The new era for New Zealand netball's elite competition has been marked by the emergence of the next generation of stars.
The opening round of the ANZ Premiership saw a parade of exciting new talent take the court during yesterday's triple header "Super Sunday" at Hamilton's Claudelands Arena - none more so than 16-year-old Pulse shooter Tiana Metuarau.
Metuarau, the daughter of Silver Ferns legend Waimarama Taumaunu, delivered a nerveless performance in the goal circle to help her side to a tense one-goal win over the Northern Mystics last night.
Taking on Silver Ferns defenders Anna Harrison and Storm Purvis, Metuarau pulled in and converted the crucial rebound, which put the Pulse out to a three-goal lead with one minute left on the clock.
She was encouraged right the way along by star shooter Cathrine Tuivaiti, who was determined to secure the points against her old side after making the move in the off-season. Tuivaiti led all scorers for the match with 33 from 34 attempts.
Pulse skipper Katrina Grant said she was delighted with how the likes of Metuarau and young midcourter Whitney Souness stood up in the final quarter of the match.
"Tiana has never played ANZ and Whitney only has a few quarters under her belt, so that was really impressive by them," said Grant, who had a tough battle down the other end of the court against her Ferns teammates Bailey Mes and Maria Tutaia. "It was a tough test for them in the first game, but I think they more than handled themselves. This will only help them grow even more."
After huge scoreline blowouts in the first two games, in which the Steel and Magic both collected big wins, the tight, competitive match-up was just what was needed to ignite the opening round.
On the back of last night's tense match, both sides have proven they will be a force in the new competition, but it is the Southern Steel that established themselves as the league favourites after the opening round of action. The Steel opened their ANZ Premiership with a comprehensive 75-57 win over the Northern Stars.
The Magic did not prove generous "Super Sunday" hosts towards the Tactix, demolishing the injury-depleted Canterbury side by 23 goals.
The match marked the return of former Silver Ferns skipper Casey Kopua, who missed the final season of the transtasman league last year after taking time away from the sport for the birth of her first child.
Kopua looked fit and hungry in her first game back as she led her young side, which featured five newcomers to franchise-level netball, to an impressive victory. The Tactix shooters struggled to find any rhythm as Kopua and Silver Ferns rookie Kelly Jury made the most of their height advantage in the circle.
But it was the new-look Magic attack end that really impressed, with youngsters Monika Falkner and Ariana Cable-Dixon looking right at home in starting roles, while South African import Lenize Potgieter proved a valuable acquisition for the Waikato side. With the Tactix missing two key defenders in Jess Moulds and Temalisi Fakahokotau, Potgieter had a field-day in her first appearance for the Magic, netting 54 of the team's 71 goals at an accuracy rate of 93 per cent.