Matildas captain Melissa Barbieri says she felt ill after learning star striker Kate Gill would miss next month's FIFA women's World Cup in Germany due to a knee injury.
Gill, the reigning Asian player of the year, underwent surgery in Adelaide on Tuesday after damaging her anterior cruciate ligament while playing for her Swedish club side Linkoping last week.
The 26-year-old had loomed as a key to Australia's hopes in Germany and Barbieri said the timing of the injury had rattled the national team.
"I felt physically ill when I found out," Barbieri told AAP. "I know what Kate goes through, her training regime. She does everything spot on with her training and doing extra here and there to make sure that she's at the top of her game.
"Basically this was going to be her World Cup to shine and to have it taken away from her in such a cruel manner is really gut wrenching."
Gill was a central figure in Australia's historic Asian Cup win last year and was tipped to carry on that form at the World Cup, where the Matildas will face Brazil, Equatorial Guinea and Norway.
But Barbieri said Australia were well equipped to deal with her absence with a strong squad that includes strikers Kyah Simon, Sam Kerr and Lisa De Vanna. The skipper said the side would use Gill's injury as motivation.
"Hopefully Kate can keep in contact with us, if not get her over to Germany ... it's definitely going to motivate us and give us a reality check too," Barbieri said. "She can't be replaced but with our team now, there's so many players on the roster that are able to step up and do a job for us."
Australia face New Zealand in two friendly matches next week and open their World Cup campaign against Brazil in Moenchengladbach on June 29.