Over the course of her six-week injury lay-off, Maria Tutaia has seen two rivals emerge for the Silver Ferns' starting goal attack role.
After watching the Ferns first two Constellation Cup outings from the stands, the star shooter is expected to be included in the match-day 12 for Saturday's third test in Auckland as part of her carefully managed comeback to international netball. But Tutaia will have another battle on her hands to get out on court, following impressive performances from Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Ameliaranne Ekenasio this season.
Selby-Rickit, in just her sixth international outing and first test start against Australia, was one of the stand-outs in the Ferns shock 53-51 win over the Diamonds in game two of the Constellation Cup last night.
The young Steel shooter's height and strength made her a strong option on attack, particularly in second phase play, while her confidence to go to the post - particularly in the pressure-filled final moments - proved instrumental in the Ferns' comeback win following a 12-goal defeat in Sunday's opener.
Selby-Rickit's breakthrough performance follows Ekenasio's rise earlier in the season.
Ekenasio shone for the Ferns in last month's Quad Series, and was the stand-out in the Ferns losing effort in the series decider against Australia in Melbourne.
A family bereavement on the eve of the Jamaica series and a subsequent minor illness has delayed the 25 year-old's progress in recent weeks, but once back on track Ekenasio will be pushing for the starting spot once more.
The development of the pair this season has put Tutaia under huge pressure to get back up to speed quickly as she fights her way back from a painful foot injury.
Tutaia is expected to be confirmed in the Ferns match-day 12 for the third test later tomorrow and will likely displace teenage shooter Maia Wilson, with Selby-Rickit offering cover at goal shoot if required.
The return of the 102-test star puts Ferns coach Janine Southby in a position many of her predecessors can only have dreamed of - having the luxury of choice in the shooting end.
Asked whether any thought has been given to delaying Tutaia's comeback in favour of continuing to develop alternate shooting lines, Southby responded:
"I think I would have an argument on my hands if I was trying to do that. Maria is in a plan and the plan is all go for Auckland and we're looking forward to her fighting her way back into contention," she said.
"Maria is an absolute competitor and it's been frustrating for her sitting on the sideline, but I know that when she gets the opportunity she'll take it with both hands and she is just chomping at the bit."
The Ferns unexpected win last night has breathed life back into the four-test series heading in the New Zealand leg. The two sides meet again in Auckland on Saturday night, before the series finale in Invercargill next week.