The pinnacle event of World Netball has kicked off in Cape Town, with the current champions New Zealand facing Trinidad and Tobago. Three more games followed before the Opening Ceremony prefaced the home country's first game against Wales.
Although most of the results were as expected, there were still some close games to get fans on the edge of their seats.
New Zealand v Trinidad & Tobago: 76 to 27
With a starting seven that looks fairly close to what their endgame starting seven may be, the Silver Ferns were quick to take control of the game. With several early turnovers, the Calypso Girls were unable to score until the Ferns hit nine goals. Thanks to seven gains and five intercepts, Trinidad and Tobago left the first quarter with only two goals to their name, compared to New Zealand's 23.
Things picked up for Trinidad and Tobago, but the team was unable to hit double digits in any of their quarters. Although the Ferns may have taken their foot off the gas, they continued to score 15+ goals each quarter.
As the game progressed, the Ferns' bench took to the court, before several positional changes began. One such change game in the second half, with Kelly Jury, (traditionally a GK/GD) moving into wing defence, something the Ferns have been trialling in the previous weeks.
To their credit, Trinidad and Tobago were able to cause some upsets throughout the game, slowly building on their score. Unfortunately, the team lost their momentum in the final quarter but continued to keep their accuracy up (96%).
Tonga v Fiji: 56 to 51
In one of the tightly contested matches of the day is between the two Oceanic qualifiers, Tonga and Fiji. Whilst Tonga has not been involved in the NWC for over twenty years, they are currently ranked within the top ten teams across the world.
Many Australian and Kiwi fans will recognise the faces in the Tongan team, with many of the players based within domestic leagues in either country. Some identifiable names include Cat Tuivaiti (Silver Ferns, Tifa Moana), Mo'onia Gerrard (Diamonds), Kelela Iongi (Swifts) and Hulita Veve (Firebirds).
Fiji Pearls led in the first half, but were silenced by Tonga in the championship quarter, going down 14-8. Whilst Fiji got 15 goals in the final quarter, Tonga were still able to one-up them, ending the game with a four-point lead.
Australia v Zimbabwe: 86 to 30
South Africa's neighbour Zimbabwe had a plethora of fans hit Cape Town to support the Gems in their second world cup. Early on, the team was cheered on by the fans, as they went goal-for-goal against the world No. 1.
The Diamonds got into their groove and began to create a divide between the teams, finishing the first quarter at 20-11. This difference continued in the second quarter, with Zimbabwe appearing to lose a bit of steam, not helped by their 81% shooting average and 50% centre-pass-to-goal rate.
Although this was the first time the teams have played each other since 2019, Zimbabwe features two players familiar with the Aussie style, including Australian-born Nalani Makunde. Makunde, who has played for the Capital Darters, Sunshine Coast Thunder and Brisbane South Wildcats has been playing alongside SSN-connected players such as Annie Lawrie, Ava Black and Ash Unie.
It wasn't until the second half that Australia's bench game to play, with a new shooting duo of Kiera Austin and Sophie Garbin hitting the court. This duo will likely be the other main combination we see at the NWC, following the Sunshine Coast Lightning pair of Koenen and Wood.
Uganda v Singapore: 79 to 37
For the first time in NWC history, the She Cranes and Singapore met to battle it out in Cape Town. Singapore qualified for the World Cup following their finals loss to Sri Lanka in the Asian Netball Championships last September.
Netball Super League's leading goal scorer Mary Cholhok only got limited time on court, with the team trialling five players in the goal circle. Interestingly, the player with the most goals for the She Cranes ended the game in goal keeper, walking away with two gains in the process.
Jamaica v Sri Lanka: 105 v 25
There's a familiar face in the Sri Lankan line-up for VNL fans, with Tharjini Sivalingam coming out of retirement for one final World Cup. Despite her previous success in front of the goals, Sivalingam spent limited time on court, with Thishala Algama putting down 17 of the team's 25 goals.
Jamaica didn't hold back, becoming the first team to hit 100 goals in the tournament, sharing the load between four goalers. SSN players Romelda Aiken-George and Jhaniele Fowler both spent half a game at goal shooter, shooting at 97.1% and 97.7% respectively.
Up the other end, Jamaica's defence was doing what they do best - getting ball. The Sunshine Girls ended with a whopping 38 gains, with both Jodi-Ann Ward and Shamera Sterling getting eight each during their 30 minutes on court.
South Africa v Wales: 61 to 50
The hosts got the tournament underway with a tough challenge against Wales, but in the end, proved too good, to get the home world cup off to a strong start.
Ine-Marie Venter was important at the attacking end, playing all 60 minutes in goal shooter, and working as a key target for her midcourters, as they found their range. The Proteas started with Elmeré van der Berg in goal attack, but she made way for Nichole Taljaard in the second half, who proved more effective.
At the other end, one concern for the Proteas will be the play of Phumza Maweni, who conceded 24 penalties, almost a third of the total for the team, and two-thirds of the total conceded by Wales. That output will be punished by stronger teams later in the tournament.
For Wales, there was lots to like, as Bethan Dyke played a huge role in the midcourt, with 28 goal assists and 43 centre pass receives, the key ball-player at every opportunity. Alongside the shooting of Georgie Rowe, there was plenty to be positive about for the Welsh side.
England v Barbados: 90 to 29
The Roses started their campaign with an emphatic win over Barbados, despite the revamped Barbados squad. Big names like Kadeen Corbin (who played three positions over the match) and Sasha Corbin weren't enough to bother the defending champions.
It was a comprehensive performance for England, who had contributions from all 12 players, as four shooters scored, and eight players registered at least one intercept.
It was the ideal start for an English team that has come into the tournament with questions over their ability to win matches in the clutch. This result didn't resolve any of those questions, but it will be a confidence boost for the Roses.
For Barbados, it was a tough start, but they will be looking to matches against the rest of the pool, where they will hope to fare better and score some wins.
Malawi v Scotland: 55 to 49
In another close game of the pool matches, sixth-ranked Malawai took the win against tenth-placed Scotland after a rocky start. Scotland were looking scary after the first quarter, putting down 17 to the Queens' nine goals.
The following two quarters remained close before Malawi decided to leave the Thistles in their dust with an insane 20 to eight quarter, with Joyce Mvula and Mwai Kuwenda keeping their 100% collective average to end out the game. On the contrary, Scotland were only able to convert 50% of their centre passes in the final 15 minutes, dropping their overall average to 66%.