Ameliaranne Ekenasio has been a welcome addition to Central Pulse training this week.
The Silver Ferns skipper has taken a break from the sport, citing mental welfare, but now seems likely to return before the end of the ANZ Premiership.
The Pulse have extended the short-term contract of replacement Ivana Rowland by another three weeks, which points to a mid-May return for the sharpshooting Ekenasio.
The two-time defending champions slipped up in their opening game against Northern Stars last week, suffering a 57-53 shock loss.
But defender Kelly Jury says Ekenasio’s inspirational presence has added a new intensity to the training court and she hopes that will reflect come game time against Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic on Sunday.
"It's great to have Ameliaranne back in the environment," says Jury. "She's been doing a few drills and warming up with us, so just having that presence is awesome for us.
"We feed off her energy, both on and off the court - just having her voice out there again is great for us."
With Katrina Rore on maternity leave and the continued absence of Ekenasio, Jury has stepped into a leadership role - something that doesn't come naturally to the 24-year-old, but she tells Newshub she is growing into the role week-by-week.
"Big step up for me, with a lot of young girls around me, but I've really enjoyed it,” she says. “I've enjoyed that leadership role and those girls are working really hard to make my job easier.
"It's all new to me. I've never been much of a talker in court, but I am really working on that aspect of my game and it's been fun."
The Magic provide quite a daunting prospect and loom as an early pick for competition favourites.
After the recruitment of Australia Diamonds star Caitlin Bassett, the Magic were impressive in dispatching Northern Mystics 64-60 on Monday night.
Jury knows the Pulse will need to lift in intensity and quality to match their opponents’ offensive prowess this weekend.
"That first quarter really killed us last week, so looking towards the Magic, it's about getting a better start.
They have quality all over the court, but that's a challenge we will enjoy and embrace.
"I love coming up against the best and Caitlin is one of the best of all time, so I can't wait to test myself against her again."