A fresh injury setback left Marianna Tolo fearing her season would be over before it began as the Canberra Capitals star braces for an extended stint on the sideline.
Tolo had surgery on a torn meniscus last Thursday to push back her return a further three weeks, having already spent the best part of nine months in rehabilitation following an anterior cruciate ligament tear.
Canberra's top of the WNBL table clash against the Perth Lynx at the Bendat Basketball Centre on Saturday had been identified as Tolo's earliest possible return date following her second ACL injury.
However now she will wait the best part of a month to enter the fray against the Bendigo Spirit at the National Convention Centre on December 9 barring any more setbacks.
The 29-year-old jokes she has spent enough time at the AIS during her nine-month recovery phase to call it her first home, but hearing she would be in for a longer stint initially left her shattered.
"I was devastated because I thought I might be out for the season," Tolo said.
"I found out just before the Friday game [against the Melbourne Boomers]. I found out at 4.30pm and had to leave for the game at 5.30pm.
"I had to quickly pull myself together and get to the game and I had to hold it in until afterwards to tell the coaches and everyone. That was rough, but after speaking to the surgeon and having surgery, it’s given me a lot of confidence. I’m pretty happy with the end result.
"When I found out, they initially said the surgeons need to stitch it or shave it. Stitching it would probably be better for the long-term but it means a three-month recovery, compared to shaving it which is just a couple of weeks.
"The surgeon told me with my type of tear, it’s a horizontal tear and it’s more degenerative, stitching it wouldn’t really work anyway. My new return date, my first game back will hopefully be the ninth of December."
The delay of Tolo's return further complicates the picture surrounding short-term import Kaili McLaren given her contract is set to expire on December 6.
McLaren signed a short-term deal with the Capitals to aid Canberra coach Paul Goriss' chances of covering the loss of one of the competition's premier players.
Now Tolo's setback could pave the way for McLaren to earn an extension should it fit within Canberra's budget as the Capitals firm as a genuine chance to snap a seven-year finals drought.
"They don’t even need me anyway," Tolo joked.
"It’s frustrating. Even when I’m on the bench in the team I get frustrated watching because you can’t control anything while you’re watching.
"I see it from a coach’s perspective on the sideline, and they have been doing a really good job which is good to see. I come from the view that we can do even better, so I’m excited for what we can bring when we actually play well together for 40 minutes."
WNBL ROUND FIVE
Saturday: Perth Lynx v Canberra Capitals at Bendat Basketball Centre, 12pm. TV: Live on Fox Sports and SBS.