And so to the first full day of competition.
It was a surprise to see the Trusts Stadium less than half full for one of the group stages’ most interesting contests between an emerging Malaysia and a resurgent South Africa. On this occasion, the South Africans’ better conditioning and broader experience held more power, but with some coaching and greater exposure to the world game, Malaysia could well step up the world rankings, with players like GS Aruna and WA Pei San definitely as skilled as opponents from other more established netball names. South Africa finally took the points easily, with a 67-28 victory, but they did not have things all their own way by far!
Nikita Piggott (Barbados) has the ball, and Joanna Binns (England) wants it
Photo By: Michael Bradley
In another battle of the old vs the new, Wales faced Botswana in an enticing clash for spectators, with two highly contrasting styles of play. Shame that the stadium remained only half full – maybe netball is only interesting in NZ if NZ is playing? Anyway, Wales finally overcame their insecurities and nerves to defeat Botswana, who put in some dazzling passages of play, but only occasionally, For Wales, Celtic Dragons star Sophie Baxter had a superb game at WA, despite the close attentions of a very physical opponent. “Bread of Heaven” was heard echoing from the stands towards the end of the game – Welsh supporters definitely rival those of the African nations in their tunefulness.
England looked the part of champions in their new Kukri-designed kit and racked up the competition’s top score so far, cruising past Barbados 87-34. Marg Caldow gave her entire squad a run out, with Jo Harten and Sara Bayman both picking up their first international caps, and Jo Binns having a sparkling game in England’s centre court. Meanwhile, Australia were just too strong for Samoa, running out 82 26 winners. Yet despite England’s heavy scoring rate and impressive performance, none of the tv stations or newspapers are talking about anything other than a NZ / Australia final. No matter – there’s definitely the opportunity for Marg Caldow and her girls to cruise in “under the radar”, but it would be nice for the Antipodean nations to forget their complacency and recognise the very real challenge that England and Jamaica present to their dominance. If not, there could be some egg on some faces very soon – that’s what I’m hoping for!
Simone Forbes (Jamaica), Darcel Daniels & Angela Tangimetua (Cook Islands) really, really want that ball
Photo By: Michael Bradley
Last thought for today – what would possess the competition’s organisers to stage it miles out of the city centre? With little or no public transport available to get spectators to and from the stadium, particularly late at night? Trains to nearby Henderson station are sporadic, and have been repeatedly cancelled over the weekend, leaving spectators stranded in unfamiliar surroundings – let’s just hope, for one, the London 2012 Olympic committee is paying attention, because there are some definite lessons to be learned!
Anyway, on to tomorrow – England plays Malaysia, at the same time that New Zealand plays Wales. Another opportunity for England to sneak in under the radar, methinks!