Hyped by Australian great Mel Jones in 2020 as the woman most likely to break the 130km/h barrier, Vlaeminck has managed only eight internationals since.
Initially ruled out for 12 months on the eve of that year’s T20 World Cup with a stress fracture in her right foot, Vlaeminck returned in 2021 before the same injury recurred in January 2022.
That prompted a long rehabilitation, including close to four months on crutches and undertaking ballet routines to strengthen her feet, ankles and calves.
The 24-year-old made her return to cricket for Australia A in T20s against England last week, rolling out a new action with better feet alignment while still being able to bowl at close to 125km/h.
“It was hard to process that I was actually out there, it almost felt fake,” Vlaeminck said.
“It’s been a while in the making.
“I’ve made a few technical changes … My arms and legs were going everywhere when I bowled, so I was going into some real weird positions my body couldn’t handle.
“I’ve tried to straighten a few things up and just make my action a bit more efficient. Hopefully, that’ll keep me on the field longer this time.”
Vlaeminck’s injuries came after two knee reconstructions, a separate partial anterior cruciate ligament tear and a shoulder dislocation – all before the age of 21.
While those injuries are more common, the stress fracture of the navicular in her foot was a rarer setback and prompted support staff to consider different rehabilitation methods, including ballet.
“For me to go in there and not talk cricket was really refreshing,” Vlaeminck said.
“I walked in first day and some of the stuff I was like, ‘Oh, this will be so easy’. But I’d get like two reps in and I’d be sweating and shaking.
“They were incredible. They just let me come in whenever I wanted. They dropped everything for me basically, so I definitely wouldn’t be back playing without them.”
Officials will continue to play it slow with Vlaeminck, after showing their intent by offering her two national contracts while she was unavailable.
She won’t bowl the full 10 overs in Australia A’s one-dayers in England, and is expected to be rested for some games during the WBBL season.
Vlaeminck has also been reminded she can operate at 90 per cent and still take wickets, while coaching staff have pointed to Pat Cummins’ career as an example of what is still possible.
But while she admits that is a message easier delivered than believed after she has suffered back-to-back knee injuries, she remains willing to be patient.
“It’s cool to be able to see other people have found a way out, but when you’re actually in it, it doesn’t necessarily always feel like that’s going to be the case,” she said.