Long road to recovery a 'real struggle' for fit-again Raso
Westfield Matildas winger Hayley Raso admitted to thinking her career might have been over during an arduous and inspiring journey to full fitness from a broken back.
Raso, 24, fractured three vertebrae in a frightening collision with an opponent while playing for Portland Thorns in the National Women's Soccer League last August.
RECAP: Raso returns for Roar in Round 12
HOW TO WATCH: Tune in to see your Westfield Matildas in Round 13
The Brisbane Roar star was sidelined for almost five full months as she underwent strenuous rehabilitation that challenged the mind as much as the body, her efforts culminating in a treasured 45 minutes off the bench against Sydney FC last weekend.
"It was a real struggle if I'm completely honest," Raso said.
"It was just five months of a lot of pain. The initial stages were learning to walk again. It wasn't just the physical part, it was the mental part of it too.
"Many times I doubted if I'd be able to make it back.
"It was nice when I got to start running and got back into the gym. It's been a bit of a slow process but I'm just so happy to be back here and fit and ready to go again. It's been a long time coming.
"To be here right now and playing is great.
"It was just so exciting to get there last week and play my first game, and to do it at home, in Brisbane, in front of my friends and family and all my support just made it even better."
Raso's return came in a 3-1 defeat but third-placed Roar remain in control of their Finals Series destiny with two matches to play.
The reigning Premiers can take a major step towards sealing a top-four spot when they host Canberra United prior to Brisbane's clash with Melbourne Victory in the Hyundai A-League on Friday.
Raso is relishing the chance to step up her comeback as part of a big double-header at Suncorp Stadium.
"It's always great to play at Suncorp," the former Canberra forward said.
"The field is immaculate and it's great we have the double-header, so hopefully we can get some great support coming out to that game.
"We are confident. No game is easy an easy game – we know Canberra are a strong side and we have to give it our best performance.
"I think if we do that on the day we'll come out with the win."