Captain Casey Kopua might be ruled out of on-court action on the Silver Ferns' tour of the UK, but has a new job on the sidelines.
Kopua will act as a technical advisor alongside performance analyst Bobby Wilcox, collating statistics on a laptop on the New Zealand bench.
"I might look a bit official," quipped Kopua, who was replaced yesterday in the Ferns' squad of 12 by Phoenix Karaka as the skipper overcomes ankle surgery.
Instead of staying back, Kopua will take Karaka's place as one of the four "training partners" along with Bailey Mes, Malia Paseka and Courtney Tairi.
"I was always going to be going to England, it was just in what capacity or what I would be doing while being there," she said.
The Ferns left last night for the tour which involves two exhibition matches against Scotland, tests against England and Jamaica, before an exhibition match against England A.
Kopua will surrender the on-court captaincy to Laura Langman, but will still be a leader off the court.
The 28-year-old was also keen on getting accustomed to the rigours of a long-haul flight, which she hasn't experienced for a while.
"And how you feel when you get off the plane, that's all things that can be important for when you get there, so if you don't get it right this time, you can make sure you get it right for next time," she said in reference to the Commonwealth Games which are in Scotland in July.
Kopua had booked in surgery on her left ankle for December, following the Fast5 tournament.
"It was just niggly, and I had an opportunity to get it right before July," she said.
"It's just been a buildup ... probably over years."
With a couple of dodgy knees, which currently are actually serving her pretty well, Kopua said she is progressing all right after the "tidy up" surgery. Her time off the court is more a precaution than anything too major, with Kopua admitting she was likely to have played had it been a major tournament final.
"If you ask me, yep. If you ask the medical team, I don't know what they would say."
Kopua is still doing weights but with not as much load as usual on the ankle and is also biking and swimming to keep fit while not running. She is definitely on track to play in the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic's trans-Tasman league pre-season games.
"Honestly, it's just a day by day, week by week sort of thing. Obviously I've been through a fair few injuries so you've just got to take it like that because if you get too excited that's when you have those off days. So you've just got to keep it real."
While Kopua is on the mend, youngster Karaka will get a chance to show her wares at the top level, after just one season in the trans-Tasman league, with the Southern Steel.
The 20-year-old made a big impact off the bench last season, was in the New Zealand Accelerant Squad and was also to the fore for the New Zealand under-21 side which claimed the world youth championship in Scotland last year.
Karaka was pulled aside by coach Waimarama Taumaunu at breakfast yesterday ahead of their training session, to be given word of her promotion.
"I was a bit shocked," Karaka admitted. "Coming into training I kind of felt like there was a lot more expected of me, but the girls made it so much easier, they'd been supporting me.
"Just being part of the training squad was exciting, but getting pulled in has made me a bit nervous, but a lot more excited, to get to be alongside the top netballers in New Zealand."
As it stands, Karaka believed a late call-up actually suited her best.
"I think I'm better when I've been told last minute. I tend to dwell on things a bit. I think it was a good way to tell me, just straight before we left, so I don't have too much time to over-think it, and just get on with the game."
Karaka said she hadn't been given any indication of how much game time she may see, and doesn't actually expect to play, but if she does get the opportunity she's "going to grab it with both hands".
"If I get the chance to play then that's a dream come true, but my first thing is to just help the girls out and help them train, and just be there to support them."
- Fairfax Media
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