Laura Langman's shock decision to terminate her contract in Australia has opened the door for a return to the Silver Ferns ahead of next year's Commonwealth Games.
But while the loophole is there for Langman to meet the eligibility requirements for the New Zealand team, it is not clear whether she intends to use it.
Langman yesterday announced she would not be returning to the Sunshine Coast Lightning next season, with the club agreeing to let their star midcourter out of her contract. In a statement released to media, the 141-test Silver Fern offered few details of reasons for withdrawing from the Australian competition.
The dynamic midcourter, who was blocked from playing for New Zealand this season after her decision to play in the Australian league made her ineligible for selection, said she would be "stepping away" from netball in 2018 and had no concrete plans for next year.
While Langman's statement indicates she will be taking a break from the sport next season, there remains some hope in the wider netball community that the star midcourter could yet make herself available for national selection ahead of the April Commonwealth Games.
Netball New Zealand chief executive Jennie Wyllie was guarded when it came to discussing Langman's future in the black dress, but said she is delighted to see the Ferns' legend back in New Zealand.
"We are respectful of where Laura is at. She is a proud Kiwi and so the surprise [over her announcement] wasn't too great given she has indicated she still supports New Zealand one hundred per cent," said Wyllie.
"We'd love to sit down and talk with Laura when she's ready. We want to be respectful of her decision and everything she has said indicates that she wants to take a break."
Wyllie confirmed if Langman was to sign with a New Zealand franchise for the 2018 ANZ Premiership season, it would pave the way for her re-entry into the Ferns. All six franchises have already submitted their rosters for next season, which gets under way after the Commonwealth Games, but Wyllie suggested there could be room for movement with team lists.
"For an athlete be eligible for selection, they need to be committed to the New Zealand competition. Rosters have been announced, but in any sporting environment things change as well.
"If [Langman] has signed to a New Zealand team and is open to selection, then she would be eligible for selection and go through the same process that anyone else goes through."
Some observers suggest a more likely scenario is Langman, a consummate professional, will take a more cautious approach with any potential integration back in the New Zealand system. With the Commonwealth Games just five months away, it may be too much pressure on the midcourt star to try and slip seamlessly back into the fold and she may instead target the September-October international window for her return. That would allow her plenty of time to reconnect with the Ferns environment ahead of the 2019 World Cup in Liverpool.
Langman, who has not played the Ferns since the 2016 Constellation Cup series, bringing to an end a remarkable run of 141 consecutive tests for New Zealand, appeared at pains not to be presumptuous about her place in the national set-up.
"Netball New Zealand is happy with the strategy and the team it has, so conversations need to take place for me to get back into the Silver Ferns," Langman explained in the Lightning's carefully-worded statement.
"Sometimes as a player, these decisions are not in your control and I think to help me get through this tough time I have to approach it like a non-selection. To date, every decision I have made is to make myself a better player and a better person to represent New Zealand."
Langman has not responded to interview requests.