SINGAPORE - She may only be 21 and in her first Netball Super League (NSL) season, but Yew Shu Ning has proven to be an indispensable member of the Blaze Dolphins.
Combining with veteran defenders Micky Lin and Premila Hirubalan, Yew, who also plays in defence, restricted the Mission Mannas attack to help the Dolphins retain their NSL title with a 45-38 victory on Saturday (April 13).
The Nanyang Technological University student was ecstatic with her team's performance at Our Tampines Hub.
"It feels like a dream. We fought hard and we went for every training with a goal in mind. For example, one session we'll work on defence and the next, on attack.
"We focused on each segment of play and made sure we worked on it until it was perfect."
Both teams got off to a strong start with the Mannas leading 7-5 briefly.
But the Dolphins caught up thanks to key interceptions by Yew and Hirubalan to lead 12-10 at the end of the first quarter and they never looked back.
Dolphins coach Wang Jing Qing said: "It was a bit messy at the start and everyone was running all over the place so I thought we had to tidy that part up."
Her strategy worked as the Dolphins made more strategic runs and increased pressure on the Mannas in the second half.
Aided by the Mannas' unforced errors, the Dolphins became the first team since the Magic Marlins (2011-2013) to claim back-to-back NSL championship.
Wang highlighted the importance of senior players (like former national players Lin, Hirubalan and Chen Huifen) in her team but also praised Under-21 players Lee Pei Shan and Yew.
Wang said: "The players fought really hard today, especially the senior players. They're very willing to share their knowledge with the younger ones so that helped a lot.
"Their experience gave us a bit of an advantage but the young ones like Pei Shan and Shu Ning really stepped up as well.
"Shu Ning had a very good season and she started very well. It's not easy to play both goal defence and wing defence so I thought she adjusted very well throughout the season."
Yew's performance would have caught the eye of national coach Natalie Milicich, who announced the National Opens squad in the closing ceremony.
While Yew will train with the U-21 squad until June's Asian Youth Netball Championship, she and five other U-21 players will join the Opens squad as training partners after that, giving her a chance to represent Singapore at October's Nations Cup and November's SEA Games.
Milicich said: "We have a really strong squad this year and the U-21s have really stepped up. I'm impressed by how they've coped with this level and how the older ones have embraced them.
"The U-21s will push the senior players, creating a healthy environment so that no one can feel comfortable in their position and they'll always be fighting for it."
National Opens squad:
Aqilah Andin, Amelia Wijendra, Carmen Goh, Charmaine Soh, Chen Lili, Jamie Lim, Joanna Toh, Kimberly Lim, Khor Ting Fang, Kwok Shuyi, Lee Pei Shan, Melody Teo, Sindhu Nair, Tan Xinyi, Toh Kai Wei, Vanessa Lee, Wong Pei Ying, Zhang Ailin