Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic assistant coach Tanya Dearns could hold the key to retaining the franchise's three core Silver Ferns.
But maverick administrator John Parker may hold the balance of power and a potential conflict of interest involving former Silver Fern Margaret Forsyth also threatens to overshadow the appointment process.
After coach Noeline Taurua's departure, speculation has been rife that midcourt lynchpin Laura Langman, star shooter Irene van Dyk and Ferns captain Casey Kopua may follow.
Suggestions all three could deflect to one franchise are likely to prove wide of the mark, however. Squeezing the high-powered trio under the salary cap elsewhere would be a considerable stretch.
It is understood all three players could near double their earnings elsewhere with third-party deals - sweeteners such as cars and individual sponsorship arrangements - already being tabled. Package deals involving allowances for family and commuting are also being offered. These sorts of contracts have been frequent but loyalty to Taurua has been enough to rebuff them previously.
In Dearns the Magic have one similar trump card remaining. Interviews have been completed and the former Wellington NPC coach has been short listed, along with Forsyth and former NSW Swifts coach Julie Fitzgerald to take over from Taurua. A decision is expected by the end of this week.
Parker, who was forced to apologise for public criticism of New Zealand cricket captain Brendon McCullum during the "Taylor-gate" affair, is in charge of the Magic's high performance arm. While a five-person appointment panel which includes Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu is in place, Parker is understood to have firm views on the next coach and how new structures should be implemented.
Forsyth's inclusion is interesting. Only recently did she resign from the Magic's board and is now in line for the head coach role.
Fitzgerald's promotion could also prove problematic. Netball New Zealand will be required to sign off on her promotion and that would open up further claims of Australians blocking crucial Kiwi pathways following Vicki Wilson's appointment as Ferns assistant coach.
It is understood Dearns was short listed for the Ferns assistant coach role but, after being overlooked, she was promised coaching opportunities would open up at franchise level.
Dearns' possible succession at the Magic could pave the way for Langman, van Dyk and Kopua to commit for one more season as they would have major influence on how the team is run. Dearns represents a seamless transition rather than drastic changes.
Langman is being courted by New Zealand's wealthiest team, the Northern Mystics, while Wellington-based van Dyk and Kopua have been linked to the Canterbury Tactix and Central Pulse. The future of import Julie Corletto may hinge on the Mystics' pursuit of Langman.
Until the Magic coach is unveiled, their Ferns trio are in a holding pattern. They have until September 30 to make a final decision and with the Ferns assembling for trials in early August, a quick solution is unlikely.
- © Fairfax NZ News