Stars' coach Kiri Wills is relieved she decided to have extra padding in her shooting end for this year's ANZ Premiership, with Silver Fern Monica Falkner under an injury cloud.
By Bridget Tunnicliffe for rnz.co.nz
Falkner will miss Sunday's round three match with the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic due to a knee injury.
Falkner injured her left knee during the Stars' Round 1 clash with the Pulse and missed last weekend's game against the Tactix.
Wills said the injury was to the same knee Falkner suffered a ruptured ACL to in 2019, therefore extra caution was being taken around allowing her sufficient recovery time.
"She really ran hard to chase down a ball and then realised she wasn't going to stop in time so then she tried to jump the hoardings so we're just making sure that we're looking after her.
"We are looking for some further feedback on that injury in terms of when she can come back so we're likely to have an announcement later in the week around how long she's going to out for but we see her coming back in to the fold during the season," Wills said.
"We just want to make sure we know exactly what we need to work on ...she's having her surgeon from her ACL have a look at it so yeah we'll keep an eye on it."
Wills said it had highlighted the value of having a well stocked shooting end.
Wills opted to have four shooters on her 10 playing roster this year. Jamie Hume, who's in her second year at the Stars has been starting at goal attack, partnering with dominant Silver Ferns' goal shoot Maia Wilson.
Amorangi Malesala, who has returned to the Premiership after two years' in Australia, has seen a few minutes and offers something quite different.
"It's an area of court I think that can't be under-estimated and I think we're seeing with the Tactix at the moment what happens when you don't have depth in your shooting stocks.
"Because in the end it doesn't really matter what the rest of your team does if you can't put the ball in the hoop at the other end or get the ball to your shooters it makes life very difficult."
She said they were fortunate to have the quality of shooters they had to be able to replace someone of Falkner's calibre and back her up when she needed it.
"And there's fierce competition in our shooting circle. All four of them want to be out on court and so the quality of our training therefore lifts as well so it really is a win win.
"It is very hard for players who don't get picked for the starting line up so it's about managing that but also knowing that in the end we're going to get out there and put the best team on court and try and win games."
Wills said Falkner would be assessed on a week-to-week basis as she works towards a return to the court.
More to come
The Stars sit at the top of the table, unbeaten after two rounds and Wills is happy knowing that they've got lots of improvement to come, as new combinations gel.
"That first win against the Pulse it was a really weird feeling in the changing room, it felt like a loss.
"That first quarter showed us how good we can be when we score our own ball and score off our turnovers so the fire power is certainly there.
"It's just a matter of making sure we build on those moments and we will get better over time, there will be fewer mis-understandings because I think at the moment when we're losing ball it's more ourselves making errors rather than us being forced into those errors so yes there's a bit more to give."
Many picked last year's runners-up the Tactix as this year's favourites but the side have suffered two heavy losses and sit at the bottom of the ladder.
"I'll put my hand up and say that I absolutely expected Tactix to beat the Steel in round one of the competition and the Steel have shown that they can get things together relatively quickly, knowing that their goal shoot's only been here for two weeks.
"I think that was an amazing start from them so I think they exceeded my expectations but in saying that I think they are another team that's going to improve over time because they've had quite a few changes so I think they've set the bench mark and now they'll be pushing forward."
Wills said it was clear the Tactix were missing shooter Te Paea Selby-Rickit, who's working her way back from an ankle injury.
"When the Tactix lost TP Selby-Rickit at Otaki for a few weeks I knew that that was going to be tough for them. And once she gets back I think that we will see a different side, they will come out with a bit more confidence. At the moment they've got two goal attacks who haven't really had a lot of court time at this level and I think it's showing."
Wills is pleased with the fitness levels of her team but said she hadn't imposed minimum fitness standards.
"I know other franchises have done that this year but the way that we roll is that our values are about integrity. What is your intent and then what is your integrity? And it's about you backing up what you say you're going to do.
"When we recruit players it's really clear to them that we have expectations and should you not meet them then we will help you to get there. But in the contracting process the following year you're actually making it harder for yourself if we don't see the work being done."
Wills said she was lucky she had great leaders and a culture that looked after those people who weren't necessarily where they needed to be and pull them along.
"It's just an expectation of our squad so I haven't had to put those standards in and I don't foresee that being something that we would do in the future. We've just go to make sure that our girls understand what they need to do to produce the results on court."
The Stars meet the Magic at 6.15pm this Sunday in Tauranga.