The Silver Ferns ranks continue to grow after Pulse midcourter Claire Kersten made an unexpected appearance in today's test loss to England.
Kersten, who was plucked from the New Zealand development squad to provide defensive cover for the second test of the Taini Jamison series, became Silver Fern No. 168 when she took the court at wing defence in the second half of the Ferns 49-46 loss to the Roses.
With three specialist goal keepers selected for the England series, it has left coach Janine Southby light on cover in the goal defence and wing defence positions, prompting the decision to bring Kersten in to bolster their options. While Kersten's inclusion was only announced last night on the eve of the test, Southby said the possibility of including the 26-year-old science teacher had been in their plans for a while.
"It's sort of been there for a couple of days - we've just kept it to ourselves for a few days - so it wasn't really late notice," said Southby.
"It's always been in the plans that we've been talking about and there were a couple of niggles within the group we were just covering and now Claire has had an opportunity and I think she made a good fist of her first international match."
Kersten's inclusion in the lineup appeared to be in response to the dominance of England midcourter Chelsea Pitman, a former Australian international, who has developed a handy combination with English shooters Jo Harten and Helen Housby.
The move could also be seen as a reflection of the coaching staff's confidence levels in incumbent Kayla Cullen, who is still working her way back to form after minor knee surgery two months ago. Cullen once again struggled to make a consistent impact on defence today and was replaced at halftime.
"Kayla will be the first to acknowledge she is not where she needs to be and she has a bit of work to do. We're not trying to push her too hard at this stage, but it's good she's back out," said Southby.
Ferns management are yet to make a decision on whether Kersten will be included in the match day 12 for Wednesday night's decider in Hamilton. Southby said they will wait to see how Cullen pulls up after today's match.
If Southby keeps faith in Cullen, young shooter Monica Falkner will likely return to the lineup for the game on her home turf.