Tours of other countries a vital step: Aitken

Caitlin Bassett (right) of Australia shooting against Jamaica's Stacian Facey in the hosts' 67-56 World Cup semi-final win. The pace and physicality of non-Asian teams are a major challenge for Singapore.
Caitlin Bassett (right) of Australia shooting against Jamaica's Stacian Facey in the hosts' 67-56 World Cup semi-final win. The pace and physicality of non-Asian teams are a major challenge for Singapore.PHOTO: NETBALL WORLD CUP SYDNEY 2015

Having won two Asian titles and a SEA Games gold in the four years since the 2011 Netball World Cup, the Singapore team flew to Australia for this month's World Cup hoping to improve on their 15th-place finish four years ago.

However, they fell short of that target after losing 39-56 to world No. 9 Barbados yesterday at the Allphones Arena in Sydney.

The defeat means Singapore will play for 15th place today against Sri Lanka, who are the only side coach Ruth Aitken's charges have beaten at the 16-team tournament.

Yesterday, Aitken told The Sunday Times that the best way for Singapore to improve would be playing opponents outside of Asia, where they have reigned supreme.

Said the New Zealander, who took on the Singapore job in August 2013: "It's disappointing to be playing for 15th because we had hoped to get ourselves further up.

"The team, overall, were a little inconsistent, and adjusting to international games proved a challenge.

"The reality is there are a lot of bigger bodies here as compared to in Asia, and consequently the games move faster.

"It's important for us to get tours to some of the African or Caribbean countries. It's about exposure to the international game."

Aitken added that in the last 12 months, the team's focus was on retaining their Asian crown last September and then winning a SEA Games gold in June, which left little time for a pre-World Cup tour.

She said: "It's not an excuse, but if we want to be good at the international game, we have to look outside (of Asia) for competition, and it's something I'd look to implement in the next few months."

Aitken said she hopes to organise a training tour to Africa, possibly Botswana, in November.

For the match against Sri Lanka today, vice-captain Nurul Baizura said the team are pumped to go all out, even if they are feeling the effects of seven matches in 10 days.

She said: "To say we're tired is an understatement, but this is the nature of the game. We are here to play competitive netball. There's nothing to lose."

Australia will play New Zealand for the title, a repeat of the 2011 final. The defending champions beat Jamaica 67-56, while New Zealand beat England 50-39.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 16, 2015, with the headline 'Tours of other countries a vital step: Aitken'. Print Edition | Subscribe