Day one of the 2019 edition of the Netball World Cup kicked off in Liverpool with plenty of big scores but few surprises.
The big five contenders in Australia, New Zealand, England, South Africa and Jamaica all had solid wins in their opening games while Zimbabwe beat Sri Lanka in the former’s first-ever World Cup appearance.
How does it work?
The tournament starts with 16 teams competing in four round-robin groups with each team playing three games across Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The top three teams in Group A and B will move through to play in Group F, while the top three sides in Group C and D will move into Group G.
The bottom team from each group in the first preliminary stage will go into Group E and will play off for places 13 to 16.
Teams finishing first and second in groups F and G will go through to the semi-finals on July 20, with the top-placed team in each group facing the second team in the other group.
The winners of each semi-final will compete for gold in the final, with the losers playing for bronze and the other remaining teams will compete for final placings from fifth to 16th.
Australia v Northern Ireland
It was dominant opening match performance by the world number ones, who thrashed Northern Ireland 88-24. The result was no surprise with the Diamonds up against the ninth-ranked team in the world.
NSW Swift Sarah Klau made her Diamonds debut, starting GK alongside Jo Weston in GD. GIANT Jamie-Lee Price started in WD with Liz Watson in C, Kelsey Browne at WA and GA Steph Wood joining GIANT Caitlin Bassett at GS in the shooting circle.
The Diamonds conceded just seven goals in the opening quarter to streak out to a 17-goal lead by the first break. Bassett and Wood both shot at 100 per cent in the opening term, with the same line-up heading into the second quarter.
The midcourt combination of vice-captain Watson at centre, Price at wing defence and Browne at wing attack provided all the speed, toughness and creativity needed to help Wood and Bassett shoot an incredible 44 of 46 at the half to lead by 30 goals.
There were plenty of fresh faces to take the court in the second half with shooting duo Caitlin Thwaites and Gretel Tippett coming on, Paige Hadley moving to C and Courtney Bruce at GK joining April Brandley in GD.
A big hit to Northern Ireland captain Caroline O’Hanlon halted the game in the third quarter, but the break in play, and the new line-up, couldn’t stop the Diamonds’ momentum. They were out to a 48-goal lead by three-quarter-time, with Price’s day done as Weston moved to WD. Vice-captain Watson also returned to the court at WA.
Every Diamonds squad member had a run across the four quarters as Australia piled on the goals to finish the match up by 64 goals.
Caitlin Bassett: Our GIANTS shooter wasted no time proving that she is fit and raring to go after missing both warm-up matches in Manchester with concussion, scoring the opening five goals of the game. She finished with a match-high 33 of 34, shooting from just two quarters. She played in combination with former Lightning teammate Steph Wood at GA before the duo were replaced by Gretel Tippett and Caitlin Thwaites for the second half.
Jamie-Lee Price: Any nerves from playing in her first World Cup at WD by our young Diamond quickly dissipated into a fine first half from Price. The midcourt speed of Price, in combination with Liz Watson at C and Kelsey Browne at WA, was evident with pace of speed and quick ball movement across the court. Price worked her way into the game with some great intercepts as the game went on before Jo Weston replaced her in WD for the final quarter.
England v Uganda
England were switched on from the beginning in front of a loud home crowd, with goal shooter Jo Harten – in her 100th international cap – starting well, and GA Helen Housby soon following suit.
Despite the best efforts of She Cranes shooters Peace Proscovia and Rachael Nanyonga, the final five minutes of the quarter saw a calculated England move into a commanding position, leading 15-6 at the end of the first period.
The second quarter was a closer affair, with England appearing unsettled as Uganda remained persistent, with Proscovia and Nanyonga displaying impeccable precision in the shooting circle.
At the other end though, Uganda’s defence could not hold England back as Serena Guthrie, playing in her third World Cup, and Chelsea Pitman were able to feed the impressive Harten.
Uganda showed their physicality in defence as they attempted to hold off England in the third quarter, but the Roses were in complete control going into the final quarter, leading 44-24.
The Roses found their second wind and were impressive in defence, dealing well with an increasingly physical game to only concede six goals in the final quarter.
In front of an appreciative home crowd, England ran out 64-32 winners to open their home World Cup in solid fashion.
Jo Harten: Harten has been used predominantly in GA for the GIANTS this season but started her 100th International match at GS and was in fine touch. Combining with Swift Helen Housby at GA, she moved back into the attacking position during the third quarter when she was joined on court by Rachel Dunn. Harten shot 29/35 at 83 per cent accuracy across the four quarters.
Australia take on Zimbabwe who are competing in their first-ever World Cup in game two at 6pm AEST on Saturday, while England play Scotland later that evening. The other match-ups see New Zealand and Barbados go head-to-head, Northern Ireland v Sri Lanka, Malawi v Singapore, Jamaica v Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda v Samoa and South Africa v Fiji.