You could be excused for doing a double take over Bailey Mes' shock inclusion in the Silver Ferns.
After just 15 minutes of court time for the Northern Mystics this season, Mes may be the biggest Ferns bolter of all time after being named yesterday in a 12-strong squad for next month's three test Constellation Cup series against Australia.
The 23-year-old is a mystery to most, unless you saw her one quarter against the Adelaide Thunderbirds this year, or fleeting appearances during her two previous campaigns in the trans-Tasman league.
“I played more last year, actually,” Mes said. “It was a bit of a surprise being in this team.
"I know I've come a long way this year despite not playing a lot. The biggest thing is no-one has seen me this season. I'll have to show them why I'm here.”
Ferns captain Casey Williams could not have picked the newcomer out of a lineup before last week's three-day trials in Auckland.
Mes is listed as a shooter on the Mystics website, but Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu made the bold call to include her as a wing attack replacement for Temepara George.
“I didn't even know Bailey before she arrived at the trials,” Williams said. “I'd never seen her play netball. Now I can see what Wai can see and the potential she has. She's fit and the opportunities she was given, she stood out and made the most of them.”
Mes cannot expect a light introduction to the international arena either.
It doesn't get any more challenging than three pressure-cooker outings against Australia.
“No matter what anyone says, going from ANZ [championship] to a test series is a huge step up. We'll try to help prepare her,” Williams said.
Taumaunu defended Mes' inexperience and rapid elevation over team-mate Grace Rasmussen and Canterbury Tactix shooter Anna Thompson, saying her path was blocked at the Mystics by George and English captain Jade Clarke.
She also indicated Mes would not be used in the opening test.
The Central Pulse's Camilla Lees, Laura Langman and Kayla Cullen are likely to link in the midcourt.
Mes' height (1.86 metres), athleticism and secure ball skills had “turned heads”.
Those attributes would add crucial variety to the Ferns depleted midcourt after the losses of George (retirement) and Joline Henry (pregnancy).
“By Thursday it was a very logical call. She played her way in. She was one of the fittest people in the group,” Taumaunu said.
“She was very difficult for other people to contain.”
However, Mes will be carefully managed in this environment.
Taumaunu was cautious of ruining her confidence and would not guarantee her debut.
“Being with us, training with us and getting to build combinations on the practice court will be good experience for her,” Taumaunu said.
“She is a new player; to put her out in a really tough Australian situation might be the end of her. We will be looking after her as well.”
Veteran Tactix shooter Jodi Brown was the other major bene factor, recalled after a staggering five-year absence from the national team.
Brown last played for the Ferns at the 2007 world championships in Auckland. Since then, the 31-year-old has turned out for the Tactix, Magic and Steel, and had two children.
Her inclusion came over the Magic's Julianna Naoupu, who has been instructed to take better care of a niggling patella tendon problem, and in conjunction with Paula Griffin's dropping from the entire extended squad of 16.
“We've taken this opportunity to put her [Naoupu] on a strict rehab programme, with the view that later on we will be able to get her on the court as well,” Taumaunu said.
Silver Ferns squad: Shooters: Irene van Dyk, Maria Tutaia, Cathrine Latu, Jodi Brown Midcourt: Laura Langman (vice-captain), Camilla Lees, Bailey Mes, Kayla Cullen Defence: Leana de Bruin, Katrina Grant, Anna Harrison, Casey Williams (captain).
- Fairfax Media