Netball: Rookies take positives in losses

Hsieh Yun-ting of Chinese Taipei vying for the ball during their match against Papua New Guinea on Day 2 of the Mission Foods Nations Cup.
Hsieh Yun-ting of Chinese Taipei vying for the ball during their match against Papua New Guinea on Day 2 of the Mission Foods Nations Cup. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Newly-minted Chinese Taipei team view Nations Cup as good exposure & learning experience

The Chinese Taipei netball team may have opened their Mission Foods Nations Cup with two straight defeats but for the side, just being able to make the trip to Singapore is an achievement in itself.

Inexperienced and filling their roster with former basketball players, the team were trounced 25-57 by a Singapore invitational side in their first match on Sunday before falling 39-60 to Papua New Guinea yesterday.

Netball was introduced to Chinese Taipei, a bastion for basketball and baseball, just nine years ago. The national team were formed only last year, just in time for the 2014 Asian Netball Championship held in Singapore. They finished fifth in a field of 10 teams.

Starting from virtually nothing, the only way is up for the plucky side. All 12 in the squad are basketball converts, with most of them shooting hoops in the top division of the island's domestic league.

Said team captain Cheng Hui-ping: "I started out playing basketball in Taiwan and had been playing for 10 years, but Taiwan was promoting netball and asked if I was interested so I just thought I would try it out.

"I must say the sport is quite interesting and it is unlike basketball, where one person can win the game. In netball, you can only receive and pass the ball, so it requires a lot more teamwork and I prefer it that way."

The Nations Cup, an annual competition which invites teams from the various continents, is a good opportunity for the newly-minted Chinese Taipei team to gain exposure in netball, as they play only about three competitions a year back home, and never once against teams outside of Asia.

Said head coach Goh Seck Tuck: "Competing three times a year is not good enough, so we are very thankful and grateful to be invited down for this competition.

"This Nations Cup is very important to them (the players) and it is a very good learning experience for them, in order to prepare them for the Asian Netball Championship next year in Thailand."

However, the transition from netball to basketball has not been easy with Cheng, 26, saying: "There are a lot more details to be aware of like the footwork. I was not used to it when I first started out.

"You also can't dribble in netball and I used to subconsciously dribble the ball in the beginning."

But for Goh, a Singaporean, having prior experience in basketball has made his job slightly easier in terms of coaching and helping his players improve.

"With a basketball background, I know what are some of the habits basketballers like to do," said the 54-year old. "And when I first started coaching the team, I used to make comparisons between the two sports to help them better understand and gain interest in netball."

And while the losses may continue to pile up during the week-long competition, there are positives to be drawn.

Said 24-year-old vice-captain Ke Yi-ling: "The opponents are bigger and stronger than us and their captains have very good leadership on court, and it is something I need to improve for the team to get better."

Cheng added: "Our defence needs to be better and we need to have more interceptions.

"We are still rushing to get the ball to our shooter and we need to slow the pace down, be more calm and just execute our plan."

In yesterday's other matches at the OCBC Arena, Botswana beat the Singapore invitational team 46-44 while the Singapore national team lost 35-46 to Northern Ireland.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2015, with the headline 'ROOKIES TAKE POSITIVES IN LOSSES'. Print Edition | Subscribe