Silver Ferns v England: NZ skipper Ameliaranne Ekenasio warns of burgeoning partnership with Maia Wilson

One of the burning questions hanging over NZ netball in recent seasons was how the national team would replace the world-class shooting ability of Maria Folau, when she inevitably stepped away from the game.

While the Silver Ferns stuttered - at times - to their clean sweep over an understrength England Roses last week, at the very least, Maia Wilson emerged as the answer to the Folau riddle.

Wilson, 23, converted an outstanding 44/47 (94 percent) during New Zealand's 62-47 series-clinching victory in Hamilton on Sunday, with she and skipper Ameliaranne Ekenasio shooting faultlessly through most of the opening two quarters.

Over the three encounters, she slotted 116/127 (91 percent), hinting at a mid-range game reminiscent of the star she had replaced.

When Folau retired after last year's Constellation Cup seres, she had amassed 150 test caps - second only behind then-captain Laura Langman.

Wilson, who debuted for the Ferns as a teenager in 2016, had struggled to hold a place in the national set-up, but saw the opportunity and seized it during 2020, transforming herself into an automatic starter.

"Maia has been absolutely unreal," says Ekenasio. "I've always really enjoyed playing with her, but I've seen her go from strength to strength, even within the last year.

"She just continues to grow and continues to amaze me in what she does - I sometimes forget how young she is.

"But I think the combination is still coming - there's still a lot more we can do. She's so keen to get stuck into 'however it's going to work' and that's good.

"There's not just one way we can play together, there's multiple, which is really good for growing both of us. It's a combination I'm definitely loving."

As Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua adjusts to the absence of all four World Cup 'fossils' - Folau, Langman, defender Casey Kopua and now mother-to-be Katrina Rore - defence looms as her next area of attention.

Taurua hopes to face archrivals Australia in a delayed trans-Tasman series early next year and Rore won't return by then, leaving the goal defence position somewhat exposed.

"We've got a few that are preggy at the moment," she says, also alluding to Phoenix Karaka, who is expecting a baby with All Blacks partner Patrick Tuipulotu. 

"That's an area Jane [Watson] has been playing, but she is actually an international goal keep as well."

Sulu Fitzpatrick returned from the wilderness - she previously played for New Zealand in 2011 - to stake her claim on the defensive circle against England.

"We needed to be able to see that in real time, playing against an international country, so I got a bit of a look and know what that feels like."