Jane Watson's remarkable rise through the netballing ranks looks set to continue this weekend, with the defender favoured to start against Australia in tomorrow's Quad Series decider in Melbourne.
Watson joined the New Zealand line-up only last Friday, coming in as a late replacement for injured defender Anna Harrison. She made her test debut two days later, taking the court at halftime in the Ferns 26-goal drubbing of England.
Watson was again called on off the bench in New Zealand's second outing against an unexpectedly feisty South African side, replacing Phoenix Karaka at the first break following a sluggish start from the Kiwi team.
Having impressed with her work rate in both appearances, Watson is now figuring in discussions for a starting spot against Diamonds spearhead shooter Caitlin Bassett.
The rookie defender featured in the top line-up in a training match against a group of Victorian age-grade players in Melbourne yesterday, and coach Janine Southby hinted Watson could be in line for her first test start.
It would complete a stunning rise for Watson, who up until a week ago was not among the wider 18-strong pool of contracted players. That Watson is now being considered for a starting spot against the world champions shows Southby's intent to reward in-form players.
"You can see why [Watson is in the mix], she is playing extremely well. We're really pleased with the way she has come into the group and made an impact," said Southby, following yesterday's training match at the Collingwood Football Club.
"I think Phoenix and Jane offer different things. Jane is just there moving all the time, and Phoenix has got a slightly better understanding of the unit stuff we do. So we will have to weigh those things up [before finalising selections]."
Watson sees her elevation through the ranks as being a case of just taking her opportunities when they come. The 26-year-old's first experience of the Silver Ferns environment came back in 2013, when she was invited into trials after being identified by then-coach Waimarama Taumaunu as a player of the future. But the youngster failed to kick on from there, and was soon overtaken in the development race by Karaka and powerful defender Temalisi Fakahokotau, herself now in the netballing wilderness.
Watson is determined to make the most of her unexpected second chance. While she was coy about her chances of starting this weekend, Watson said she's excited about the prospect of a potential match-up with Bassett.
"I'm pretty happy with the way things have been going and I just have to keep it going if I get the opportunity to go out there again," said Watson. "She's a big target for them in there and a quality player, so we just have to do our best to get the ball before it gets to her."
Watson's form over the Quad Series poses an interesting dilemma for the Silver Ferns selectors once Harrison is back in action. It is hoped the star defender will be fit for the three-test series against Jamaica later this month.
Southby considers Watson and Harrison to be similar players in that they both have an up-tempo, high energy style, which may explain why Storm Purvis was favoured ahead of her Steel teammate in the initial selection of the test squad.
But given Watson's performances thus far, the selectors may decide there is room after all in the defensive end for the flaying arms of both Harrison and Watson.
Managing to keep it all in the Silver Ferns' family
Silver Ferns stand-in manager Dee Leggat didn't really have much of a choice about her netballing pathway.
She was handed the job of managing the Wellington NPC team, or rather told she would be doing the job, by then-coach Waimarama Taumaunu.
In her playing days, Taumaunu had been managed by Leggat's mother and netball matriarch Monica, who served as Silver Ferns manager during the 1980s. So when Taumaunu needed someone to guide her side in the NPC tournament in 1998, she couldn't go past Leggat's pedigree.
"She said to me 'you're Monica's daughter, you'll do it'," Leggat recalls.
"I guess you can't really say no to Wai."
Nearly 20 years on and it is safe to say Leggat is now doing the job by choice. She gave up her job organising Ironman events earlier this year so she could fill in for regular Silver Ferns manager Esther Molloy, who is on maternity leave.
Leggat has taken the helm for the Quad Series, which wraps up in Melbourne this weekend, and the three-test series against Jamaica this month.
"I finished up in my job, that's how much being here meant to me."
It means plenty to her mum as well.
Monica, a well-known Waikato netball identity and a life member of Netball New Zealand, is delighted to see her daughter following in her footsteps.
"I feel very proud of her and really pleased for her because she hasn't got netball out of her system, so I think it's neat for her to have this opportunity," she said.
Monica, affectionately known as "Mons" in netball circles, has fond memories of her time as Silver Ferns manager.
"She took care of the national team in the 1980s, forming a unique partnership with coach Lois Muir during her seven-year career - which included winning the world title in 1987 at the world championships in Glasgow.
The 84-year-old, who can still be found down at Hamilton's Minogue Park courts every weekend, said she feels privileged to have had the opportunity to have been involved during a golden era of New Zealand netball.
And the most special part of the job?
"It's the people. It really is always about the people. For me the role of manager is about making sure the players and the coach can do the job that they are there to do and they don't have to worry all the other sort of issues," she said.
"[Lois and I] developed a such a lovely relationship where we sort of understood each other and I think it worked really well - well we've stayed good friends so it must have been all right."