Netball: Brunei, Thailand national teams to join Super League for first time

Brunei and Thailand (pictured) will be the first foreign national teams to compete in the Netball Super League. PHOTO: NETBALL SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE – The Netball Super League (NSL) is about to get bigger and better, with the national teams of Brunei and Thailand joining the top-tier competition in 2023.

The move is a first for the league and will finally materialise two years after the plan was announced – the South-east Asian teams were unable to do so in 2021 as the league was postponed and cancelled owing to the pandemic.

They will join five clubs – defending champions Blaze Dolphins, Sneakers Stingrays, Fier Orcas, Swifts Barracudas and Llabten Narwhals – and Netball Singapore’s selection team Mission Mannas in the second round of the NSL.

In the second phase, the six local teams will each have the services of a player from Fiji’s national team, who finished second in December’s Nations Cup.

The first round, contested by only the local teams, starts on Feb 4 at Our Tampines Hub. The final will be on March 19 at the same venue.

The news of Brunei and Thailand joining the league was well received by players and coaches, especially as they look ahead to preparations for the Asian Youth Netball Championship and Netball World Cup in 2023.

Barracudas player Aqilah Andin is looking forward to making her league return after she missed the 2022 season as she was expecting her first child.

The 26-year-old made her return to competitive action after three years in December’s Nations Cup, when she captained the Singapore A side, which consisted of mainly developmental players.

She added: “It’s great for Asian netball. We’re helping each other build their teams when they come and play here competitively.”

Mannas coach Yeo Mee Hong noted that the inclusion of the foreign teams will “increase the competitiveness of the league and raise everyone’s performances”. 

She added: “We’re definitely looking forward to the challenge. The second round will be a different ball game.

“The girls will be able to learn a lot of different skills from them, so there’s a lot of excitement around the NSL next year.”

Brunei (pictured) and Thailand will be the first foreign national teams to compete in the Netball Super League. PHOTO: NETBALL SINGAPORE

Younger players are also relishing the chance to go against the foreign teams and learn a different style of play.

Narwhals player Rachel Ling, 20, said: “NSL is one of the best platforms for youth players to grow. It’s good exposure that would help not only the young players grow, but the older ones as well.

“Singaporeans have a rather similar playing style and we know each other quite well, so having foreign teams gives the league a different element and it’s good practice for us to go out there, analyse them and overcome their game plans.”

National coach Annette Bishop will also be taking notes before making her selection for the upcoming tournaments.

She said: “Across the board, it just enhances the competition because it gives players uninvolved in the national sides a good opportunity to play against international players.

“For the younger ones, it doesn’t become so daunting when they go onto the world stage because they’ve already played against international players.”

The NSL fully resumed in January 2022 with Blaze Dolphins going unbeaten to claim their fourth title by beating the holders Stingrays. 

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