Rising teenage sensation Grace Nweke will spearhead the Northern Mystics shooting end when the ANZ Premiership resumes next month, with Silver Fern Bailey Mes out for the season through injury.
Amazingly the 18-year-old will be the most experienced player in a shooting end comprising three teenagers, despite being the youngest of the trio.
Mes had been struggling with a patella cartilage injury which she picked up during the Silver Ferns Netball Nations Cup UK tour and has been sidelined since the pre-season campaign began.
Undergoing surgery on the 1st May during Level 3 Covid-19 lockdown, she will miss the ANZ Premiership campaign when it resumes on 19th June.
Asher Grapes, aged 19, has been elevated to a full-time member of the Northern Mystics, replacing Mes in the shooting circle.
Grapes will join Nweke and another 18-year-old rookie Saviour Tui in the shooting circle.
Mes said the signs weren't good leading into the original ANZ start date in March.
"We tried a conservative approach [to the injury] for quite a while and I did see some improvements but essentially the things I needed to do to be able to play at the level required was not really going to happen ...I didn't really even get to the point of running comfortably," Mes said.
"Then with the decision to have surgery was made, I knew I'd be out so I've had a little bit of time to come to terms with everything."
The recovery time means it's highly unlikely Mes will get any action for the Silver Ferns later this year, notwithstanding the cloud of Covid-19 hanging over international Tests.
"Somewhere between five and six months would be a good goal, kind of the best case scenario would be about five ...I'll be able to run in about 12 weeks."
Mes is no stranger to serious injury. In 2013, she ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee, late in the ANZ Championship.
It's unfortunate timing for the 30-year-old. With the retirement of Silver Ferns shooting Maria Folau, Mes had a prime opportunity to get more court time in 2020.
"It's definitely a set back but it won't be the end by any means if I can avoid it. It's a pretty straight forward injury, I've been through that kind of rehab process before so it's unfortunate but I'm definitely wanting to continue playing as soon as possible.
"I'm actually really happy to have just had the operation and be able to work my way back with a kind of known outcome. In terms of this year I was really excited to play, and I was super excited for the Mystics team that we have this year."
This is Nweke's first full ANZ Premiership season, having been promoted into the side part-way through last year.
Mes is confident she along with Tui and Grapes can rise to the occasion.
"It's definitely going to be a big job but Grace, this is her second year in the competition and she's shown how strong she can be on court and how much of a weapon she is for us. I think Saviour and Ash have both shown that they're able to step up and support her so well and they are very different players so that's a real strength of ours. It's just exciting, it's such a good opportunity for all of them to be on court."
The trio stepped up when the side was without Mes for their round one game in March, before the competition was put on hold due to the Covid-19.
Teen star Nweke put in a stellar shooting performance to guide the Mystics to a tight win over the Northern Stars, finishing with 40-from-43.
Asher Grapes and Saviour Tui shared court time at goal attack.
The Mystics expect to have their first training together since lockdown by the end of the week.