STAR defender Kate Burton may be out for the rest of the BFNL netball final series, but her presence will still be very much felt by her Kangaroo Flat team-mates.
Burton's season came to a horrible end last week after she suffered a compound fracture in her ankle in the closing minutes of the Roos' impressive 50-35 qualifying final win against Gisborne.
The injury left her team-mates shattered and visibly distressed in the moments afterwards, with Roos skipper Chelsea Sartori this week telling of the heart-break felt by not just the playing group, but the whole club and wider BFNL league.
"The girls and the club are shattered for Kate, that moment when she went down just broke our hearts," the star midcourter said.
"Seeing your team-mate like that really hurts and we all just broke down into tears on court.
"Realising that that's Kate done for the season and most likely her career is devastating.
"I know she mentioned a few times this season that this year would be her last so for her to end it this way is shattering and it kills to know that we may never get to play with her again.
"She's not just an amazing player but she is such a beautiful person.
"She's the player in your team who is always up and about and positive no matter what the score is.
"If you make a mistake or do something great on court she is the first person to praise you.
"She's such a work horse and I couldn't speak any higher of her, she's a legend."
"Her injury has affected a lot of people and she's received lovely messages from opposition teams in the league so it just shows the type of person she is and how respected she is by others."
Sartori said her and her team-mates had also been inundated with messages of support.
The experienced and supremely skilled Burton is only in her first season at Dower Park, after making her way back to the BFNL following premiership stints back at her original club Charlton in 2016 and Pyramid Hill in 2017.
But her profound impact was neatly summed by her Roos coach Jayden Cowling in the wake of last weekend's injury.
"She's been the best asset I've had as a recruit (in two seasons as A-grade coach), it's just heartbreaking," he said.
(Kate's) injury has affected a lot of people and she's received lovely messages from opposition teams in the league so it just shows the type of person she is and how respected she is by others.Chelsea Sartori
"She's had a standout year, not only one of the best on court each week, but just such a team player with her training and hard work."
As difficult it has been, the Roos have had to refocus on an intriguing finals series, and what looms as a marvellous opportunity against minor premiers Sandhurst this Saturday, with a grand final berth up for grabs in their semi-final encounter at the QEO.
The Roos have not been to the big dance since their emphatic 2016 premiership win, but are finishing the season as strongly as any team, with wins over all three of its remaining finals rivals in the second-half of the season.
But in the devastation of an injury to their adored team-mate, the Roos have found extra motivation.
"The past week has been tough and even after the game Saturday night, it felt as though we had been knocked out of finals. (It) was such a deflating feeling," Sartori said.
"We've worked so hard all season and we will use this as motivation now. To be one game away to securing a spot grand final day it's so exciting.
"Every game from now on is for Kate and she will be there with us the whole way.
"I still have the belief in this side that we can go all the way and the thing I love the most about these girls is how much we care about each other and how we always play for each other.
"Honestly I think that's been the key to our success this year."
Dual Sandhurst premiership coach Tamara Gilchrist echoed the thoughts of coaches and players across the league in wishing Burton a speedy recovery.
"I think she is an amazing player and an amazing person - it was absolutely horrific," he said.
"I wouldn't wish that on anyone, let alone someone of her calibre.
"I can't imagine what it must be like for her and the team.
"It's tricky how you manage something like that, but they will play well for her tomorrow."
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