Almost exactly five months on from that fateful evening in Wellington, Lachlan Jackson walks down the stairs at Ray Watt Oval and onto the training pitch on a frosty Wednesday morning.
It’s the squad’s first day back together since Monday 23 March, that game a hard-earned win over Melbourne City which proved the last game in the Hyundai A-League before COVID-19 really took its hold.
Back at Ray Watt and the centre-back, standing at 1.96m tall, takes a couple of tentative steps towards a game of keepie-uppie being played before training gets underway.
Then, a yell from high above – Head Physio, Nathan Renwick on the balcony of the Ray Watt Oval pavilion – stops him in his tracks.
Jackson is 16 weeks post-op from a surgery that aimed to repair a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, along with tears to both his lateral meniscus and medial ligament.
It was just one of those things, his knee buckling awkwardly in the process of blocking a shot early in the first half on the Friday 24 January clash with the Phoenix. Jackson says the reactions of the physios and paramedics who assessed his injury on the pitch told him all he needed to know.
“That was five months ago now, I’m four months into my rehab and so far, touch wood, everything is going well,” Jackson said.
“It’s a kick in the teeth when you’re playing, but I’m lucky to have a good group of people around me. Friends in the team, and people outside of here to comfort and support me through my rehab.
“I kind of relish the challenge in a way, and isolation in a way honed in my focus and I’ve enjoyed that a lot – despite what everyone says about isolation!”
Timelines for ACL injuries are always tentative, but definitely long-term.
It means Jackson has time to work on other parts of his game, building strength in areas that are otherwise sacrificed during the day-to-day routine of training as a professional footballer.
Two areas that are crucial to being a footballer, running and ball-work, were back on the agenda for Jackson this week.
The opportunity to improve his all-around game is the long-term focus for the defender, and among the positives, he’s taking from the hand he’s been dealt.
“Nailing down a stop in that starting XI is a bit further down the track, I just want to return a better athlete than I left,” Jackson said.
“The physios have spoken about how it’s a real opportunity to work on other parts of my game while that graft heals and I work towards being fully ready for games.
“That’s the positive I’ve taken out of the situation, and hopefully I’ll be back ready for next season.”