Even now, my timeout from playing in the Super Netball doesn’t feel real yet.

I haven’t had a break from netball since high school. It’s been non-stop for over ten years now, and it’s been at a whole new level since I became captain of the New South Wales Swifts two years ago.

The fact I’m not completing a pre-season with the rest of my Swifts teammates, is difficult to process, but I’ve accepted that the timeout from the game with only help to rehabilitate the damage to my left knee.

It was a little bit of shock to hear the news from the team doctor at the end of last year – I knew full well that I would have to focus on rehabilitation over the off-season, due to the nature of my knee at the time, but never did I expect I would have to spend such a considerable amount of time away from the game.

At worst, I figured there’d be less time running and more time doing off-legs conditioning like swimming and being on a bike.

I’ve always managed my knee incredibly well and felt I could ensure the medical staff that my usual treatment and ongoing management plan would be enough to stay on top of my knee problem.

At first, the doctor wasn’t overly concerned when I met with her during our exit meeting.

“Everything looks to be going okay Abbey. It feels fine. We’ll send you for an MRI scan just to be safe though”.

But then a number of days began to pass, and I still hadn’t heard anything from the club doctor after I was sent away for my scans.

After not hearing back from her for a few days and knowing that the report from my scan had no doubt be done, I couldn’t wait any longer, so I called her.

“Oh Abbey, look, I haven’t called because I wasn’t sure how to tell you this.”

And as soon as I heard those words, I was like, “Oh, no…”

I knew right then and there, it was not going to be great news. And it wasn’t.

According to the doctor, the top of my tibia was on the verge of breaking and if I continued training the way I was that break was inevitable. I was at the point that it was so bruised up, there was significant risk that if it did not improve, I was a good chance of doing serious damage to the overall structure of my left knee.

As soon as I heard her assessment, I knew I wouldn’t be getting another Super Netball contract for 2019.

It was a major shock, it still is, especially because the damage was on a part of my knee that had never been damaged before. The majority of my issues have always been on the lateral side of my knee, where here the issue was mainly on the medial side.

I’ve never had to overcome a major injury like an ACL or achilles, like some of the girls I know are going through at this point in time.

It’s hard to accept that, due to my knee, I could a miss a year of netball. Maybe even more. We don’t know yet.

My initial knee injury actually happened back in 2011, so I’ve been carrying it for eight years now.

That’s how long I’ve been able to manage and treat it over time.  Sure, it swells and more often than not I use to lie in bed at night after a long day at training and the ache kept me awake, but it’s something I learnt to manage and deal with so that by the time I woke up I was in a position to train and play again.

But never has it actually kept me out of the game.

I’ve just been able to manage it and deal with it and take it easy at training one day, so I can play the next.

It’s something I’d become used to, so the fact I’ve been told you can’t do anything for six or so months. That was a bit of a slap in the face and totally unexpected.

The day the girls started pre-season was the day that it all really hit me. I had been coping with it well, but that day hurt like no other.

I thought to myself, “Firstly – I’m not going to be playing in 2019, and secondly, I might never play again.

At the end of the day, my goal is to get back out on court and have a good season in the ANL competition with the NSW Waratahs, play well, and push for another contract in 2020.

I don’t know if that will happen, I might not be in a position to take the court come May, I might not be able to play the same way I use to and more likely than not I might not get another contract, but I want to give myself the best possible opportunity to do that.

And, if it doesn’t happen, I’ll probably walk away from playing the sport much happier than if I had retired at the end of the season when I was told I wasn’t getting a contract.

I don’t want to finish my career because a Doctor, Physio or Coach thinks my knee won’t survive.

I know my body well enough to know I could have played on in 2019, after all I’ve been living with this for over seven years now.

But it might not have been the best choice for the girls and the team, so I totally respect the decision that was made, but I want to finish on my terms, not somebody else’s terms.

I’m quite lucky to have even got myself to the spot that I’ve been in for the last six years.

I was sat down by many coaches and told, “You’re not good enough. You’re not ready to take that next step, so, no, we won’t be offering you a contract,” or “You won’t be making this team,” but I just kept persisting, because that’s what I wanted.

That’s the mentality my whole career has been built on – the fact that if I keep working hard, and I keep turning up, eventually my opportunity would come.

And whenever may be next, I’ll be ready for it when it does.