Malaysia gunning for netball gold

Malaysia have the unenviable task of trying to defend their SEA Games netball title as underdogs. They won gold the last time netball featured - in 2001, with a 53-42 win over Singapore in Kuala Lumpur.

Since then, however, Singapore have made major strides. They have won the Asian Championship thrice (2005, 2012 and 2014), and are ranked 17th in the world, six rungs higher than their arch-rivals.

Malaysia were also outgunned by the hosts on their last two outings to the Republic - losing 39-46 at September's Asian Championship and 34-41 at December's Nations Cup.

However, they have crossed the Causeway hungry for vengeance against the heavily favoured Singaporeans this time.

Head coach Aminah Asaari said: "It's my first time coaching at the SEA Games, the same as all the players, and we are ready to fight for the gold.

"The ball is round, every country can fight for the gold, so we will try our best."

The netball competition begins today at the OCBC Arena with Singapore meeting Brunei at noon.

Malaysia, who have been identified by Singapore coach Ruth Aitken as her team's biggest threat, will open their campaign against Myanmar at 5.30pm. But an enticing clash against Singapore in the preliminary round awaits Aminah and her players on Tuesday.

The team are relatively youthful, with all the players either in the early 20s or late teens, with the exception of their captain Yap Suo Kuen.

However, the 29-year-old, who has featured in the national team for 12 years now, insists that their youth is not a disadvantage.

"The girls are graduates from the (Bukit Jalil) Sports School, while they have played at the Nations Cup and the Asian Championship, so they are experienced enough," she said.

Isaac Neo