New Zealand's sensational first quarter of their first game at Netball's World Cup sets up a big win and big expectations, writes Merryn Anderson
Silver Ferns fans may have let out a sigh of relief when their team scored the first goal of their Netball World Cup campaign.
All nerves would have gone out the window when they scored the next eight.
The Ferns dominated the match against Trinidad and Tobago from the opening whistle, getting all 12 players on court in the 76-27 win.
Up 23-2 after the first quarter, the win seemed inevitable, so coach Dame Noeline Taurua rang the changes, putting all 12 on court by the second quarter.
The substitutions weren’t seamless, and while it didn’t hurt the flow of the game (the margin was already far too wide), it could be a cause for concern for future games.
For the second stage of the World Cup, the Ferns are likely to play South Africa and Jamaica, so they can’t stall, even for a second, against a more competitive team.
We’re being nitpicky here, but the 2019 World Cup was decided by just one goal, so every error can be costly.
Despite what the scoreline reads, the Ferns were a bit rusty, slowing down after their speedy start.
After winning the first quarter by 21 goals, they won the second by just 11, and the third by just six. It was a combination of New Zealand’s errors and Trinidad and Tobago tidying up their game and finding their flow on attack.
Silver Ferns assistant coach Deb Fuller told Sky Sport she wished the substitutions were a bit more more seamless, especially in the third quarter, when Trinidad and Tobago led the stanza at one point.
"We just needed to adjust a bit quicker...but really good to see some strong combinations coming through," she says.
Playing in her first World Cup, 21-year-old Grace Nweke was a standout at goal shoot for the Ferns, shooting 31 goals at 100 percent. She had a few offensive penalties, but managed to keep strong against some physical defence.
Another World Cup debutant, Maia Wilson, was equally competent when she took the court, playing at both goal shoot and goal attack.
A surprise for Ferns fans was Kelly Jury playing at wing defence for the first time in the Ferns dress, the 1.92m defender usually seen inside the circle.
Jury jokes she had a month-long crash course with the WD bib before being thrust in the deep end in her first World Cup.
"I'm loving the more space to roam around and loving the challenge as well," she told Sky Sport after the match.
Having to adjust to several different combinations throughout the court, Jury says it was a good first test.
"Every team we play, there's different timings we have to set in place. I think at times, we did stray away and probably got a bit too excited and started going for ball that we probably shouldn't have."
Jury believes coach Taurua would have been pretty pleased with the win, despite the Ferns maybe taking their foot off the gas as the game went on.
"I think a big thing we wanted to focus on was our starts, and to keep them to two goals in the first quarter is pretty good," she explains.
The two teams last met at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, when New Zealand won 80-24, so the margin was largely similar.
The Caribbean team has only beaten New Zealand once, back in 1988.
Fuller isn't too concerned about the slight lull after the first quarter, unsurprising considering the 49-goal scoreline.
"What we're doing is building a game style that can counter the upcoming games," she told Sky Sport.
"Really important that we pull the game apart now and find those things and just fix them, but also build on our strengths."
The Silver Ferns' next game is Saturday night, where they play Uganda, who will likely pose a tougher challenge than Trinidad and Tobago. Their final pool play game is Sunday evening against Singapore, who shouldn't trouble the Ferns.
*All Netball World Cup games are being broadcast live on Sky Sport.