One of the women's Black Sticks longtime servants Kayla Whitelock has suffered a crushing injury that will see her miss the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The 35-year-old, who was gunning for a fifth appearance at the showcase multi-sport event, picked up an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury to her right knee in the recent four-match series against the Australian Hockeyroos in New Zealand.
It sidelines the former skipper indefinitely and will rid the Black Sticks of one of their key figures when their Olympic campaign begins on July 25.
Whitelock came out of retirement in 2019 to chase an elusive Olympic medal. Her best finish with the Black Sticks has been fourth at the 2012 and 2016 events.
Women's Black Sticks head coach Graham Shaw says his heart goes out to Whitelock.
"It's often an overused term but Kayla is truly a legend of our game, and it was a heart-breaking moment when she shared the extent of her injury with the team today.
"Kayla will be a massive loss to the team both on and off the field in Tokyo."
Captain Stacey Michelsen details how many of the current players looked up to Whitelock earlier in their careers.
"Kayla was an inspiration to all of the current Black Sticks when we were growing up and continued to play that role over her entire career.
"We are absolutely devastated that her Olympic dream has ended this way."
Whitelock has 260 international caps to her credit and helped guide the women's side to silver and bronze medals at the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and Glasgow.
The midfielder enjoyed a minor hiatus from the sport when she gave birth to her daughter Addison, before adding to her resume with an appearance at the 2016 Rio Games as captain of the national side.
Had Whitelock made it to Tokyo, she would have joined Barbara Kendall and Dame Valerie Adams as the only New Zealand female athletes to attend five Games.
The women's and men's Black Sticks squads for Tokyo will be named on Thursday, June 10.