Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic hold player trials, Aaron Goile reports.
It's been a year since Jodi Tod last played netball but she could be a surprise inclusion in next year's Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic squad after appearing at their trial in Tauranga on Saturday.
The Papamoa-based 31-year-old was a permanent fixture in the Magic's trans-Tasman squad until she decided to pull the pin after last year's campaign to spend more time with family.
Tod, a former Silver Ferns squad member, then gave birth to her second child, Ruby, in May.
But after a couple of run arounds at training with the Bay of Plenty NPC team, she found she still had "that little itch", enjoyed the game and missed being with her team-mates.
"So I chatted to Noels [Magic coach Noeline Taurua] and I said: look, I might just come back and see how I go and you just be honest to me and just see whether I can still foot it or not."
Tod was one of 22 players put through a long day, which involved a 2 -hour session, followed by an hour break, and then six quarters of game play.
And despite hardly being able to walk on Sunday, Tod thought she went "not too bad".
"Noels was pretty honest and she said I was a little bit rusty," said Tod, who admitted having a break from the sport was quite nice and had refreshed her.
"But I think when you've got enough experience behind you, you can pull on those and it just comes back quite quickly. Probably just on the fitness side that I need to work on."
Tod said she would now wait to see if Taurua was seriously considering her for a place in the defending champions' squad.
"I'm probably still a little bit unsure, still talking to Noels and I've got to still sort out some of my commitments and make sure I've got everything I can in place before I can fully commit," she said.
Taurua has already made up her mind which players she wants in her 14-strong squad out of the ones who were at the franchise's sole trial.
But she couldn't disclose those yet as she said personnel could change depending on whether the Magic got the signatures of their big-name players.
At this stage the only player confirmed to be leaving is defender Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick, which would leave a nice hole for Tod to fill.
The Magic are one of the few franchises to hold a trial, with Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions putting names forward, and other players being invited by Taurua.
Three members of the Mt Albert Grammar School side, which won last week's national championships, trialled, including former league star Steve Price's daughter, Jamie-Lee.
However, Taurua has a strong preference for choosing from within the region, saying those from outside have to clearly be better players.
The trials also featured Rotorua's Sarah Cowley, 28, who competed at this year's Olympics in the heptathlon and has not played competitive netball for 12 years.
She hasn't quit athletics yet but is looking for a new challenge, though would have found it tough to break into the ranks in such a quality environment.
"I was actually quite rapt, to be honest," Taurua said of the skill level on show. "The first thing that I noticed was the standards that a lot of them have improved on.
"I can only link that to what the regional coaches are doing at the moment, and the clubs.
"I would have loved to have taken more but just never had enough spots.
"There were so many that were very close and I really want to look at how we can keep them linked in and grow their games."
Can the Magic win the final this year?