Silver Ferns captain Julie Seymour withdrew from the national netball squad today after announcing she was expecting her second child.
The experienced Seymour, second behind only Lesley Nicol in numbers of test caps among the current players with 75, was expected to play a prominent role in the build-up to July's world championships in Jamaica.
The Silver Ferns have a brief two-test campaign against South Africa in early November before beginning their quest in earnest next year.
``There's a part of me that would like to play through to the world champs, my desire to play netball is still right up there but in the end my motherly instincts were just bigger and far outweighed all that,'' Seymour told NZPA today.
``I'm sure there are people who may not understand that but all this year I guess, it's been in the back of my mind.''
Seymour, 31, and husband Dallas, a former All Black and long-time New Zealand sevens representative, became first-time parents in February 2001.
First selected for the Silver Ferns in 1994, Seymour's true value was shown when she returned to the team for last year's series against Australia just months after son Harrison was born when she had commanded a starting spot by the second test.
Seymour has blossomed in the latter stages of her career. A strong defensive centre with the ability to carry a big workload, Seymour was elevated to the captaincy this year, revelling in the extra responsibility when Ruth Aitken took over the coaching reigns.
``We want to extend our family and I'm just not prepared to -- as much as I love netball -- let that get in the way of us wanting to have more kids,'' said Seymour, whose second child is due in late April.
``There's something every year netball-wise and you could just go on and on and on, saying you'll just wait another year.
``We feel really lucky to be able to have kids.''
It is unlikely Seymour will play international netball again but she has resisted from retiring altogether.
``I think when it's been such a big part of your life, it is really hard to say you're never going to play again and then find a year down the track an opportunity presents itself,'' she said.
``At this stage I'm just unavailable because I'm pregnant.''
The lack of a world championship winners medal or Commonwealth Games gold meant there was no single highlight to pinpoint from her career.
``Just playing for your country. There's been some fantastic experiences, some amazing games I've played in and being able to finish this year as captain is a biggie,'' Seymour said.
``You meet and create some of your greatest friends, travelling the world and having the experience of playing at a level I had only dreamt about.''
Highly regarded by Australian coach Jill McIntosh, Seymour was named the outstanding player of the 1999 world championships.
Aitken said losing Seymour was a big blow.
``The mother in me is absolutely delighted for her but from a coach's point of view it was a shock,'' Aitken said.
``She's been an amazing captain this last 10 months or so that I've been working with her but it's also a great opportunity for all those midcourters that we've got.
``I'm confident we're going to have a number of players putting their hand up at the trials coming up (before South Africa series) and they're certainly going to take on a new light now.''
With the unavailability of midcourter Seymour, shooter Donna Loffhagen and the retirement of defender Linda Vagana there are opportunities in all areas of the court for players to push their claims.
There is a wealth of captaincy experience in the squad with Belinda Colling and Nicol former Silver Ferns captains and a number of National Bank Cup and provincial captains also in the mix.
Anna Rowberry, who has returned as a pivotal member of the team after not being wanted for 18 months, could be the surprise choice to fill the captaincy role.