Wellington Phoenix men's captain Alex Rufer has opened up about his experience with Covid-19, admitting that receiving the initial diagnosis was difficult, even though his symptoms were mild.
With tens of thousands of cases in New South Wales every day, the virus has swept through the Sydney-based squad in recent weeks, with 19 players infected, leaving coach Ufuk Talay with only five fit players training last week.
Everyone is back in action now but Rufer admitted it was a challenging period, as the group were isolated from each other.
"We were speaking most days, because most of us were stuck inside a room," said Rufer. "That's really important, to keep your brain working, keep in contact with everyone.
"I was one of the lucky ones and had relatively mild symptoms. The worst for me was probably the body aches, which [for] most of the lads were pretty similar.
"I think the scariest thing is when you do a test and you find that you are positive because obviously the media around it all has been pretty scary."
Unlike most of the squad, Rufer didn't have a roommate in his apartment to share the isolation period.
"I had a week by myself, which is good and bad I guess," he said. "You realise there's no way around it. You just got to get through it."
The virus can have extra complications for athletes, given the importance of peak fitness but the Phoenix have so far avoided any major consequences.
"Because it's a heart and lungs sort of respiratory illness it can take its toll if you're unlucky," said Rufer. "Fortunately for us, we've been lucky so far that we've had no serious cases."
Their game against Western United on Friday (9.45pm) feels like a season reset, having not played for 15 days.
It's also a chance for Rufer to turn the corner, given his mixed start to the campaign, which has seen him substituted in two of the past three league games.
That included being dragged off at halftime in the 4-0 round seven defeat in Adelaide, an unusual situation for a Phoenix captain, though he showed his mettle with a solid display as a makeshift centre back in the FFA Cup quarter-final win against Melbourne City four days later.
"For me personally, it's been a little bit up and down," said Rufer. "I felt we started well as a group and I was doing OK and then a little bit up and down, a little bit inconsistent.
"Which has been frustrating because a couple games probably haven't been the best version of me, but it's not from a lack of trying."
Rufer inherited the armband after Steven Taylor's abrupt departure, less than two months before the start of the season.
Rufer had served an extended period as vice-captain, but being the main man is a different story, especially as he always wasn't a first-choice midfielder last season, with only two starts in the final 11 games, and it must have been an added burden at times.
"I try my best every day, I try my best to be a leader, to be me," said Rufer. "We've got a good group and they've all got my back. It's been a challenge, but it's a challenge that I'm up for."
His recipe for personal improvement is simple; more proactive, more involvement and more talk.
"Whenever I've been the best version of myself has always been when I'm demanding, always on the ball and being very aggressive," he said. "Also communicating because when you communicate, you're always involved in the game and it keeps you ticking over."
New Mexican import Gael Sandoval is expected to make his debut on Friday, as the Wellington team aim to stop a run of four successive league defeats.
Striker Gary Hooper will also come back into the mix, after a trip back home to England and then subsequent quarantine period.
However, new English defender Scott Wootton won't be considered due to a quad strain but is expected to be fit for the FFA Cup semi-final next Saturday.