Once a straight-forward process, the task of predicting the Silver Ferns starting line-up has become more complicated this season.

Much anticipation surrounds the make-up of Janine Southby's starting seven for tomorrow night's Constellation Cup opener in Auckland, with the Ferns' efforts to develop genuine competition for positions over the past two series now causing some serious selection headaches.

It is a somewhat unfamiliar dilemma for a Silver Ferns coach, with a lack of depth in the national squad tending to produce a fairly obvious starting seven.

Having approached this season with the key objective of developing a range of options in each position, Southby said she is pleased to have the luxury of choice - even if it does make her job tough as a selector.


"Certainly [assitant coach Yvette McCausland-Durie] and I have some robust discussions about our starting lines. We have a really good look at what's happening in training and also what we've seen from them in previous games," she said.

"Also at the back of our mind is that we're looking at still building to Commonwealth Games and knowing we still have some work to do in some positions to ensure we have strong cover."

It may be tempting for Southby to reward the same starting line-up that upset the Diamonds 57-47 in last month's Quad Series finale. But missing from that match were two of the Ferns' more established stars in vice-captain Maria Tutaia, and athletic midcourter Kayla Cullen.

The goal defence and centre spots are the only ones that pick themselves, with Katrina Grant and Shannon Francois having those respective bibs on lockdown so far this season. While Southby has indicated she hopes to look at some more options in these positions over the course of the four-test Constellation Cup series, she is unlikely to do so in game one.

The attacking combinations appear to be trickiest to predict, with a range of different permutations available. The recent experimentation with Bailey Mes at goal attack and Tutaia at goal shoot produced the desired results, with Mes' speed and agility proving a handy weapon further up the court.

In Mes, Tutaia and Te Paea Selby-Rickit the Ferns now have three shooters who are strong performers in both positions. Southby said settling on a shooting combination may come down to a horses for courses type approach.

"I think there's different options for different styles of defence we come up against. We were really fortunate that we have got lots of options down there."

"What we have to be careful of is that our strengths don't become our weaknesses so we've got to make sure that the girls are still confident in each other and they're not being thrown all over the place."

Although she has made no secret of her preference for goal attack, Tutaia said she is not fazed by the prospect of being moved around over the series.

"It's just up to Janine and Yvette on where they see me best fitting in. Goal shoot is a very interesting position for me, and it's good to change things up and refresh my brain with a new position."

Having had few opportunities against Australia over the past couple of seasons, Tutaia said she is just happy to be involved with this series in any capacity. Tutaia sat out most of last year's international season with a foot injury, only returning for the final two tests of the 2016 Constellation Cup, albeit on restricted minutes.

"I'm really excited, it feels like it has been a long time since I've played Australia - there has been a lot of changes to both sides in that time, so it will be interesting."

Following tomorrow night's opener the Constellation Cup series will move to Christchurch, before wrapping up in Australia with tests in Adelaide and Sydney.