Chen the unsung hero who scores

Singapore goal attack Chen Huifen will be remembered for scoring the winning goal at the 2012 Asian C'ship.
Singapore goal attack Chen Huifen will be remembered for scoring the winning goal at the 2012 Asian C'ship.

"Steely determination", "absolute reliability" and "dynamo up front" were some of the words that came to mind when team-mates and officials were asked to describe former national netballer Chen Huifen.

Playing in goal attack, the 31-year-old was "always making play for the shooters", "finding spaces and gaps" and "working so hard all the time", said Netball Singapore chief executive Cyrus Medora.

She might never have been the star of the team, but her solid contribution on the court will be sorely missed now that she has called time on her international career after amassing 109 caps.

Despite doing so much for the team in the offensive third, she was "often unsung", making a lot of the play in the background even though she "didn't get a lot of glamour", added Medora.

Team-mate Nurul Baizura sang high praises of the 31-year-old, saying: "Her determination and focus was amazing. She moved so much on the court, and was probably always tired, but still had the ability to stay very sharp and score."

A prime example of Chen's shooting prowess was on display at the 2012 Asian Netball Championship final in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Playing against the host nation in front of a ravenous crowd, Chen held her nerve to net the last-gasp winner when the scores were tied at 47-all. Her performance in that game is one that is fondly remembered by the netball fraternity here.

Team-mate Premila Hirubalan recalled: "Against horrible odds, (to win) that Asian Champs by one in Sri Lanka at the last-minute, it was perfect.

"It was a tight game, we were neck to neck with the opponents. With 45 seconds to go, Huifen put the ball in, and then we froze the ball."

Chen added: "We were all smiling as we froze the ball. It was a winning smile, a wide-eyed smile."

Chen, a physical education teacher at Northland Secondary, also took charge of the attacking department of the team.

"She was very close with her sub-unit, and was a natural leader among them," noted Baizura.

"She was always very patient with her group of shooters, and always made it a point to give immediate feedback to them for the sake of their improvement."

In spite of all of her strengths, Chen's humility showed as she stepped aside to let younger shooters like Charmaine Soh, 25, blossom.

"When Charmaine started to emerge, she took a backseat. However, when there was a crisis, Huifen would take the lead," said national coach Ruth Aitken.

Chen's own confidence was developed over hours spent with veterans in the national team.

She said: "When I was a rookie I wasn't as confident on court, but as the seniors guided me and I was able to deliver the play that was asked of me, I started to have faith in what I could deliver."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2016, with the headline 'Chen the unsung hero who scores'. Print Edition | Subscribe