The Silver Ferns have been dealt a blow on the eve of the Constellation Cup with Kayla Cullen ruled out for the rest of the season with a foot injury.
The injury will see the versatile midcourter miss next month's four-test series against the Australian Diamonds along with the the Fast5 Netball World Series.
Cullen battled a foot injury earlier in the season and was sidelined for a month of the Mystics' ANZ Championship campaign. It is expected Cullen will require a further 6-8 weeks of rehabilitation following a flare-up of the injury.
The loss is a major setback for the Ferns, with Cullen having cemented her place in the starting line-up at wing defence, where her speed and athleticism makes her an ever-present threat.
Cullen's withdrawal from the team comes as the New Zealand side prepares to welcome star shooter Maria Tutaia and energetic defender Anna Harrison back into the line-up.
The pair were forced to sit out the Quad Series and three-test series against Jamaica earlier this month as they battled niggly injuries - Harrison a calf strain and Tutaia a foot complaint.
With only three days in camp before the Ferns take on Australia in the series opener, coach Janine Southby planned to work the pair back into playing duties over the course of the series.
There will now be pressure on Harrison in particular to get back up to speed quickly given the rangy defender has slotted into the wing defence role previously for the Ferns.
Steel midcourter Gina Crampton will come into the team for the Constellation Cup, but she is considered more of an attacking midcourter. Crampton will become the 164th player to wear the black dress if she makes her debut during the series.
A decision on a replacement player for the Fast5 Netball World Series will be made next week.