Canberra United midfielder Sally Shipard has been ruled out for the rest of the W-League season after an MRI scan on her knee revealed she needs surgery to repair a tear in her meniscus.
Shipard had been managing her return from arthroscopic surgery on both knees prior to the season, but limped from the field during Saturday's loss to Melbourne after she felt her knee "clunk" while changing directions.
"I'm pretty disappointed, but now I guess the condition for my knee is black and white. As much as sadness is what I feel, it's kind of a bit of relief as well," Shipard said, referring to the weekly doubts over whether or not she would be fit to play come game day.
The reigning W-League Player of the Year, and Football Federation Australia's Female Footballer of the Year, is scheduled to have the operation on January 9.
"It's an arthroscope, so it's just a minor thing, but the doctors are concerned with the amount of damage that's inside my knee, just gradual wear and tear over time,'' she said.
"They're going to clean out my meniscus but there's only so many times you can do that before that becomes a bit of a concern, but they're a bit cautious about everything else that's going on in there, too.
"I haven't been blessed with the best biomechanics, I don't think."
A dejected Shipard was left pondering her future in football after receiving the news.
"It might mean I'm facing a few questions in my level of commitment to football - I don't want to say for the rest of my life, but in reality … you want to think beyond your footballing career, too,'' she said.
"I want to be kneeling down in the garden in a couple of years' time, too, let alone a couple of decades.''
Shipard spent the last W-League off-season playing in the German Bundesliga, but another overseas contract is unlikely this winter after meeting the Australian team doctor on Thursday.
"He said I wouldn't recommend you being overseas and playing, we've got to manage your load and if we've got a say in the matter, which they do, they won't allow that to happen,'' she said.
"I know it could always be a lot worse, but I guess the reality of my situation is that the problem I've got is quite chronic and it will be about managing my load from now on, and perhaps even changing the way I approach my football."