The game provided plenty of excitement for the crowd inside the M&S Bank Arena to enjoy, with New Zealand supporters particularly vocal in the top tier of the Court One stand.
They were able to see their team avenge the shock defeat they suffered at the Commonwealth Games at the hands of Malawi by getting their World Cup campaign off to a winning start.
The first quarter was a closely-fought contest, with New Zealand edging in front by a scoreline of 17-11 as the whistle blew, largely thanks to the prolific goal shooter Maria Folau.
It was New Zealand who scored the first goal of the game – and the tournament – before Malawi scored four times without reply to bring themselves back into contention. By the end of the first quarter, however, New Zealand had begun to show signs of exerting their dominance on the game.
That position of strength was only increased in the second quarter, as they headed into the halfway point in the match leading by a score of 32-17.
New Zealand goal shooter Folau and goal attack Ameliaranne Ekenasio, the 6’1” 28-year-old, linked up well, while Malawi struggled at times to break down the effective defensive set-up of their opponents.
As umpire Joshua Bowring got the penultimate quarter underway, New Zealand were well in control of the game and they sensibly pressed on, using the momentum gathered during the first half an hour.
Malawi pulled two goals back in quick succession through Sindi Simtowe early in the third quarter before Folau got her side back on track. Malawi’s urgency in possession increased, but with three quarters of the game gone, New Zealand led 49-30.
The final 15 minutes saw New Zealand see the game out, but not without Malawi putting up a fight. The African side notched 15 goals in the final quarter, although New Zealand ran out comfortable victors overall.
New Zealand will hope to continue their good form when they face Barbados tomorrow, while Malawi will look to bounce back in the same session in their fixture against Singapore.
New Zealand coach Noeline Taurua said:
“It’s great to get out there on court. Malawi is always a bogey team for us, and I thought they were really good today as well. They play a very unorthodox style, so it’s quite difficult to get on top of, but overall it’s a start for us, and I know the areas that we need to build on.”
INF world ranking: 4
World Cups played: 14
Highest World Cup finish: 1
New Zealand are familiar faces at the Netball World Cup, having appeared at all 14 tournaments to date. Known as the Silver Ferns, the team are ranked fourth in the world and have never finished the tournament in a position lower than third. In 1967 the side claimed their first World Cup win and have won a further three times since – 1979 (joint with Australia and Trinidad and Tobago), 1987 and 2003. New Zealand have hosted the World Cup tournament three times – twice in Auckland (1975 and 2007) and once in Christchurch for the 1999 edition. The Silver Ferns qualified automatically for this year’s World Cup thanks to their INF world ranking.
Ones to watch
A formidable shooter Maria Folau made her debut for the Silver Ferns aged 18 and has been a pivotal part of the team since. Famous for her impressive ‘long bomb’ shots from the circle edge, Folau has extensive experience playing on the international circuit. She has represented New Zealand at four Commonwealth Games (2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018) and three World Cups (2007, 2011, 2015). In Sydney at the 2015 World Cup, the shooter reached a significant milestone in her netball career, becoming the fourth Silver Fern to achieve 100 test caps. Who will be able to rival this experienced and cool-headed shooter in Liverpool?
One of the most influential and respected midcourters in world netball, Laura Langman made her debut for the Silver Ferns in 2005 against England. Her energy and ability to play both attack and defence make her a versatile player on the court. Langman has represented the Silver Ferns at three Commonwealth Games (2006, 2010 and 2014) and three World Cups (2007, 2011 and 2015) so knows how to do battle with the world’s best teams. She will captain the squad when New Zealand begin their campaign for world domination in Liverpool.
Photo: © Michael Bradley Photography
As a child, Jane Watson was only interested in one thing – football! It wasn’t until her family made the move to a new town in New Zealand, where she joined a netball team to make friends that her passion for the spot grew. Watson now plays goalkeeper for the Silver Ferns and having only debut for the side in 2016, has been quick to make an impression. Her long reach, speed and vertical leap make her an effective and dangerous defender and brilliant combination for battle on the world stage.