Under normal circumstances, Taylor Duryea would have missed the entire AFL season through injury.
The experienced Western Bulldogs defender had groin surgery last summer and battled a persistent quadriceps complaint for most of the interrupted 2020 campaign.
But the far-reaching consequences of the COVID-19 shutdown period and delayed season climax have worked in Duryea's favour as he gathers pace on a late run towards what he hopes will be finals glory.
"In the two AFL games that I've played, I've come through pretty well," Duryea said ahead of Saturday night's elimination final against St Kilda.
"My body feels good, I've done a lot of work and a lot of running, so I feel fit and I'm moving well.
"It was just a matter of getting that match fitness, which I have now."
Duryea had an enforced break of one year and six days between senior matches, grinding away with his rehabilitation program before returning in the penultimate round of the home-and-away season.
"It was a strange sort of time," he said.
"What made it more difficult was (the limitations on) being able to rehab in that initial lockdown period in Melbourne, with a home gym and that type of set-up.
"Every player had to go through it, but it just wasn't ideal.
"I've been able to get some continuity here (in the Queensland hub) and being able to train at a decent facility with the group has made it so much better."
Duryea's late-season return is a boost to a regenerating Bulldogs playing group that is seeking to repeat the heroics of the 2016 flag-winning team.
The 29-year-old dual Hawthorn premiership player, who was traded to Whitten Oval two years ago, has played more finals games (11) than anyone on the Dogs' list, barring fellow former Hawk Matt Suckling (15).
"We do have a lot of younger guys but we still have a core of experienced guys, so it's not like we needed extra leadership, but I feel like that's something I can bring," Duryea said.
"We need a consistent lead-in to the game (against St Kilda) and to make sure guys enjoy the week and embrace it.
"It's a little bit different this year but this (finals) is what we play for.
"We've had a really tough year, as has everyone, but we've got an opportunity to make something of it and that's exciting."