Katrina Grant's first week as Silver Ferns netball skipper was a little lonelier than she had expected.

Grant, who over the weekend became the 26th player to captain the national side when she led the Ferns on to court for their Quad Series opener against England, spent a large chunk of the build-up isolated from her teammates while she battled a cold.

Having the skipper out of action for a couple of days was just one of a number of setbacks dealt to the New Zealand side in the lead-up to their first test of the season - the most significant of which was the late scratching of star defender Anna Harrison, who picked up a calf injury late in the week.

Given the disruptions her side faced in their build-up, Grant admitted being surprised at how easily the Ferns were able to dispatch England in their first outing.

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Trying to suppress a hacking cough in the post-match press conference, the gritty defender heaped praise on her young side for continuing to push when they had England on the ropes early, as they went on to post a 26-goal win over the world No 3 side.

"The girls have been working pretty hard while I've been bedridden so I'm really proud of the way they came through and pulled out a performance like that," said Grant.

While Grant deflected the plaudits to her teammates, coach Janine Southby believes the tone for the performance was set by the skipper.

The loss of Harrison further depleted the experience in the defensive end, which was already missing big name stars Casey Kopua (maternity leave) and Leana de Bruin (retired), putting Grant under extra pressure to step up and deliver. Southby was delighted with the way Grant responded to the challenge.

Grant, who notched her 80th test cap on Saturday, did an impressive job of shutting down the connections in the England attack end, forcing starting goal attack Helen Housby to the bench midway through the second quarter - the first of three changes to the shooting end from England coach Tracey Neville.

"I thought she did a great job at doing her job first and foremost. Given she had been bedridden for a couple of days beforehand, it was a huge effort from her, and she didn't seem to tire," said Southby. "During the week, we had talked a lot about being an effective leader means first and foremost doing your own job well, and that's what she did. She just kept toiling away and doing her job."

Southby got the opportunity to try two defensive combinations in the first test - neither of which she probably would have been planning on at the beginning of the week.

The absence of Harrison saw Phoenix Karaka promoted to the starting line-up, while an unexpectedly healthy 12-goal lead at halftime gave Southby the opportunity to go to her bench in the second half and give Jane Watson her test debut.

Watson, who had been in the camp only 24 hours before taking the court for the Ferns, captured the headlines after a fairytale debut, but Southby was impressed with the groundwork Karaka laid in the first half.

"When you've got someone that can come on and make that impact, you can't take the groundwork away from what someone like Phoenix did out there.

"England certainly didn't get any momentum out there, and I think later in the game, they got to the point of frustration and suddenly it became a lot easier for us to disrupt things."

Watson will remain with the Ferns for the second test against South Africa in Hamilton on Wednesday, with the medical staff still not willing to risk Harrison.

A decision will be made on the veteran defender's availability for the series finale against Australia in Melbourne later in the week.