Netball: Bailey Mes sets standard for Silver Ferns on return from injury

Shooter Bailey Mes is savouring her return to the Silver Ferns environment, after a long injury layoff.

Last May, the 31-year-old withdrew from the Northern Mystics ANZ Premiership campaign for knee surgery to repair a patella cartilage damaged during the Nations Cup in England.

After almost a year off the court, Mes is relieved to be reunited with her Ferns teammates at the squad's camp in Wellington last week.

"It's awesome being back," Mes says. "It's been a long year of rehab and watching from the sidelines. 

"It's amazing to see the girls again. I'm just really grateful to be able to run around with them instead of watching."

And despite her extended absence, Mes showed not a hint of rust, as she aced coach Dame Noeline Taurua's notoriously unapologetic fitness testing - which had already seen the demise of five players.

"It's been over a year since Bailey's played, and to see her actually out on court and smash our fitness testing has not only been heartening for us, but the rest of the squad as well," says Dame Noeline.

In fact, Taurua calls Mes' performance one of the highlights of the four days in the capital, especially with the Constellation Cup looming large on the horizon.

"I think she's one of the positive things to have come out [of camp]," says Dame Noeline.

"The next five weeks will be critical as to her selection… we don't want to push it too fast, too soon."

The Aucklander won't be a certainty for instant re-selection, facing increased competition within the shooting circle from the likes of Maia Wilson, who shone during October's Taini Jamison Trophy series.

Mes insists she has complete confidence in her newly repaired knee, after a patient approach to rehab.

"We really took our time and made sure I did everything really well before I got back, so hopefully that will pay off," she says. "There's still a bit of management involved, but it should be all good to go."

In March, the Silver Ferns will play four matches against Australia, two apiece in Christchurch and Tauranga.

The two sides will square off for the first time since the 2019 edition of the annual trans-Tasman series, where Australia retained the trophy, despite honours being shared two wins apiece.

With the World Cup safely stashed away, the Constellation Cup is the one glaring omission from the NZ trophy cabinet - the Silver Ferns haven't held it since 2012.

"It's really exciting," says Mes. "It has been a while since we played them.

"I really like playing Australia… it's as tough as it gets and obviously, after a pretty tough year, it'd be cool to get out there and win."