IT was not the ending Amber Neilson dreamed of after a sporting career that spanned a decade and earnt her 14 national caps.
The 27-year-old Matildas and Jets midfielder was carried from the field in Saturday’s W-League clash with minor premiers Sydney after hurting her ankle in injury time.
The Jets went down 2-1 to Sydney at Wanderers Oval and ended their season in sixth place.
Neilson, who announced her retirement before the game, said the injury was a shocking blow.
‘‘At least I got carried off like a queen for my final game; that’s the positive spin I have had to put on it,’’ she said. ‘‘I was highly emotional about it right afterwards. I couldn’t talk or lift my head up.’’
Neilson will have scans today to determine the extent of the injury.
A back injury that sidelined her for much of 2009 continued to haunt her this season.
‘‘I am not as free when I run anymore. I don’t play like I used to,’’ Neilson said.
‘‘It was such a struggle to get back on the park for the last three years.
‘‘It’s really disappointing to take the field; if I can’t do it well, I don’t want to do it at all.’’
Neilson warmed the bench on Saturday until the 56th minute when Jets coach Wayne O’Sullivan replaced striker Melissa Feuerriegel.
Neilson immediately formed a threatening partnership with captain Hayley Crawford.
It was Crawford who headed in the Jets’ goal in the 61st minute off a corner from Niki Cross.
Neilson said the feeling of camaraderie and unity at the Jets were highlights of her final W-League season.
She was part of the ill-fated Jets squad that finished the W-League’s second season winless and in last place.
‘‘Coming from last year where things weren’t working, to this year where the vibe was so awesome, it’s really great,’’ she said. ‘‘It was a big part of the year for me, the playing group was really strong and we started to get somewhere.’’
O’Sullivan said Neilson still featured in the Jets’ plans for next year should she reconsider her decision.
‘‘Sully has said to me, ‘Are you sure you want to do this? Next year will be a big one,’’’ Neilson said.
The Jets women’s squad is expected to fall under Nathan Tinkler’s wing in time for the 2011-12 season and, with more money to market the game, interest in women’s soccer is tipped to explode.
‘‘That’s hard for me to hear, what I’ll be missing out on,’’ she said.
The Matildas also face a busy year with the looming World Cup and Olympic qualifiers, an international schedule that would have once excited Neilson.
‘‘I lost the passion for Matildas a while ago,’’ she said.
‘‘Soccer had to be your life but you can’t even make a living from it.
‘‘It’s not even the minimum, minimum wage.
‘‘Sure, you travel the world, and that’s great when you’re younger, but I turned 26 last year and it hit me, ‘Where was my life going?’’’
For now, she has deferred university nursing studies and will travel Europe on a gastronomic journey of discovery with her chef sister until July.