The Silver Ferns will take the court tonight without their key attacking weapon, after the withdrawal of Maria Tutaia today.

Tutaia will miss tomorrow night's clash with England in Auckland, as well as Sunday's test against Australia in Invercargill due to bereavement leave.

The 30-year-old will travel to Brisbane later this week to attend the funeral of a member of her extended family.

Tutaia learned of the passing earlier this week, and talked over her situation with team management.


The Herald understands that returning for the Invercargill game was briefly considered, but eventually discounted. It was partly due to the logistics of getting from the Queensland capital to the southern city, but mostly about the the importance of Tutaia having time with her close knit family.

"We have talked to her and we feel it is best for Maria - and she does as well - to be with her family at this time," said Ferns coach Janine Southby. "It is never ideal but in our environment we take the holistic approach and it is certainly about what is best for the person, first and foremost. Unfortunately she won't be here with us for the reminder of the Quad Series."

Southby admitted the situation was a blow for the team.

"The team is obviously really disappointed and upset for Maria and it is never easy in a situation like this," said Southby. "But I think Maria knows we have got her back and while we will miss her we have got to keep forging on. These girls are resilient, and they will get out there and do the job."

She has been replaced in the squad by the uncapped Monica Falkner, a member of the New Zealand under-21's World Championship-winning team.

The loss of Tutaia - who was named MVP of Saturday's 63-56 win over South Africa - is a significant blow. Tutaia is part of the Fern's three strong leadership group and their biggest offensive threat by a considerable margin.

But it's hardly a novel situation, as the 108-test veteran also missed last year Quad Series and the Taini Jamison Trophy with a foot injury.

However it leaves the New Zealand side with a major experience deficit, after the recent retirements of Casey Kopua, Anna Harrison and Leana de Bruin; the team that takes the court at Trusts Stadium on Wednesday night will have hundreds of caps less than their England counterparts.

Tutaia has been replaced in the squad by the uncapped Monica Falkner, a member of the New Zealand under-21's World Championship-winning team, while her on court scoring responsibilities will be picked up by Bailey Mes, Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Maia Wilson.

"It's an opportunity for the other shooters to put their hands up," said Southby. "We'll miss her but it's an opportunity for others to step up and keep pushing, with the long term view of the [2018] Commonwealth Games in mind. Sometimes it's hard to take the 108 test cap veteran off when she is playing so well and we actually have to do it now, and it is just a fact of life."

Southby probably has more concerns over the defensive end, especially with Joanne Harten expected to bolster the England side, after the star shooter missed the Roses' 54-50 loss to Australia last weekend.

"We need to improve right across the court and we are a long way from where we want to be," said Southby. "Defensively we have got to put our hands up and say it wasn't our best performance against South Africa."