Catherine Cox feels pressure for her place
Catherine Cox is not a selector but as a shooter with 15 years as an international netballer she is an astute judge of form - so she would be shocked to avoid the axe from Australia's line-up for her 100th test.
Her milestone takes on added significance for the world champions after they dropped the opening match of the Constellation Cup series to the Silver Ferns in Melbourne on Sunday.
Should New Zealand record consecutive victories against their rivals for the first time 2005 in Auckland on Sunday it will also secure their first series triumph since Norma Plummer's debut as the Diamonds coach resulted in a 3-0 whitewash eight years ago.
Cox was a regular in national squads during the reign of Plummer and her predecessor Jill McIntosh and is the vice-captain as Lisa Alexander makes her imprint on Australia's habitually successful, though underappreciated, women's sporting team.
The 36-year-old is the Australian equivalent of Irene van Dyk, and although the Ferns legendary shooter has more double Cox's test caps they share similar strengths and longevity in a code where the physical demands suggest it is a young women's game.
They have rolled with the virtual punches throughout their careers but Cox is pragmatic enough to realise celebrating her centurion status by starting at goal shoot inside Vector Arena is not guaranteed.
Cox's accuracy is seldom on a par with van Dyk though she outscored her counterpart during the three quarters she played of the Ferns 54-52 success on Sunday.
However, six missed attempts were crucial as Maria Tutaia became more influential and van Dyk kept zeroing in on the hoop then when she was relieved, super sub Caitlin Bassett almost orchestrated another game-changing cameo with a 15-goal burst.
Cox is already accustomed to playing second fiddle to the 24-year-old West Australian - when the Whangarei-born Sydneysider relocated to Plummer's West Coast Fever this year, part of the deal involved repositioning herself at goal attack after potting thousands of balls in the GS bib.
And the quality of Bassett's intervention had her braced for another demotion when Alexander settles on her starting seven.
"She's hard on my heels and good on her too. Fifteen goals in the last quarter ... I wouldn't be surprised if Lisa started with her in the next team match.
"You know, if I was the coach, I probably would too. I know what's going on, I do a bit of coaching myself so you can't ignore those sorts of stats and I know how much of an impact she has when she comes on the court.
"We'll see, Caitlin's certainly playing well and she's a massive target."
Australia's tallest shooter certainly has the Ferns reconsidering how to nullify the opponent who dashed their world championship dreams last year.
"I think she's more of an impact type of player but she definitely makes a difference and I think she'll get more game time," said Leana de Bruin.
"She's pretty tall and they feed her very accurately. That's something we've got to look at and combat better."
Cox, meanwhile, is still regarded as an obstacle according to the dual international.
"She's got a cool head under pressure," said de Bruin, "She's quite a smart player. She's definitely still a big threat."
Regardless of her role Cox, the consummate team player, had no doubt the Australians could take the series to a decider in Christchurch on Sunday.
"It's never a problem coming back from one down," she warned, blaming a lack of preparation for their narrow defeat.
"It's just a lack of time together. We came into camp three days before the test, that's quite short for us.
"We'll work on our combinations and knuckle down. Those girls are completely capable of playing good games."
Both sides crossed the Tasman yesterday and ramp up their preparation on the practice court this morning.
The knee injury that ruled captain Casey Williams out of Sunday's game will be monitored at the Ferns workout; Australia had no fitness concerns other than the standard bumps and bruises.