One of Janine Southby's biggest mistakes as Silver Ferns coach was not fighting tooth and nail for the inclusion of Laura Langman, Australian netball legend Norma Plummer believes.
Southby's Ferns concluded their embarrassing international season this month with their worst Commonwealth Games performance in history — suffering four defeats and missing out on a medal for the first time.
A Netball New Zealand review into the Ferns' capitulation is set to be completed in June, and according to Plummer, a number of key factors have led to the fall from grace.
Not being able to call on the seasoned Langman is at the top of her list, the current coach of the South African Proteas said.
Last year, Langman, who didn't miss a single Ferns test in the 11 years after her 2005 debut, signed a contract to play for Noeline Taurua's Sunshine Coast Lightning team in Australia. That ruled her out of national selection due to Netball New Zealand's controversial policy to pick players only from the domestic ANZ Premiership.
The former Ferns vice-captain remained in the test wilderness even after cutting short her contract with the Australian franchise.
"If I was Janine Southby, I would have fought that hierarchy like you wouldn't believe," Plummer told the Herald on Sunday. "To have 141 test caps, always there, never injured, playing probably her best netball, you've got to be sensible.
"Let's face it, if you look at her stats, she'd pick up interceptions, she just ran all day, and you've got to have that in the team. Her leadership on court would have been fantastic."
Plummer, also head coach of the Australian Diamonds from 2003 to 2011, insists a change of rules is vital to restoring the Ferns.
"It's really hard if you are putting boundaries on players, who have been there, given their service, and will always come back, who may even enhance their game playing somewhere else," she said.
"I think New Zealand has got to get with the times now and open up on that, it's vital.
"England have a lot of players playing out here ... as you can see, the advantage they've had from playing in Australia has just won them a gold medal.
"If you're not 100 caps, you don't get a chance, you can't go, but if you're over 100, I think that would be something that I would have absolutely fought for as a coach ... if you don't keep that development going, it will go backwards very quickly."
Plummer admits she was surprised to witness the way the Silver Ferns unravelled during the past six months but believes they have the talent to again rise to the top of world netball.
"You can forget very quickly how good you've been. I think that's a major point that everybody's missing at the moment.
"It was all happening before, and it can happen again, they just need to find that solution."
Plummer — who in 2003 famously called the Ferns "just a bunch of scrubbers" — said she wouldn't be putting up her hand to replace Southby, should she be sacked.
"You won't be seeing me coach the New Zealand team, sorry," she said. "No way. It would have been nice 30 years ago, but not now."