Asian netball back in 2018

New-look squad will be matured by the time S'pore hosts regional c'ship for 4th occasion

Singapore's new generation of netballers will have an ideal stage to showcase their prowess to their home fans in two years, when the Republic will host the 2018 Asian Netball Championship for a fourth time.

It edged out Pakistan and Sri Lanka to win the hosting bid for the biennial event yesterday in Bangkok, where the current tournament is ongoing. Japan had earlier pulled out of the bid.

It will be the Republic's fourth time hosting the event (1997, 2005 and 2014). It had won the continental title in 2005, 2012 and 2014.

Ruth Aitken's team are in the process of rebuilding but her players believe local fans can see a matured side in two years.

"By 2018, it will be our third year playing together, so we should be even more prepared and better as compared to now," said goal shooter Charmaine Soh.

The netballers, led by first-time captain Vanessa Lee, are defending their title in Bangkok, and have reached today's semi-finals, where they will face Sri Lanka.

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    Singapore will host the Asian Netball Championship for the fourth time in 2018.

They are playing in their first tournament together following the retirement of three stalwarts - captain Micky Lin, vice-captain Chen Huifen and defender Premila Hirubalan - in May.

Netball Singapore's chief executive officer Cyrus Medora agreed that the process of sharpening their skills and gaining competition experience will take a few years.

He said: "The newcomers are still settling in, and the team is nowhere close to the level we used to be, they have not got into their top gear yet.

"These two years will be good for them to progress and prepare for the Asian Championship in 2018."

The tournament, tentatively scheduled to be held in September 2018, also serves as a qualifier for the 2019 Netball World Cup to be held in England.

Medora wants to replicate the success of hosting the 2014 edition.

He said: "The last time when we held the event, everything shot up - from the fan awareness, spectator experience, match atmosphere to social media feeds, and filled stadiums."

He also hopes to expand the number of countries competing in the continental tournament. Just nine countries feature at the present edition in Thailand.

He said: "We want to get more South-east Asia countries like the Philippines and Myanmar to be involved, to help them to develop the sport so that netball can be more regularly featured in the SEA Games too."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2016, with the headline 'Asian netball back in 2018'. Print Edition | Subscribe