At just 23 years old and with a back injury few doctors were willing to touch, Jess Bibby sat in a cockroach-infested hotel room next to a Sydney hospital with all her chips pushed to the centre of the table.
The accommodation was all she could afford, barely able to scrape a cent together after paying for revolutionary surgery.
Previously, a neurosurgeon "laughed in her face" when she said she was a basketballer and hoped to play again.
She's defied the odds and after Saturday night's season-ending home clash with Bendigo, she will head off into the sunset with departing coach Carrie Graf as the WNBL games record-holder.
It signals the end of an era at the Canberra Capitals with Lauren Jackson also farewelled before last week's drought-breaking win against Perth.
It's been a season to forget with just one win, but they should be remembered for being great pioneers of women's sport in Australia.
For Graf, watching her two-year-old twins Charli and Bentley grow up has taken priority over adding to her seven championships, six with the Capitals in 15 years.
Bibby, who still can't tie a shoelace without pain, is sad at hanging up the boots, but also relieved and content she's extracted every last ounce out of her body.
"It [paying for surgery] wasn't about the money, I couldn't hand over the cheque fast enough," Bibby said.
"I was a kid, I hadn't started living my life yet and I had a neurosurgeon laugh in my face.
"I was exploring playing basketball in a wheelchair and was on medical benefits from the government when I was 21.
"Forty grand was every penny I had but when it comes to living pain-free, it was a no-brainer."
I was writing with a whiteboard marker on white tiles next to the men's urinal, that's disgusting for women's sport at that levelCarrie Graf
Bibby was playing for Dandenong at the time and despite her health issues, then Rangers coach Garry Fox guaranteed her a place in his line-up when she got healthy.
Fox was her junior coach at Kilsyth and it was the show of faith Bibby needed to keep persevering.
Physio Amanda Berntsen was also a major player in the dark times, devoting three hours of her day without charge to help Bibby get back on her feet.
"I owe everything to Amanda for being in the position I am today," Bibby said.
"Dad would drive me an hour and a half to go to Mornington Peninsula for treatment, and she was the one who found the surgeon who agreed to operate on me.
"Giving up wasn't an option, you're confronted with so many situations in your life and if you quit, it's not really a character trait I want to be associated with."
She perhaps didn't know it at the time, but Graf's coaching career was born by being a "benchie" with Nunawading Spectres.
The head coach was Tom Maher – one of the greatest-ever women's coaches – and as a point guard Graf would lead the reserves against the starters at training.
The starting point guard was Opals legend Michelle Timms, who suggested Graf become the team's assistant coach after she gave up playing.
"I was a role player. Role players see the games like coaches because you sit back and watch the game a lot," Graf said.
"I was the point guard match-up against Timmsy. I'd be coaching because I was the point guard and we'd do strategic things and try and beat the starters.
"Tom would say 'Graffy, what are you guys doing?' and I'd say 'wait and see'."
Graf began her coaching career aged just 25, when most players are at their prime.
She looked set to accept a coaching offer from now-defunct Hobart Islanders before a Sydney Flames consortium flew her to the city and wined and dined her at a Russian restaurant.
She took the job, won a championship in the first of four seasons there before leading a Capitals dynasty.
At Sydney she was charged with coaching seasoned players a decade her senior.
"We had [former Opals guard] Robyn Maher there and a whole lot of people started asking me 'how are you going to coach Robyn Maher?' and I started to question myself.
"I was honest with her about that and we cleared it up. Having veteran athletes as a young coach, if you're not threatened by them, makes your job easier.
"We had a very good team and when I reflect, I was coaching 35 year olds who were dual or triple Olympians thinking 'wow that is a pretty tough gig', but I managed it OK.
"At 25 you think you're invincible – not in an arrogant way, you just haven't lived a lot."
It was just a few years ago Graf was writing notes on the tiles of a men's bathroom at Melbourne's Veneto Club before a semi-final against Bulleen (now Melbourne) Boomers.
Despite not being on TV, she believes the WNBL has made giant strides since but is at a critical juncture where it needs shrewd governance to take the next step.
"I was writing with a whiteboard marker on white tiles next to the men's urinal, that's disgusting for women's sport at that level," she said.
"In that game we had four or five Opals on each team, two Olympic coaches [against Maher] coaching, and at half-time a man walked in unzipping his fly.
"It's funny but it's unacceptable, there's some good changes which have taken place.
"The WNBL is at a tipping point and poised to make a great leap forward with the right management and governance.
"There's more players being paid as professionals and I think nearly all teams are not playing in tin sheds, I was a big advocate for that not happening.
"Most clubs now have naming rights sponsors, I'm sure we'll be on TV soon.
"We're seeing changes in cricket, AFL, netball, but in a lot of ways women's basketball set some of the standards early.
"I want to see them drop a contract like we dropped on LJ. They've got the money, let's see that happen."
Dirty nappies and watching her children grow has now taken precedence.
"Basketball's still going to be there and those kids won't be two next year, they grow up super quick and you can't get those years back," Graf said.
"My dad passed away just after the  Olympics [when Graf was Opals coach], those close family things impact the decisions you make.
"It started on a high, it's finishing on a low but for me the longevity of it is we've got a successful program.
"If you asked some other people who are winning a championship right now, would you like six or seven they'd say 'shit yeah'.
"Is it a bummer to finish on a losing season? Yeah, but you have to look at the totality of the program."
Bibby is unsure of what lies ahead, but that's why she's so excited.
Her $16,000 contract for this season is the biggest she's had in basketball and she has four jobs – working at a grocery store, her own mobile coffee business, coaching at Canberra Girls Grammar and individual coaching with kids.
Joining fellow basketballers Kristin Veal and Erin Phillips in playing Australian football is an option, but playing cricket for a local club could be more realistic.
"I'm better than Vealy and that's no disrespect to her. She finished top five in testing in Victoria and is training in the academy that's training with Carlton.
"I have no doubt I can play but I also know it's a physically demanding sport and it's whether it's the most sensible thing to do.
"I've drained every last inch of energy out of my body and it's time to do other things."
WNBL - FINAL ROUND
Saturday: Canberra Capitals v Bendigo Spirit at AIS Arena, 7pm.