Northern Stars head coach Kiri Wills wants to see more of her players on the Silver Ferns roster for the 2019 Netball World Cup.
After inheriting a Premiership squad in 2018, Northern Stars head coach Kiri Wills has hit the ground running after hand selecting a side she feels can win a title this year.
Renowned for reviving netball careers in players like Paula Griffin, Anna Thompson and Ellen Halpenny, Wills has made a statement to grow depth within her youngsters in this year's selection.
While there is excitement in South Auckland with the return of veterans Temepara Bailey and Leana de Bruin, her experience as the 2017 World Youth Cup champion's head coach has seen the retention of Silver Ferns shooter Maia Wilson, and the injection of former Central Pulse midcourter Mila Reuelu-Buchanan - both who featured in the youth cup win.
"Currently we only have one Silver Fern in our mix but we have sleeping giants, so I hope the Ferns selectors are watching because we have players that could upset the mix," says Wills
"I've got high hopes for them, but I understand that there is already a plan in place and we have to really push hard to get them to where they need to be."
It's her senior recruits de Bruin and Bailey who will help guide these players on court and that includes Kayla Cullen who returns from the injury that kept her side-lined for the entirety of last season.
But a high-profile status hasn't been enough for Wills to avoid criticisms for her player picks and admits she has had to heavily justify her choices - Bailey in particular.
"I put money on Leana being the fittest defender in the league and Bubby can last and make critical decisions till the end of a game," says Wills
"I've back these players ahead of others and that negotiating space is really interesting as a coach because I've never had to deal with that before."
"Those under 21 girls are being influenced by leaders like Leana de Bruin and Temepara Bailey but then you have the ones in the middle like Kayla, Holly, Ellen and Storm to bridge the gap... hopefully I nailed it."
Retired Silver Fern Leana de Bruin has been able to use the attention of midcourt legend Temepara Bailey's return to elite netball as a smokescreen to slip back into the team.
The 41-year-old Stars foundation player left for the Adelaide Thunderbirds in Australia's Super Netball competition in 2018, an experience she and Thunderbird teammate and new Stars shooter Charlee Hodges will want to forget as they trade the pink dresses for purple.
Retirement from netball all together has been something de Bruin has pondered for the last couple of seasons but despite that has quickly picked up where she left off at the Stars resuming duties at the defensive end and reclaiming her captaincy.
"It was tough I'm not going to lie and losing a lot of games was tough (at the Thunderbirds), we didn't win one, but I'm glad I went for the competition with world class players, so I wasn't left wondering," says de Bruin
"I want to finish at home, I wanted to finish my career at home with my own people where everything started for me - that was my biggest drive."
The Stars welcome another former Silver Fern in Storm Purvis who is also returning from injury.
The 26-year-old played who played for the Mystics last season has no desire to play for the Silver Ferns having already retired from international netball upon medical advice, so now wants to use her experience to not help prepare her "purple army" team mates for a chance, but to enjoy playing netball alongside some of her heroes.
"The end of 2017 I made myself unavailable for international netball due to injuries with my knees I kind of had to make a mature call to stick to domestic netball," says Purvis
"This is my eighth year in the league and I've never felt like a leader but being here and talking about my experiences I naturally thrive off helping the other girls grow now,
"I love playing with Leana de Bruin, I don't know what it is but we have this invisible connection which is really cool so hopefully that transfers into the season."
The Northern Stars will face the Southern Steel in round one of the 2019 ANZ Premiership on February 24th.