The make-up of the country's newest sporting franchise has finally been revealed.
Netball New Zealand today unveiled the sixth team to compete in the new domestic league - the freshly minted ANZ Premiership - will be the South Auckland based Northern Stars.
The Stars, who are funded by the national body but governed independently, are headlined by Silver Ferns Kayla Cullen, Maia Wilson and recently retired international Leana de Bruin.
Joining de Bruin at the new Auckland franchise are two of her former Magic teammates, Courtney Tairi and Malia Paseka. The Stars have also snared former Mystics young guns Holly Fowler, Fa'amu Ioane and Sulu Fitzpatrick.
With the other five teams having announced their full line-ups nearly two months ago, it was fairly obvious which players had landed at the Stars. The big surprise in the 10-strong squad was the signing of Fijian international Afa Rusivakula in the import spot, and the return of former NZ under-21 star Emma Iverson following a stint in rugby.
The new franchise will also boast star power on their management team with Temepara Bailey to serve as Julie Hoornweg's assistant coach.
Hoornweg, the experienced Australian coach who set up the Melbourne Vixens in the former transtasman competition, said she hopes the Northern Stars will bring a variety of opportunities to players, coaches and a new community of fans.
"Our aim is that this team will bring a new vitality to Netball, and the opportunity for fans to see a bright, new shiny team. A team who are robust, athletic and exciting; who make you say 'wow!'" she said.
"But we also want it to be a team that gives opportunity for netballers in this part of New Zealand.
"We want to create an identity here, and show young athletes there is a pathway to the top. We also want to build a community. And if we can create a cauldron of excitement and energy here, it will be absolutely fantastic."
The Northern Stars have found a permanent home in Papakura at the brand new High Wire Trust gymnasium complex.
They will have full use of the indoor court, gymnasium and offices built by the High Wire Trust - a charitable trust which helps South Auckland teenagers to build confidence and self-esteem through physical pursuits.
Hoornweg is thrilled to be working with Bailey on the sidelines, and hopes to involve other local coaches with the Northern Stars.
"I'm very aware that I'm an Aussie taking a role a local coach could have taken, and I don't want to bottleneck coaching here. It is one of my aims to share my knowledge and learnings of top-level Netball with others," she says.
The name "Northern Stars" was inspired by Matariki, the small cluster of stars which appear low on the northeast horizon just before dawn in mid-winter. Also known as the Seven Sisters, or Pleiades in Greek legend, Matariki's appearance heralds the start of the Maori New Year.
"That concept captured the spirit of the newest team in New Zealand's domestic Netball competition - seven players ready to take on the challenge of a new season of competition," says Bill Francis, the board chairman of the Northern Stars.
Matariki is incorporated into the team's logo, which also features the Northern Stars' colours of purple and silver.
Netball NZ chief executive Jennie Wyllie said today is a significant milestone for the ANZ Premiership.
"Today is an exciting day for everyone involved in Netball in New Zealand. We are genuinely excited by the fresh new look and brand of the ANZ Premiership, and are pleased to welcome the Northern Stars into the Netball family," Wyllie said.
"We know fans will be excited and reinvigorated by the ANZ Premiership and the chance to see high energy, innovative Netball played by the fittest, most competitive and driven sportswomen."
The ANZ Premiership will see teams playing 15 round robin games, including Super Sundays featuring all six teams in action at the same venue, before culminating in a two-game finals series with the top three teams.
All games will be televised live.
Northern Stars line-up: Kayla Cullen, Leana de Bruin, Sulu Fitzpatrick, Holly Fowler, Fa'amu Ioane, Emma Iverson, Malia Paseka, Afa Rusivakula, Courtney Tairi, Maia Wilson.