Love at first sight in Round 1

Via Suncorp Super Netball / Damien Stannard (@dstanno)


This was no slow-burning courtship – all eight clubs generated something exciting for fans to take away from four gripping games decided by an average margin of just three goals.

Our expectations for the new national league were exceeded by gutsy fightbacks (Queensland Firebirds and Adelaide Thunderbirds) and meaningful performances (Melbourne Vixens and GIANTS Netball), and there were still some surprises along the way.

Adelaide Thunderbirds coach Dan Ryan will never die wondering.

Commentators and fans were pondering whether his regular substitutions would allow the rebuilding side opportunities to knit.

Starting with Fiona Themann and Ama Agbeze, then turning to Malysha Kelly, Ryan tried every possible defensive combination before finding the one that would win him the game against West Coast Fever.

He made changes in the midcourt too, but it was a band of pressure and a couple of clutch defensive plays from Agbeze and Themann that made the difference.

Leadership is spoken about so repeatedly it can dull the senses – but not at the Melbourne Vixens.

Captain Kate Moloney’s bravery to hurl herself at a loose ball with opponents bearing down was the brand of “follow me” statement that will make this club.

And it was infectious.

Time and again Liz Watson was bumped and bashed, Tegan Philip drove again and again, and Mwai Kumwenda eventually won a points decision against Sharni Layton.

Losing against the Giants won’t trouble Swifts coach Rob Wright too much if he continues to see so much character from the Swifts.

Paige Hadley, formerly the kid in a team of stars, has come of age and she all but hauled her side across the line.

The Australian Diamonds wing attack had a few mates on board too, with defender Sarah Klau and shooter Sam Wallace looking perfectly at home in their new digs.

Still, it would be remiss not to praise the performance of supermum Rebecca Bulley, who did not miss a beat in her first game since the birth of daughter Indie.

The Queensland Firebirds and Sunshine Coast Lightning would have left unsatisfied with their draw.

Yet there is still so much upside for both outfits.

The Lightning improved with every passing minute of the game.

And for the Firebirds to salvage competition points after bumbling for three quarters spoke volumes for their winning culture.

Photography: Getty Images