with senior coach Rodney Eade pleased overall with his ruckwork.
Post-game Witts was focusing on the positives when he spoke to AFL.com.au.
"It's an awesome feeling to get through [the game]," Witts said.
The 24-year-old's importance to Gold Coast's fortunes in 2017 should not be underestimated.
At 209cm, with 40 games experience and the ban on third-man up he could stamp himself on the competition if he takes his chance to become the club's number one ruckman.
NSW-raised he joined the Magpies in 2011 and was gaining momentum in 2014 with 20 games before a shoulder injury stopped him in his tracks
Following a post-season operation he played 11 senior games in 2015 and just two last year before seeking a trade.
It's not hard to understand why the big man's energy and enthusiasm was tested at times during that period.
"You can't really lie flat. I used to sleep on my stomach and my side so you have to sort of lay on the 45 (degree angle) with your arm in the sling for about six weeks," Witts said.
"It's pretty much learning to sleep on your back."
His wish is that such a recollection soon becomes a distant memory.
"I hope I don't have to go down that road again," Witts said.
During that time the lead he had established over the emerging Brodie Grundy in the race to be the Magpies first ruck narrowed.
Again injuries intervened.
At season's end he was traded to the Gold Coast hoping to be given more AFL opportunity and be part of a successful team.
"That would be nice and that is obviously the goal," Witts said.
The first difference that struck him was the Queensland heat and the impact it had on his long, lean body.
He found himself dropping five kilograms during the main sessions, working out eventually through trial and error whether to hydrate before training or replenish afterwards.
Once he settled he went to work with SUNS' assistant coach Matt Primus, a first-class ruckman in his day, and began building on aspects of his game he had developed at Collingwood.
So far his tap work has been strong and he continues to work on his marking.
His habit of dropping his height as he takes a mark rather than grabbing it at its highest point is noticeable, but it is an issue he can overcome if he maintains the faith.
"[I'm] always working on marking. It is probably the hardest component of the game," Witts said.
He didn't back away from the fact he made a mess of a mark in the last quarter against the Bulldogs, looking for a moment like an old drunk playing kick-to-kick as he grassed the ball and let Liam Picken pounce on it and kick a goal.
This time however, in what is a good sign for the future, Witts' reaction to the mistake was steely, with the big man conceding he was getting better at moving on if he made an error.
"That comes from the coaches," Witts said.
"They have instilled a lot of confidence in me to just back myself…if I do make a mistake, don't worry about it, don't let it bother you, don't get caught up on it and [move] straight on to the next contest and have an impact."
Witts hopes the change in the third-man up rule has a positive effect on him, but knows it will only play a minor role on his form.
"I will be able to use my height a bit more and not have to worry too much about what is behind me and what is coming in from the side, so I can just stand tall," Witts said.
"I am just learning about working with different guys, getting those combinations right and trying to get our timing right and making the right calls at the right times."
Witts appears as ready as ever.