While the overall numbers for the New Zealand Masters Games may be down the reliance on visiting sportspeople took on more importance at Laird Park yesterday morning.
The outdoor netball competitions officially got under way and it was one of the busiest areas of the Masters Games with 46 teams of both women and mixed sides.
Netball proved so popular that some of the teams in the 30 years grade took part in grading matches on Thursday.
"We've got lots of people coming in, which is great," said Lisa Murphy, games development officer for Netball Wanganui.
With Mixed, 30+, 40+ and 45+ grades, play continues today with the finals scheduled for 1-2pm tomorrow.
Murphy's team the Spring Chicks, previous games gold medallists, had a good start to their campaign with a 26-14 win over Ruapehu yesterday morning. Leading 12-8 at halftime, the tall timber of the Spring Chicks defence wore their local opposition down, a late flurry by Ruapehu not enough to close the gap.
Still, the Spring Chicks met their match in the afternoon against an interesting New Zealand-wide team the Hutton Sizzlers.
Named after team leader Kelly Hutton rather than being sponsored by the sausage company the Sizzlers put the heat on the Chicks to win a tight contest 19-17, following on from their identical scoreline win against Hawera's PGG Wrightson's that morning.
"We all played together in London, this is our time to get back together," said Hutton.
Her team had all been strangers in the big cosmopolitan city when they came together from an invitation for a Australian/New Zealand ex-pats netball league, playing from 2005-07.
Having returned from their OEs and dispersed across the country to their homes in places like Taupo, Wellington and Christchurch the team was somewhat on the other squad's blindsides.
"This is our first time to Masters, it's a real good standard," said Hutton.
"We've heard on the down-low they've [Spring Chicks] won it before.
"We kind of like that no one really knows about us."