HAYLEE De Sousa knows first hand how a seemingly harmless moment on the basketball court can derail an entire season.
Last year De Sousa was enjoying her return to Cockburn Cougars colours after a five year stint away from home at East Perth, but her dreams of a fairytale return season were shattered after an innocuous moment during their round 7 game against the Southwest Slammers.
“Ten minutes into the game in Bunbury, I was running back to play defence when the person I was playing on side bumped me and my knee gave way,” she said.
“I completely collapsed, I just dropped to the floor and laid on my back shaking.
“I stood up and walked off like normal, I had absolutely no pain it just felt wobbly and unstable and I felt like my knee was slipping every time I stepped.
“I had my knee strapped and went back on the court but I was on for about five seconds when I did one step sideways and straight away my knee gave way again.”
Scans four days later revealed De Sousa had ruptured her ACL and suffered other significant ligament damage to the knee.
“I put on a brave face and held it in but as soon as I got in my car I called my mum and burst into tears,” she said.
“I was heartbroken, my whole life I had one dream and that was to become a starting five player for the Cougars.
“Last year I got to live that dream and it was amazing-I worked so hard, did all the little things to play just seven games.
“I felt as though I had let my teammates down and especially my coach, Thommo (Megan Thompson), who has been my fist SBL coach that has really believed in me and trusted what I do.”
Determined not to let the injury derail her dream, De Sousa got stuck into physio and rehab and on March 16, almost eleven months later, she stepped back on the court in Cougars colours for their opening round win against Willetton.
Despite playing just six minutes, she said she was happy to be back out there and eager to contribute this season.
“Playing my first game was a whirlwind of emotions, to be back in uniform with my team was the best feeling in the world and I couldn’t help but cry when my name got called out,” she said.
“Not everyone gets to do what they love all the time and having it taken away from me last year was the most challenging thing I’ve ever personally gone through, but to be back out there was just amazing and I just thought to myself ‘wow, I actually did it’.
“I took my first hit, had my first fall and I looked down to my knee and thought ‘oh you’re ok’ and that just gave me the confidence I needed to trust that I’m ok.
“I’ve still got some improvements to make to get my defence back to where it was and regain my speed, but it’s a long process and I’m more determined than ever to get back there.
“I want to relive my dream of being in the starting five and if I do make it there again I think the feeling will be so much sweeter than the first time.”
De Sousa and her Cockburn Cougar teammates will be back at home for their round 3 match against Rockingham on March 30.
Tip off is at 5pm, with the men to follow at 7pm.