Netball: Keen fight seen in Netball Super League

Deborah Rowe on the ball against Chen Lili in last year's Super League. The 25-year-old, who made her international debut two weeks ago, will feature this year for Fier Orcas, who are making their second appearance. They are one of three clubs who wi
Deborah Rowe on the ball against Chen Lili in last year's Super League. The 25-year-old, who made her international debut two weeks ago, will feature this year for Fier Orcas, who are making their second appearance. They are one of three clubs who will each field two Papua New Guinea players from the second round.PHOTO: NETBALL SINGAPORE

Last year's finalists absent but 2 new clubs, PNG players will spice up the NSL season

Unpredictability will be the theme of this year's M1 Netball Super League (NSL), said coaches of the six clubs participating in the tournament, which begins today.

For starters, last year's champions Blaze Dolphins and runners-up Sneakers Stingrays will not feature in this year's competition.

Sneakers pulled out of the NSL owing to a dispute over training arrangements, while Dolphins will not participate as they were unable to muster a team.

In addition, three clubs from this year's line-up - Fier Orcas, Magic Marlins and Singapore Recreation Club (SRC) Barracudas - will each be allocated two foreign players from Papua New Guinea when the second round starts on April 2.

No foreign players will join the other three clubs (M1 Sunfish, Mission Mannas and Tiger Sharks).

Orcas coach Kok Mun Wai believes the absence of last year's top two finishers, coupled with the inclusion of debutants Barracudas, will make for an interesting NSL season. She said: "Until the teams start playing, we probably won't know what to expect in the first few games."

  • M1 Netball Super League 2017: Three to watch



    KIMBERLY LIM, 22

    •Position: Wing attack/Centre

    •Height: 1.62m

    •International caps: 45

    •Club: Tiger Sharks

    Tiger Sharks coach Saadiah Khamis on what Lim brings to the team: "What Kim lacks in height, she makes up for in speed. She places the ball well inside the circle for the shooters. She gives space in the circle very well and her feeding (of the ball) is accurate."



    AQILAH ANDIN, 20

    •Position: Wing defence/Goalkeeper/ Goal defence

    •Height: 1.74m

    •International caps: 34

    •Club: M1 Sunfish

    M1 Sunfish coach Huang Po Chin on what Aqilah brings to the team: "Aqilah is experienced despite her youth. Her exclusiveness as a defender will make decision-making hard for the opposition, because she dares to fight for the ball. She also has variety in terms of defensive play, and this will keep the opposing team on their toes and constantly thinking of where to put the ball."



    SHINA TEO, 21

    •Position: Goalkeeper/ Goal defence

    •Height: 1.72m

    •International caps: 18

    •Club: Tiger Sharks

    Tiger Sharks coach Saadiah Khamis on what Shina brings to the team: "Shina reads the game very well, and she puts on the burst of speed necessary to intercept the ball successfully. She's definitely an up-and-coming defender for Singapore."

The arrival of the foreign players in the second round will also add to the competition's possible surprise element, said Huang Po Chin, coach of Sunfish who last played in the NSL in 2015.

"The players from Papua New Guinea will raise the level of intensity and I'm looking forward to seeing how the other teams respond," she said. "It'll be interesting to watch how they react in terms of game planning."

All six foreign players have played in the Nations Cup. Kok and Magic Marlins assistant coach Jean Ng believe this experience will strengthen their respective sides.

Said Ng, a former Singapore international: "It's about how we can gel with the foreign players. These players will inject something different into the league, and our players will have to adapt and increase the level of our game.

"My team is light on the defensive end, so hopefully the Papua New Guinea players will provide firepower in defence."

Although Dolphins and Stingrays are not contesting this year's NSL, the 39-year-old feels the tournament will remain competitive.

She said: "Essentially it boils down to which team plays the best together, and I expect that the competition will still be very fierce."

The three coaches named the Mannas as the heavy favourites, although Huang believes that the Sharks, with seven national players, will put up a strong fight.

Mannas, the 2014 champions, have four national players (Charmaine Soh, Jocelyn Ng, Nurul Baizura and Parveen Nair) and can also count on the experience of former national players Premila Hirubalan and Micky Lin to steady the ship.

Mannas coach Yeo Mee Hong acknowledged her side's billing as favourites, but added that although they appear to be the strongest team on paper, the infusion of PNG talent from the second round could be a game changer and will be "a different game altogether".

"Every team wants to reach the finals, and that's the target for us as well," she said. "It won't be easy because the international players will raise the bar, but this also provides a good challenge for all players.

"This year's SEA Games squad will be selected from the NSL too, so it'll be exciting."

The 52-year-old also cautioned against writing off teams like the Marlins and the Barracudas, adding: "It's an opportunity for SRC to come forward. They also play in the national league, and with the addition of international players, they are definitely a team to be reckoned with as well."

Barracudas coach Chng Li Li believes her charges can give their opponents a "hard fight", saying: "There's a lot for SRC to learn, and I'm sure the team will benefit a lot from the addition of the two international players.

"The SRC girls are adaptable; they only lack experience ... it's our first time playing in the NSL, so we just want to go out there and show the potential of the club."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2017, with the headline 'Keen fight seen in league'. Print Edition | Subscribe