Motueka's Shannon Francois has been selected for the Silver Ferns' three-test Australian leg of the Constellation Cup series and, presumably, the three subsequent home matches against Malawi.
Shannon, 22, who plays for the Southern Steel, hadn't made New Zealand's initial 2013-14 squad but, like fellow midcourter Anna Thompson, she's come in from the cold, bypassing squad member Katarina Cooper along the way. It remains to be seen how much netball she will actually play for the Silver Ferns, but there's no doubt that her selection will again put her multitasking skills to the test.
Despite her tender age, Shannon has four years of pharmacy study at Otago University behind her. Year five is spent as an intern pharmacist and, provided she passes her exams, she will be fully qualified come November.
But with the Silver Ferns about to play six tests, starting on October 4 in Adelaide and finishing in Hamilton on October 31 against Malawi, Shannon's textbooks will be logging plenty of frequent flyer miles as well.
"It's a huge balancing act, and I don't really have much of a life outside of netball and study and sleeping," Francois said during her lunch break last week.
"I find it quite enjoyable, though. I don't think I could just play netball. I was quite focused on wanting to finish my degree, and there's always life after netball, so I wanted to have a good job and make sure that I could live off that as well."
Based in Invercargill, she makes the 50-minute commute to Gore each day, but is on the road to Dunedin almost as often, to train with the Southern Steel or her Otago NPC side. As a result, it's a while since she made it back to her home town.
"I don't get much time off, so I haven't been home all year."
But that hard work paid off last week when she was named in the Silver Ferns' 12-strong squad which left for Adelaide on Tuesday.
She was largely a bench player for the Steel during this year's trans-Tasman Netball League, but that proved no impediment to her making the national side.
"It's still sinking in, and I still get big smiles on my face when I think about it," she said.
The serious knee injury that ruled Kayla Cullen out for the rest of the year has underlined the fact that the Ferns' biggest weakness is a lack of options off the bench.
Coach Waimarama Taumaunu has indicated that she sees Shannon as an option to play centre or wing defence during the Constellation Cup.
"I definitely think it's a step up," Shannon said. "But when you're playing with the likes of Laura [Langman], you can quite easily step up to that level. Well, not easily, but they will help support you a lot."
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