Last year was a great year for me. Everything just seemed to click and come together.

My team, the Portland Thorns won the NWSL championship, and I managed to hold down a spot on my National team as well.

If there is such a thing as being on cloud nine, I was on it.

Hayley Raso exclusive insight

Toward the end of the year, I was excited to return to Australia and play for my home team again in the W-League.

But then things started to change at the end of the season in February, when I started feeling some pain in my left knee.

I wasn’t really sure what was going on, so spent a lot of time with physios and doctors getting lots of tests, scans and injections done to determine the full extent of the issue.

Because of this, from the start of February until the Algarve Cup in Portugal in March, I wasn’t really training. I was just doing rehab and trying to get myself better.

I ended up being selected for the National team squad and travelled with the team to Portugal for the Algarve Cup.

Hayley Raso exclusive insight

The hope was that I would be fit and ready to go by the time the competition started, but unfortunately I was unable to play and was sent back home to continue my rehab.

It was a disappointing time for me, but I knew that I had to get on top of the problem so I would be ready and available to prove my fitness for the highly-anticipated AFC Women’s Asian Cup in April.

As it panned out, it wasn’t to be. Just two weeks in to my return for the Matildas, I suffered a partial tear of my lateral collateral ligament in my other knee.

I knew immediately that something was wrong, so there I was, coming to the realisation that I would once again be on the sidelines for some time.

Hayley Raso exclusive insight

All that time I had been managing and rehabbing my left knee, and I finally return, only to hurt my right knee a couple of weeks in.

Since the Asian Cup, until now, I have been working hard to get myself back on the field, so you can imagine my excitement when I played my first game back with the Thorns last weekend.

There is no better feeling than waking up on game day, knowing you get to run out there, playing the sport you love.

Hayley Raso exclusive insight

The layoff period was a new experience for me.

In the most recent past, I’ve only dealt with minor injuries, where I’d only have to miss a week or two. It was a tough thing for me to deal with – sitting out for such a long time, making a comeback, and then being forced back out again for another extended period of time.

Looking back on it now, I think I really benefited from this unfortunate injury.

I figured that my body deserved and needed this rest, after going from season to season for the last four years without a break.

My thought process through this entire experience was, if I’m missing all of this training, it must be for a reason and I will take it as it comes. Injuries are a part of sport, so there wasn’t really much else I could do.

When I returned to Portland this year at the end of April, it really lifted my spirits.

Obviously winning the Championship last season was amazing, and quite like nothing I had ever experienced in my career, so it was great to be back here with my team working toward that again.

Hayley Raso exclusive insight

We just recently had our Championship celebration dinner, where we received our 2017 Championship rings.

They are absolutely incredible! It’s huge, covered in diamonds, says NWSL Champions and is customised with each players name and number. I have never seen anything quite like it.

Hayley Raso exclusive insight

I still remember flying back to Portland last year after our Championship game. Our plane landed to a water salute and all the roads were blocked off with the fans filling the streets, chanting and cheering for us as we returned.

So much went on back in Portland after that, we had so many appearances and events and it was amazing to see that the whole city was behind us.

The celebrations with the fans felt extra special for me, as they had named me ‘The Riverters Supporters Player of the Year’. I felt so much pride and love from the Rose City Riverters fan group.

Hayley Raso exclusive insight

I feel like I have been through so much over the past few years. From being dropped from my NWSL team and the national team in 2016, to making a comeback, winning the NWSL Championship and earning my spot back on the Matildas.

For me, 2017 is a year I will never forget. Right now though, I just want to get back out on the field at my full strength.

I don’t care if I’m starting or not, I just want to be back out there with my team playing and contributing the best I can.

I have missed it, and after being held back with injury for so long this year, I’m glad I am finally ready to make my return.

I want to back up my performances from last year and have another successful season with this team, but for now, I am just excited to put that jersey on and play the game I love.