Filling the shoes of a legend is no easy feat - especially those left behind by such a player as Casey Kopua.

The legendary defender and former Silver Ferns captain called time on her netball career following New Zealand's stunning win over Australia at the Netball World Cup - meaning the Silver Ferns' defensive unit will now take on Australia in the Constellation Cup with 101 fewer tests to their name.

But Kopua's retirement has opened the door opportunity for a young upcoming Fern, while granting access to a bib that was previously rare for anyone else to wear.

Former Silver Ferns Casey Kopua. Photo / Getty
Former Silver Ferns Casey Kopua. Photo / Getty

Northern Mystics defender Michaela Sokolich-Beatson was one of only two players outside of the team that competed at the World Cup who were given the nod into Noeline Taurua's stable Silver Ferns squad.


The 23-year-old will join Jane Watson, Karin Burger, Katrina Rore and Mystics captain Phoenix Karaka to make up New Zealand's defensive roster.

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Regardless of whether she becomes Kopua's successor as the side's new goal defence or takes over Rore's duties in the midcourt to allow the former captain back into the circle, Sokolich-Beatson is well aware of the bar set before her.

But wary of describing her position as "stressful", Sokolich-Beatson says she is redirecting her focus onto her own performance.

Michaela Sokolich-Beatson has played four seasons for the Mystics. Photo / Photosport
Michaela Sokolich-Beatson has played four seasons for the Mystics. Photo / Photosport

"Stress isn't the right word, maybe pressure?" she told Radio Sport. "I try not to think I need to fill [Casey's] shoes so I reframe it and think, 'I've been given this opportunity so what can I do to be my best and do the best I can?'

"I'm just wanting to put my best foot forward for myself and for the team and whatever happens from that, happens."

Evolving as a key piece in the Ferns' defensive unit would likely set Sokolich-Beatson on course for the next World Cup.

Originally named as a non-travelling reserve for the 2019 event, Sokolich-Beatson almost got a taste of the global showpiece when she travelled to Liverpool in July on standby for Rore, who had suffered a calf strain.


But when Rore was declared fit in time to play, the young defender flew back to New Zealand to watch the tournament from home.

Sokolich-Beatson says the 2023 event, to be hosted in Cape Town, is certainly in her future plans but will, for now, take things one campaign at a time.

"That is obviously the goal but I try not to look at it like that because it's so far away," she says. "I'll just take one campaign at a time, one year at a time and set myself some goals.

"You never know what can happen in four years time. That's the ultimate but I'm just taking it step by step."

Silver Ferns head coach Noeline Taurua during a training session. Photo / Photosport
Silver Ferns head coach Noeline Taurua during a training session. Photo / Photosport

Someone who is, however, looking ahead to the next World Cup is coach Taurua.

Although it's unlikely she herself will be in charge of the national side for the next World Cup, Taurua says it's the ideal time to plan ahead and start growing a new wave of players.

"It's exciting because in my perspective when I say it's a new era, we're heading four years before the next Netball World Cup and also knowing Commonwealth Games is prior to that," Taurua says. "But we've got stability in our group, which hasn't happened in the past.

"I know some of our players won't be here in another four years but hopefully we can strategically start looking and building that next layer underneath while the old wise ones are still here."

The Silver Ferns will play the Diamonds on Sunday at 4pm at Christchurch's Horncastle Arena.

The teams will then travel to Auckland for the second test tipping off next Wednesday, before jetting across the ditch to wrap up the series in Sydney and Perth.