Maria Tutaia starting low, but aiming high
The most difficult part of Maria Tutaia's rehabilitation came when the 103-cap Silver Ferns goal attack realised she'd have to lower her expectations.
It did not come easily.
Tutaia, 29, had just navigated her way through a difficult couple of months in a moon boot and on crutches, and was itching to get back out on the netball court.
She hadn't played in the black dress since New Zealand lost the World Cup final to Australia last year 58-55, opting instead to concentrate on shaking off the bruised cuboid bone in her foot which had been dogging her with increasingly painful insistency.
"There's only so much sit-down boxing and swimming, upper body weights and upper body exercises you can do," she told NZ Newswire.
Tutaia made her comeback on Saturday, playing 30 minutes for the Silver Ferns as they crumpled to a 62-50 loss to the old enemy Australia in the third Constellation Cup Test in Auckland.
The best way to view the rusty performance, during which she sank 11 goals from 17 attempts, was as a starting point.
"To be completely honest with you, for the first time in my career, I wasn't expecting a lot," Tutaia said.
"It's the first time I'd ever gone into a Constellation Cup feeling underdone.
"That was really hard for me because I always want to go into a game thinking I can do everything and I knew that I wasn't able to."
Tutaia knows there are no short cuts - rehab will take time, but she's happy with her first step and looking forward to her second in the fourth and final Constellation Cup Test in Invercargill on Thursday.
She's pain-free for the first time in a long while - or, more accurately, her injured foot is pain-free. There's plenty of pain in other areas.
"Everything else comes into play when you haven't been running for two months.
"Everybody talks about the power of the mind, and how if you think it you'll do it.
"But in my case, the top half connects but the bottom half doesn't. You think you're fast, then when you watch yourself you're actually not.
"But I'm slowly finding my feet."