Silver Ferns captain Casey Williams has warned she is no certainty to be right for the remaining matches in the Quad Series as she battles an ongoing knee injury.
After a 15-month international hiatus because of ankle surgery and the latest patellar tendonitis problem, Williams returned with two second half outings against South Africa and England, but is consistently doubtful for court time.
The Ferns meet the Australian Diamonds in Sydney tomorrow afternoon in a crucial clash ahead of their rematch in the last game of the series in Hamilton on November 1.
But while Williams rates it 100 per cent when on court, her knee is a day-by-day prospect, and each morning she has to wake up and see how it is on the pain threshold.
"At the moment there's no pain during the game, afterwards it's a little bit achy, but that's better than what it was," Williams said. "I think everybody wakes up feeling a bit old in the mornings."
The 27-year-old has some strength sessions with the team in the next couple of weeks and a few extra pool sessions as well.
"Some days it feels good and some days it does not, and that's going to happen. Probably for me it's hard to accept that but I have to, and just think about the long-haul," she said.
"I'm not going to go out and blow myself in this game and then can't play the next three. So it's more just about looking ahead and making sure I can still walk at the end of the year."
When she is able to take the court, Williams is wanting a drastic improvement in her game specifics and court awareness, as she was not happy with what she's put out so far.
"Probably with my performances I would have liked to have been back to my usual quicker [self] but that's not going to happen. I guess it's just [about] taking baby steps at a time, which is quite frustrating because I want to be like I was beforehand. I hate waiting for things to be right. I'm very impatient."
While Williams realised she could only go up from here, she is very nervous about playing the Diamonds. "I struggled against England and South Africa, and that's a whole other level, Australia. It's quite hard because I need the court time and I need the practice, and for me to do that it's in front of the public, which is not a very nice thing to do. But that's life and that's sport and I'll be giving it 100 per cent if I do get the chance."
Fellow defenders Katrina Grant and Leana de Bruin are in fantastic form and without Williams the Ferns beat Australia 2-1 in the Constellation Cup series last month.
The Ferns' loss came in the dead rubber without sharp shooter Maria Tutaia, while the Diamonds now have Laura Geitz, Julie Corletto and Natalie Medhurst sidelined.
Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu is likely to use centre Laura Langman at wing attack, to accommodate 20-year-old Kayla Cullen, who has impressed with her calmness and ability to find the right options.