Claire Kersten's signature means the Central Pulse have all-but confirmed their 2018 squad
Claire Kersten hopes to be twice the player, come the next national premiership season.
The Central Pulse wing defence re-signed with the franchise on Friday, fresh from being named in the Silver Ferns' development squad for the next 12-month cycle.
The 28-year-old Newlands College science and biology teacher distinguished herself as one of New Zealand's elite wing defence exponents this year, as the Pulse progressed through to the premiership grand final. Kersten's reward was a maiden invite to the national trials, where she quickly ascertained what stands between her and a full Silver Ferns' bib.
"I'd love to really develop my game at centre. I think having two really genuine positions that you can play is a massive bonus so that's one thing that I'm definitely wanting to work on and the feeding and the timing and the attacking skills that come with that, so that's a real focus for me over the next wee while," Kersten said.
"I love wing D and that will probably always be my No.1 position but - it's like anything really - if you want to keep growing your game and keep learning, you've got to challenge yourself and learning to play centre is definitely going to provide that."
Kersten's re-siging means the Pulse have nine of their squad teed up for next May, when the premiership resumes. Centre is the spot where they still appear to be in greatest need and England's Sara Bayman filled that void this year.
There's still scope for an import to join the Pulse's 2018 ranks and it wouldn't be a shock if it was in that position. Beyond Kersten, wing attack - and new Silver Fern - Whitney Souness is the other centre option coach Yvette McCausland-Durie has talked about, but you don't tinker with areas of strength to plug one gap lightly.
It's all a long way off anyway, with the Silver Ferns about to embark on 11 test matches between now and mid-October. South Africa, England and Australia will be the opponents in the short-term, with tests in January and February still to be announced.
The Silver Ferns have the Commonwealth Games in April and it's via those January and February matches that players such as Kersten - and Pulse and development squad team-mate Ameliaranne Ekenasio - are most-likely to force their way into the games' squad.
After that it'll be a matter of finding out of the Pulse can go one better in the premiership than they did this year.
"Because we've got a pretty core group of players staying on, that puts us in a good space to do that," said Kersten.
"We've got to start again, obviously. It's a new year and we can't just rely on the fact that we had a pretty successful year this year."