Friday, 28 July 2023: Defending champion New Zealand and the world’s top-ranked side, Australia, kicked off their Netball World Cup 2023 campaigns with convincing victories while Uganda earned the host continent their first win of the tournament.
NEW ZEALAND 76 – 27 TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
New Zealand’s Silver Ferns began their Netball World Cup title defence with a dominant display over Trinidad and Tobago at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in South Africa on Friday, claiming a 76-27 victory.
The 2019 Netball World Cup champions raced into a nine-goal lead before Joelisa Cooper could slot in Trinidad and Tobago’s first goal of the tournament. With Grace Nweke notching up a flawless 100 per cent shooting record at the other end of the court in the first quarter, the Silver Ferns were 23-2 up by the first break.
They continued that momentum into the second quarter, Maia Wilson coming on for Nweke and continuing the 100 per cent scoring record. But Trinidad and Tobago managed to find their shooters in the circle with more regularity – wing attack Shantel Seemungal and later centre Alena Brooks working hard in midcourt – scoring nine goals of their own to take the score to 43-11 at half time.
It was an even better third quarter from the Caribbean nation as they began by matching New Zealand goal for goal for the first 10 minutes and enjoyed 57 per cent of the possession. They once again scored nine goals but restricted the Silver Ferns to just 15 as New Zealand coach Noeline Taurua gave each of her players some court time. Trinidad and Tobago continued their positive performance in the final period, but ultimately the defending champions wrapped up a resounding victory.
New Zealand’s South African-born defender Karin Burger was named Most Valuable Player
“I was happy with the start. I thought we were quite dominant,” said Taurua afterwards. “There are some elements we’ve been working on and I could see that out on court. I thought that as the game progressed we sort of pulled ourselves apart or the opposition did and we became reactive but it’s a good start for us and we know the areas we can improve on.”
New Zealand captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio added: “I think we did start well but we have to make sure that we continue to rise above the physicality when it comes so it was a good challenge for us…
“Obviously we had multiple combos out there but we’ve always talked around the fact that no matter who is on we have to be able to do our job so it’s just getting that consistency across the quarters but good for us to know now where we can grow.”
Trinidad and Tobago coach Joel “Twiggy” Young-Strong was pleased with her side’s performance, particularly in the second half.
“New Zealand is New Zealand – they were the World Cup winners so it was tough. We took a little too long to settle in but when we settled in we did some good things, we did some great things and I am very pleased with the goal that we set – to lift our goals against New Zealand and we did that so we celebrate some small wins today.
Q2: 43-11 (20-9)
Q3: 58-20 (15-9)
Q4: 76-27 (18-7)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Karin Burger (New Zealand)
TONGA 56 – 51 FIJI
A spirited Tonga, in only their second outing at the sport’s showpiece, beat Fiji 56-51 in a Group A encounter on day 1 of the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town. It was the first time these two island nations have met at the World Cup with Fiji participating for the 10th time.
Tonga took to the court wearing black armbands after the recent death of Mo’onia Gerrard’s mother. The 42-year-old defender came out of retirement to represent her second country at a World Cup, previously winning the gold medal with Australia at the 2007 and 2011 tournaments. She made her international debut against South Africa in Johannesburg in 2004.
It was a tentative start by both teams. Fiji decided on an aerial game to counter the more physical play of Tonga. It mattered on the scoreboard, and they ended the first 15 minutes with a five-goal lead.
At the start of the second quarter, Tonga managed to grab a few goals and scored the equaliser after five minutes. Despite outscoring Fiji, their opponents went into the halftime break with a two-point lead.
When shooter Cathrine Tuivaiti came on court for Tonga in the third quarter, it was for the representation of her third country, having previously played for Samoa and New Zealand. The 2023 World Cup is her second one, after playing for Samoa at the 2007 tournament in Auckland.
With the third quarter winding down, Tonga’s superior position on the world rankings, seventh compared to Fiji’s 17th, enabled them to get a hold of the game. Although Fiji’s goal circle was operating well, silly mistakes were starting to creep in, costing them dearly.
The last 15 minutes of the match saw strong attacking play from Tonga, putting their opponents under constant pressure across the court. Accurate shooting by Tuivaiti and Uneeq Palavi ensured the win.
Tonga vice-captain Kelea Iongi was delighted with her team’s first victory at the 2023 World Cup.
“It was just important to stay one on one and grind it out on defence and attack. It was just a case of staying calm, getting the tips and the intercepts. It was a great team effort,” she said.
Tonga centre Hulita Veve was named Most Valuable Player. She put in a great all-round performance, moving the ball through mid-court and getting several intercepts at crucial moments during the match.
Q2: 28-26 (15-12)
Q3: 40-36 (14-8)
Q4: 56-51 (16-15)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Hulita Veve (Tonga)
AUSTRALIA 86-30 ZIMBABWE
World number one Australia completely outplayed Zimbabwe in their first match at the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town, beating their African counterparts 86-30. This was just the second World Cup meeting between the two countries. Australia won the only other encounter 73-37 four years ago in Liverpool.
Both teams remained the same for the first half of the match, with coaches Stacey Marinkovich and Ropafadzo Mutsauki appearing to take a “wait and see” approach. In the third quarter though, Marinkovich rung the changes, bringing on the remaining reserves and making several positional switches, including Ash Brazzil moving from wing defence to centre and Jo Weston moving from centre to goal defence for Australia.
For Zimbabwe, captain Felisitus Kwangwa switched from goal defence to wing defence, Joice Takaidza from centre to goal defence and Sharleen Tanaka Makusha from wing defence to centre.
With Zimbabwe claiming 51 per cent of the possession during the first two quarters, the latter stages of the match saw the 2022 Commonwealth Games champions completely stamping their authority on proceedings. The Aussies claimed 15 intercepts, considerably cutting down the passing options of Zimbabwe.
Australian captain Liz Watson brushed off having to step from the court to be re-strapped for a light scratch, saying it was good to get the pressure of the first game out of the way despite being the top-ranked team in the world.
“There are some really strong countries here and international netball is getting tighter all the time. We’ve had some nice success over the past 18 months, this was a great start and now we can build from here and go all the way. We just have to embrace being number one and be proud of that.”
It was a less-than-impressed Zim coach Mutsauki who addressed the media after the match.
“We lacked character today, especially in the second half. We gave Australia too much respect. It is now back to the drawing board before tomorrow.”
Courtney Bruce was named Most Valuable Player. Even though she only came on in the third quarter for Australia, coach Marinkovich used her versatility to great advantage. Bruce started at goalkeeper and then moved to wing defence, centre and goal defence.
Q2: 41-18 (21-7)
Q3: 62-24 (21-6)
Q4: 86-30 (24-6)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Courtney Bruce (Australia)
UGANDA 79-37 SINGAPORE
A first Netball World Cup clash between Uganda and Singapore saw the African nation dominating from start to finish and walking away with a 79-37 victory.
The She Cranes pulled away in the first quarter, enjoying 60 per cent of the possession in the period and surging ahead to a 22-9 lead.
It was more of the same in the second quarter as the Ugandans proved quicker and slicker on all fronts with Haniisha Muhameed and Shadiah Nassanga doing the business in the shooting circle.
The Ugandans stuck with their starting seven throughout the first half, coach Fred Mugerwa only making changes at half time. He brought 6 foot 6 Mary Cholhok on as goal shooter, with captain Irene Eyaru in as goal attack among several other changes.
Cholhok is one of just two players in the Ugandan squad with Netball World Cup experience, having played at the previous tournament in 2019. She played just one quarter on Friday, however, as Mugerwa continued to roll in the changes and give all his players valuable court time.
Ultimately it was a comfortable victory for the east Africans, much to the delight of their vocal supporters in the crowd, although coach Mugerwa was convinced his side should have scored more goals.
“I was happy but not a hundred per cent,” he said. “We should have scored more than the goals we scored but I think there are some errors that we are making as a team, but we will work on that.
“Some passes were not good so we need to work on that, some of the movements as well, but the moment we work those ones out I think everything will be fine.”
Singapore captain Kai Wei Toh said the match provided a valuable learning experience for her side.
“It was a very big first game. We are a very young team so this game allowed them to experience different body builds and physicality – something that we can use to prepare for the next few games,” she said.
“We are fit enough to go for it – we just have to go for it. We didn’t expect it to be so tough but I think it’s a good thing that the team experienced it once and we know what to expect for the next one.”
“I think we can utilise our speed a bit more. Today we were a bit hesitant with our passes and runs because of their long arms and hands so if we are able to do that, we’ll be able to play a better game next time.”
Q2: 42-18 (20-9)
Q3: 62-29 (20-11)
Q4: 79-37 (17-8)
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Margret Baagala (Uganda)