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Superstar's appeal is already paying off

Injuries have delayed her return to the court with the Canberra Capitals, but Lauren Jackson's huge promotional value off it was on full display in her first public appearance yesterday.

The star centre was instantly recognised by a handful of excited fans after fronting the media at Tilley's cafe in Lyneham.

The Capitals had hoped she would recover from niggling injuries to play in Saturday's clash against Bulleen, which would have guaranteed a bumper home crowd for the first home game of the year. However, she will undergo two further weeks of rehabilitation, before beginning a $1 million third-party contract to play three of the next four WNBL seasons with Canberra.

Canberra coach Carrie Graf adopted the glass half full approach, declaring Jackson's profile would help sell the Capitals brand during her lay-off.

''It would be silly to say we weren't hoping to have Lauren back for this [match], but it's not the right time to bring her back,'' Graf said.

''She will be at the game, and people will certainly still have an opportunity to come and see Lauren as part of a homecoming for her.


''To be honest we'll get two great hits with her, [this Saturday] it's a chance to welcome her back to Canberra and [in three weeks] her first game back on floor with the Capitals. Finding positives out of an imperfect situation, this is her basketball home.''

That was more than evident yesterday, as she graciously posed for happy snaps for supporters thrilled at her return.

Graf said Jackson's teammates may initially be starstruck at playing alongside a superstars. ''It's exciting for a lot of them but it's also, in their words, intimidating, not because Lauren's intimidating but because it's: 'Wow, we get to play with Lauren Jackson','' the coach said.

''We need to get over that pretty quickly, she's a great player but she's got two arms and two legs and is a person. It's flattering in a way they think that of her, but they'll get over that within a practice session and realise it's just Loz.''

Jess Bibby and Carly Wilson are the only members of Canberra's squad Jackson has played with, but her long history under Graf with the Capitals and Australia should help the transition.

''Graffy's been coaching me since I was 18, so hopefully it won't take too long,'' Jackson said. ''I just came off her style two months ago [at the Olympics], although I can't remember one play.'' Jon Tuxworth