Netball: New-look S'pore netball team gel to beat HK

Hong Kong goal attack Michelle Warburton reaching out for a pass as Singapore goalkeeper Shina Teo tries to intercept. The Republic's team are rebuilding after the retirement of three key players last year.
Hong Kong goal attack Michelle Warburton reaching out for a pass as Singapore goalkeeper Shina Teo tries to intercept. The Republic's team are rebuilding after the retirement of three key players last year.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Improved chemistry among the national netballers helped Singapore to beat Hong Kong 45-42 in an international match and lift the inaugural Hong Kong-Singapore Cup yesterday at Toa Payoh Sports Hall.

The hosts, who are rebuilding after the retirement of several senior players, returned from a New Zealand training tour from Feb 4 to 12, where they played five friendly matches against club teams.

Interim coach Yeo Mee Hong felt that the team have benefited from that trip.

The 52-year-old said: "The New Zealand tour allowed us to work on the players' communication and their linking through the court among the team members. We've toughened up as a team and are looking more coordinated. The players are more gelled together."

The national team have been rebuilding their squad since the retirement of veterans Micky Lin, Chen Huifen and Premila Hirubalan, who amassed 328 international caps between them, last year.

There is also a coaching change as Ruth Aitken, who led the side to the 2014 Asian Championship and the SEA Games gold medal in 2015, returned to her native New Zealand at the end of last year.

For yesterday's game, goal-attackers Jocelyn Ng and Deborah Rowe, both 25, made their international debuts. Ng played in the first three quarters and scored 14 goals on 70 per cent shooting accuracy, while Rowe came in during the final quarter and scored on all four attempts.

Ng said: "The tour helped me to gain experience in playing against bigger-sized players."

Goal shooter Charmaine Soh, 26, converted 27 goals to notch a 93 per cent shooting accuracy.

While world No. 20 Singapore's lead was never under serious threat against their 26th-ranked opponents, Yeo noted that there were several lapses during the game when passes lacked its crispness.

She said: "The team made unforced errors in their passing throws during the third quarter.

"But this is a new squad altogether. We're still building the team up, and in the upcoming months, we hope to be able to work on our consistency and our strength and conditioning. The connection between the players is still lacking at this moment."

Captain Vanessa Lee, 32, added: "We've managed to build on and solidify what we worked on during the tour. There's better communication between the players and it's a stepping stone as we work towards the SEA Games."

"Games like these also give the new players playing exposure."

Singapore are gearing up for their SEA Games title defence in August in Kuala Lumpur. The national players will now focus on the local inter-club competition, the Netball Super League, which runs from March 4 to April 29.

The names of those who are shortlisted for the national squad will be finalised on April 29.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2017, with the headline 'New-look S'pore netball team gel to beat HK'. Print Edition | Subscribe