A sizzling second half has propelled the Adelaide Thunderbirds to a convincing 59-44 Super Netball win over the Queensland Firebirds at Nissan Arena.
Tipped as one of the competition's likely improvers after finishing second-last in 2022, the Thunderbirds endured patches of indifference throughout the first half on Sunday before belting the Firebirds 32-16 after halftime.
Shamera Sterling (11 deflections, five intercepts, four rebounds) showed why she is regarded as the world's best defender, producing a superb four-quarter performance to have the better of star Queensland shooter Donnell Wallam.
"As a group we all had to remind ourselves that we have a structure and we can't play to the Firebirds' structure," Sterling said of the stunning second-half turnaround.
"It feels so, so good to just come out here and win our first game.
"That was the mindset - that we had to come out and dominate."
The Tbirds leapt ahead 10-7 before Firebirds coach Bec Bulley called a time-out which changed the complexion of the first half.
The home side, rocked on the season's eve with the shock exit of assistant coach Sarah Francis-Bayman amid speculation of a clash with Bulley, looked anything but a divided group as they rattled off the next seven goals in four minutes and led 17-15 at quarter-time.
Their advantage blew out to 23-15 as Adelaide endured another scoreless spell, this one lasting almost five minutes.
Goal attack Tippah Dwan was subbed in and had an impact, helping the Thunderbirds trim the deficit to one goal at halftime.
The Firebirds snared 11 of the first 12 rebounds and would have fashioned a bigger lead had it not been for Sterling's brilliance.
The Jamaican goalkeeper racked up six deflections in a dominated third stanza , during which the Thunderbirds outscored the hosts 13-9.
Adelaide's prized English recruit Eleanor Cardwell's radar was off throughout that term and she spent the three-quarter-time break practising her shooting.
It paid off as she buried 14 without a miss in the final period, while at the other end Wallam missed a couple of easy shots and generally couldn't cope with Sterling as the Tbirds sent a warning to their rivals with a commanding 19-7 fourth-quarter demolition.