Netball: S'pore's proud run at Asian C'ships halted

Singapore vice-captain Nurul Baizura (in red) trying to pass the ball to team-mate Yu Meiling during the semi-final of the Asian Netball Championships yesterday. The Republic lost 30-36 to Sri Lanka.
Singapore vice-captain Nurul Baizura (in red) trying to pass the ball to team-mate Yu Meiling during the semi-final of the Asian Netball Championships yesterday. The Republic lost 30-36 to Sri Lanka.PHOTO: NETBALL SINGAPORE

But the outlook for Lee & Co. remains positive despite failure to reach final

A proud and longstanding record fell yesterday but Singapore's netballers are primed for a bright future despite losing in the semi-finals of the Asian Championships.

After a 36-30 defeat by Sri Lanka in yesterday's semi-final, it marked the first time the Republic had failed to reach the final since 1997.

The tournament, held in Bangkok, was the national team's first major outing following the retirement in May of three key veterans - captain Micky Lin, vice-captain Chen Huifen and defender Premila Hirubalan.

But the new team have shown promise in the Thai capital and could make an impact when Singapore hosts the event in 2018.

First-time captain Vanessa Lee told The Sunday Times: "I've realised from this tournament that even though we are a new team, we're coming along nicely.

"We do miss (the retired veterans) on court but we've got different dynamics from the new players who bring different aspects to our game. They have the hunger to play."

Looking ahead to 2018, coach Ruth Aitken said: "A number of girls haven't played in a semi-final match like this but their heart and intensity were really inspirational. They just need to grow and learn to play under pressure."

The defending champions trailed 7-11 from the first quarter and failed to reduce the gap as Sri Lanka extended their lead to 21-14 after the second quarter. The Lankans won the third 27-22 before taking the match 36-30.

Lee said: "We took a bit longer to settle down and playing 'catch-up netball' is never easy, especially against a side like Sri Lanka."

Despite the absence of Sri Lanka's 2.06m-tall goal-shooter Tharjini Sivalingam, Aitken believes Sri Lanka's strengths lie in their defensive work.

"Full credit to Sri Lanka, they played very well. We weren't able to hit our strengths," said the Kiwi.

"They put up a good defence... and we struggled to get past them."

While disappointed, the team remain focused and optimistic ahead of their play-off for third place against Hong Kong, whom they had beaten 32-18 in the group stage.

There is also next month's Mission Foods Nations Cup at home, which will feature Ireland, Papua New Guinea, Canada, Botswana and Zambia.

"It takes a while to move on but we'll go back to the hotel, get some rest and regroup, get together, move on from this and look forward to tomorrow," said Lee.

Sri Lanka will face Malaysia in the final today. The two sides met in the group stage where Malaysia won 38-32.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 07, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore's proud run at Asian C'ships halted'. Print Edition | Subscribe