Wallaroos backrower Mollie Gray is keeping her World Cup dream alive, despite a serious knee injury putting her chances of making the tournament on a knife’s edge.
Gray ruptured her ACL in February’s Brisbane Tens, playing for New South Wales in a two-match exhibition series against Queensland, six months out from the Women’s World Cup in Ireland.
The trademark pop of her ACL after an awkward fall told Gray things were not good.
“It was my left leg, it stuck into the ground with the way that I fell, it was like I was doing the splits,” she said.
“I felt it go. I felt it go before I even hit the ground.
“I heard a bit of a pop and I felt it too. It was just so big, so I knew straight away, it was awful.”
Gray is no stranger to serious injury, having ruptured her medial ligament in Australia’s second-last 2014 World Cup match and was initially crushed when her latest injury hit.
“(This time I thought) Not another knee, not another stint of rehab, I was just so devastated. - Mollie Gray
Gray considered undergoing the radical LARS surgery that would shorten her recovery time significantly, a procedure Sevens rep Gemma Etheridge had ahead of the Rio Olympics.
Instead the 27-year-old opted for a hybrid reconstruction, that uses a hamstring graft combined with an artificial LARS ligament, allowing a shorter recovery but less chance of a second rupture.
The four weeks she’s been waiting for surgery have been a drain for Gray, who shaped as one of the Wallaroos’ most important players for the tournament.
“Leading up to surgery you’re in this limbo where there’s not really much you can do to move forward, when it comes to getting back to the game,” she said.
“I just want to get it over and done with.
“I think mentally I’ve taken a bit of a beating. Physically, I can’t do anything with my lower body but I’ve still been at training every day, I’ve still been doing as much as I can just to keep myself active.
Her initial devastation has quickly turned into determination for Gray, who has no clear answer on her chances of making the World Cup, but is adamant about giving herself every chance.
“I’d rather put in all the effort and try my heart out to get there and if, at the very last minute they go, ‘It’s not going to happen’, then I’ll be okay with that,” she said.
“If I sit here now and go, ‘I don’t want to go’, I think I’d just be disappointed in myself for not actually trying.
“World Cups are such a big thing and I’ve had the chance to play in one and I know what it’s like and I love it.
“It’s such a cool opportunity and I don’t want to miss out, so I will train as if I’m going.”
Gray said she had been fortunate with the support around her since she suffered the injury ,with her family, the rugby community and her employer, the Australian Defence Force, giving her any help she needed.
The Wallaroos World Cup squad will be named in late June or early July, ahead of August’s World Cup, with Australia taking on France, Ireland and Japan in their pool.