Netball's latest incarnation was re-born in dramatic fashion tonight in a thrilling first day of the Fast5 Netball World Series at Auckland's Vector Arena.
In their two clashes, New Zealand's Fast Ferns managed a 31-23 victory over old rival Australia, and a 38-38 draw against Jamaica in the debut appearance of the slightly tweaked short-form of netball.
Fast5 is a streamlined version of the old FastNet, which began in 2009, retaining the six minute quarters, alternating centre-passes and two-pointers, but now carving off the sides' wing attack and defence.
In addition to the one and two pointers available, shooters can nail three-pointers; several of which featured spectacularly last night, cheered on by what must be described as a disappointing crowd at Vector.
Australia began nervously in the night's match-up of the heavyweights, with the opening pass from centre Kimberley Ravallion going straight out.
The hosts swung into gear, with goal-attack Maria Tutaia impressive, nailing a long three-pointer ensuring New Zealand would be 11-6 at the end of the first quarter.
Australia typically ground back into the match, with the likes of Amorette Wild and Kate Shimmin starring, leaving the Fast Ferns with a slender 12-10 lead at the half-time break.
Energetic pivot Laura Langman excelled in the middle of the court, with the captain in the middle of any movement that curtailed an Australian move towards goal, meaning the Diamonds would fail to capitalise on taking their 'power-play' in the third quarter.
A three-pointer by veteran shooter Irene van Dyk meant that New Zealand would go 21-18 ahead with the final six minutes to play.
With the New Zealanders with a 'power-play' up their sleeve, that would be the match, with the Fast Ferns cruising away to a eight point victory.
"It's quite different not having a wing attack and wing defence not on court," Tutaia said of the new Fast5 format.
"It's certainly a lot more running and a lot more onus on the centre pass to the goal attack.
"[But] I think it's great. It's great we've got it here in New Zealand, and it's a great idea to introduce this form of netball to the sport.
"Hopefully we get the crowds in here this week that support not only us but the Fast Five."
Earlier in the evening, Jamaica nabbed a thrilling last second draw against New Zealand in the hosts' opening encounter of the tournament.
After looking the more dominant team in the game's first two quarters, New Zealand struggled to combat the momentum gathered by the Sunshine Girls in the visitors' double-points 'power play' third quarter, with Jamaican goal-attack Anna Kay Griffiths nailing an heart-stopping three-pointer with only seconds to go.
Tutaia had a chance to win the match for the Fast Ferns in the dying seconds of the early encounter against Jamaica, but missed a one-point shot within the inner circle.
It was the Caribbean's assertive effort in their 'power play' third quarter that would lay the base for the final result with six minutes left.
The Australians' lost their opening encounter 29-27 to defending FastNet champions England.
While the Diamonds failed to make proper use of their 'power-play' in the match, the English look like they will be the team to watch this weekend.
They would later destroy South Africa 41-27, nailing an impressive five three-point shots in the encounter.
Yet despite England's dominant style of play, it would be upstarts Malawi that would claim the largest cheers of the night, louder perhaps than those for the hosts.
The Africans humbled Australia 33-15, and only lost in the dying seconds to Jamaica 32-31. In the nights' first match, South Africa defeated Jamaica 34-25.
Games continue throughout tomorrow, with the finals to be held on Sunday.
- © Fairfax NZ News