AFTER confirmation that her season was over, and with it the dream of helping lead her home town to a Waratah Basketball League championship, Cassidy McLean only wanted to be at one place - training.
"That is my happy place," said McLean, who faces a knee construction and 12 months on the sideline after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee in the opening game of the Hunters' season. "Even though it is hard to watch your team train and play, I still feel like it is a relief for me to go. When I was told the news on Tuesday, the first thing I wanted to do was go to training. I will still be at every training and every Hunters game that I can get to. "
McLean, who is fresh from a breakout WNBL season with Bendigo, will consult orthopedic surgeon Bruce Caldwell and physio Andrew Delbridge next week to map out a plan but is resigned to sitting out a year.
"The good thing is that it was just the ACL, there was no damage to anything else," McLean said. "The recovery period is normally nine-to-12 months. In nine months there is nothing really to come back for. The WNBL will be in season. I think the smartest thing to do is to take 12 months and come back for the Waratah League next year. I'm still quite mobile and have been walking around. I'm going to do prehab before surgery to get everything strong. We are not in a rush. Hopefully doing prehab will make it stronger and a better recovery."
Although taking a positive approach to rehabilitation, the injury is a crushing blow for the home-grown 19-year-old guard.
"The most devastating part is that I did it in the first five minutes of the first game," she said. "I know we are still going to chase the championship but I was really thinking that I was in the best shape I have been in."
The injury also puts on hold McLean's WNBL career. Hunters teammate and her best mate Lara McSpadden this week signed a new deal with the Sydney Flames.
McLean is determined to return to the elite level and has been encouraged by support and reassurance from other athletes who have endured similar setbacks.
"I spoke to a former teammate at the Flames, Haley Moffatt, who did her ACL in the first game of the season a few years ago," McLean said. "Her injury was much worse than mine. She still came back in 12 months and hasn't had too many issues.
"The thing that goes through an athlete's mind is 'will I do it again'. To hear that hers was much worse and she was still able to come back and play again. It is reassuring that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
"I have to keep a positive mindset. It gives me 12 months to work on the things I wasn't so good at before. Really get my ball handling at the level it needs to be and work on my shot. Get in the gym and get a lot stronger because I know I'm not as strong as some of the other girls in the WNBL. I'm trying to look at it in a positive way and as a good opportunity."