Everyone at the Tuggeranong Vi-Queens knows that Nikki Ayers is tough.
The Canberra Hospital Intensive Care Unit nurse has twice completed the gruelling 190 kilometre surf boat George Bass Marathon and would rather run over her rugby opponents than around them.
But a freak accident followed by 10 operations in 21 days has left her fighting to be able to walk and shattered her dreams of playing for the Australian women's rugby team.
Ayers was in danger of having her leg amputated had doctors not operated when they did after a pre-season game went horribly wrong and left her a patient in the ICU for four weeks.
That's why the Vi-Queens and Vikings will rally around her on Saturday for a Ladies Day event to raise money for Ayers has she lies in hospital with a metal brace around her knee and pins drilled into her bones.
"I played against her once and I was terrified, she's that tough on the field," teammate Stef Stewart-Jones said. "We're playing this season for her, if we win the grand final it will be for her.
"A lot of the girls were quite scared to go back on the field [after Ayer's accident]. But I know Nikki, she's one of the toughest people I know."
Ayers, 25, is speaking about her story for the first time as she takes slow, small and painful steps in her recovery and the Vi-Queens use her as inspirations ahead of their season.
For Ayers, there are still a lot of unknowns. She doesn't know if she'll ever be able to run again and has been told she will never play another rugby match after dislocating her knee, severing a major artery, losing feeling in her foot and damaging the nerve which helps flex her foot upwards, in a trial match last month.
She was in so much pain on the field that her teammates had to jump on top of her so she would stop rolling around on the ground.
Her love of rugby still runs deep, Ayers has urged her older sister Megan to continue playing and is determined to be able to run in the future.
That determination showed when she walked for the first time on Thursday since the March 19 accident with the aid of a support frame on a lap of her ward
"It was so surreal to walk. It made me smile with pride and a sense of achievement seeing my mum so excited and proud of me walking," Ayers smiled.
"At the moment it looks like a shark has attacked my leg. So hopefully I've only got one more surgery left before I can go home.
"Had I not gone in for surgery when I did, I could have lost my leg, that's how close I was to amputation, so I'm very lucky to have my foot.
"It's had a huge impact on me and my family. Megan said she wasn't going to play again. But you've got to remember that there's a chance you take with anything you do.
"You can't let someone else's injury stop you from doing something you love. Some people feel sorry for me because I ruptured every ligament except one in my knee. I actually feel lucky that I've got that one ligament."
Ayers is still in hospital after the life-changing moment in what was her first 15-a-side rugby game in almost two years.
She was backing up on the inside after one of her teammates made a break and she was about to pass the ball when she got tackled around the knees on her left side.
"I dislocated my actual knee, not just my patella. My tibia went out of place and up towards my femur, so I felt that," Ayers said.
"In the process I tore one of my main arteries, the popliteal artery, and damaged some of my main nerves. I have never felt anything like it, all I could do was scream and cry.
"I remember all of it. When I finally stopped rolling around I had pins and needles and couldn't feel my foot. As a nurse, I knew that wasn't a good sign."
The result was a trip to hospital and multiple operations to clean out her wounds and drill pins into her bone to prevent her knee dislocating. Doctors are slowly introducing a bigger range of movement with the view of walking in the near future.
Ayers was in the ICU for four weeks as she battled two infections and compartment syndrome, which developed as a result of her dislocated knee.
"I'm starting to try to walk again now, hopefully I can build up to running. That's the goal for me, we'll see what happens with that and what sports I can get back into," Ayers said.
Ayers took a two-year break from 15-a-side rugby to travel Europe and focus on her career as a nurse. In that time she continued to play rugby and captained the ACT sevens team as well as completing the George Bass Marathon.
"One of my main goals this year was to try to make the Australian side for the World Cup. This year was my last crack, it just wasn't meant to be I guess," Ayers said.
A constant stream of visitors have been flowing into Ayers' room, including her ICU work mates.
"She's definitely one of the strongest girls I've come across. She sets her mind to something and she does it. The doctors told her it would take her a couple of weeks before she can move her knee," Stewart-Jones said.
"Nikki said, no, she's going to do it as soon as she can. That's an inspiration to me."
JOHN I DENT CUP ROUND FIVE
Saturday: Tuggeranong Vikings v Queanbeyan Whites at Viking Park, 3.25pm, Gungahlin Eagles v Easts at Nicholls Enclosed, 3.05pm, Royals v Uni-Norths Owls at Phillip, 3.05pm. Wests - bye.
Women's:Tuggeranong 10s tournament with round robin fixture at Viking Park.
* Tickets to the Vikings' Ladies Day can be purchased here. Tickets are $32, with $20 from each raising money for Nikki Ayers. There will also be a raffle with all proceeds going to help her recovery. People can also donate at a Go Fund Me Page https://www.gofundme.com/3hzzy4as and the Vikings are organising a Sports Lunch in July to raise more money.