Collingwood have made a dynamic start to their 2023 Super Netball campaign after recording an impressive 71-63 win over the NSW Swifts.
Behind a standout performance from Jamaican defender Jodi-Ann Ward, the Magpies dominated Saturday's season-opener at John Cain Arena to record their first round-one victory since 2019.
The Swifts were not only gunning for their first-ever victory over Collingwood in Melbourne but they were hoping to exact some revenge for being knocked out of last season's semi-final race by the Magpies in the final game of the regular season.
But the home side came out firing to lead by seven goals after one quarter and extended their advantage to 10 by halftime with the Swifts unable to contain the combination between midcourter Kelsey Browne and shooter Shimona Nelson.
Swifts coach Briony Akle made numerous changes in an attempt to find a winning combination and the visitors challenged the Magpies in the second half, recovering from 13 goals down in the fourth quarter to trail by five.
But Collingwood remained poised in the closing minutes to secure the win, Ward locking in player-of-the-match honours after tallying nine gains, seven deflections, four intercepts and three rebounds.
"I think we were just excited to get on court, it's been a long pre-season and we couldn't wait to get it over with," Ward told Fox Sports.
Nelson finished with a perfect shooting night of 53 goals while Sophie Garbin's long-range shooting (6-of-7 two-point shots) helped hold off a potential Swifts comeback in the third quarter.
Former Queensland Firebirds goaler Romelda Aiken-George made her debut for the Swifts, the 34-year-old Jamaican international signing on as a training partner to cover the absence of injured goaler Sam Wallace.
But the Swifts were made to look out of sync as Ward and defensive anchor Geva Mentor thwarted numerous attacking moves while Nelson made all 15 shots to see Collingwood close the opening quarter ahead 20-13.
The Magpies maintained their advantage through the second period to build a 39-29 buffer by halftime with Ward already racking up four deflections, three rebounds and three intercepts.
The experience of Paige Hadley and Helen Housby helped the Swifts cut into Collingwood's lead after the main break but Garbin answered with a run of four two-point goals to keep the Magpies ahead by nine goals heading into the final quarter.
Collingwood will look to build on their impressive start to the season in next Sunday's derby clash against local rivals Melbourne Vixens while the Swifts travel to South Australia for a date with Adelaide Thunderbirds on Saturday.