Elise Kellond-Knight was all too familiar with the pop of pain she felt in her knee just minutes into her second match in Sweden’s Damallsvensken last July.
Kellond-Knight had spent all of pre-season playing in the back-line and, although she has played there for club and country in the past, she was far more comfortable in her natural role anchoring the midfield.
Round 2 saw her finally moved into her best position with Swedish club Kristianstads DFF. Unfortunately, that joy was only brief as the Westfield Matildas’ time in that role was cut disastrously short.
“[I] finally got my chance but I blew it and went down with an ACL injury,” Kellond-Knight recalls.
“I think all ACLs have a bit of an awkward component to them. There is a bit of cognitive, as well as contact, as well as twisting.
“I was defending and the ball had been thrown into a player in front of me. It was wet, [the ball] slid off her chest in a strange direction, so I had gone past her and she gave me a little push in the back at the time [when] I was hyper-extended."
And in that moment Kellond-Knight just knew; torn anterior cruciate ligament.
[MORE: Behind the Lens - Joseph Mayers]
[MORE: Behind the Lens - Rachel Bach]
Before even the scans could confirm, the midfielder was preparing for the road back. It was a familiar one already travelled back in 2011.
The injury meant once again undergoing surgery, in early August, and a possible nine months on the sidelines.
However, this time around the rehabilitation process is going to be different for Kellond-Knight; because of the injury itself and due to the advancements that have been made in sports science and medicine.
“I think [the rehabilitation process has] developed a lot in the ten years since I last had an ACL injury,” Kellond-Knight said.
“I wasn't up and going as smoothly as what I am now. I remember being in that brace for at least four to six weeks and just thinking, ‘this is slow.’
They are very different injuries from that first one, so this one's not as complicated this time. I'm up and walking with a normal gait now and it's quite miraculous."
"As I quickly have come along, I'm riding on my bike as well, so I'm happy that this one has been been fast.
"I think the slow and painful part will be just getting back onto the football pitch because you need time for that ligament to really heal. Nothing can come quickly in that process, unfortunately."
Tackling the challenge
No stranger to finding ways to pass the time during recovery, Kellond-Knight has decided to once again use the break from football to study.
While recovering from her first ACL tear, she completed her undergraduate Bachelor of Pharmaceutical Science.
This time, Kellond-Knight will complete a Master of Business Administration. It is different from her original plans to be a pharmacist. Years of volunteering with Seven Consulting, FIFPro, the PFA and FFA’s Women’s Football Council saw her realise that her off-field career is taking her in a different direction.
I'm wearing a lot of different hats at the moment but trying to keep busy and trying to stay mentally sane going through this rehab process."
"Why did I want to study an MBA? The more experience I've had, the more I see the gap between having ex female players in that space as well."
"Not just in football; I think about any organization really and the lack of female leadership, and it just really inspired me. It gave me a kind of a desire to upskill myself and maybe that's something that I'll move into post playing."
Overall, Kellond-Knight has remained positive throughout the experience. With over 100 appearances for the Westfield Matildas, the midfielder has the Tokyo Olympics still in her sights and is facing the challenge head on.
“I think it depends on you as a person how you react,” she said. “Because I'm a bit older and more experienced, I've been through this ten years ago, I had an ACL injury."
"I think Tokyo is still on the cards for sure. It obviously depends on the rehab process.
"I think all systems are go and I'll be raring to get back for for those Olympics. As long as I'm back playing I think late April/May, in a competitive competition, I think I'll probably be in good stead for next year's Olympics."