Chen Shaoliang won't give up chasing his AFL dream.

A cruelly timed knee injury has only heightened his resolve to one day repay Port Adelaide for its faith and patience.

It's testament to Chen's mental strength that he's back playing with the China Dragons in the AFL International Cup after rupturing the ACL in his right knee in March last year.

Port Adelaide had just started grooming the international signing from China's southern port city of Guangzhou to play with the Magpies in the 2016 SANFL season when he was sidelined in a freakish training mishap.

"Unfortunately I did the ACL in the first week I arrived. I got tackled from behind and I went to the ground and my knee went pop," he said.

"At first I thought it would be OK, but the doctor told me it was an ACL and it takes 12 months recovery. I thought 'Oh, my God'. I was just starting out."

Imagine the young physical education graduate's dilemma? Stuck in an unfamiliar city, still wrestling with the language and facing an uncertain future after major knee surgery in Adelaide.

"That time of rehab was so hard. I didn't have family or friends here and I was injured. It was really hard," he said.

"I felt really sorry with this opportunity I had to come here. But I needed to be really strong because I want to play football."