Sea Games 2019

SEA Games: Singapore fall short again in gold quest as Malaysia retain netball title

Above: Captain and goal attack Charmaine Soh, goal shooter Lee Pei Shan, wing attack Carmen Goh and the other Singapore netballers are crestfallen after losing 48-42 to Malaysia in the final. Below: Soh and Lee tussling for the ball with Malaysia's N
Above: Captain and goal attack Charmaine Soh, goal shooter Lee Pei Shan, wing attack Carmen Goh and the other Singapore netballers are crestfallen after losing 48-42 to Malaysia in the final. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Above: Captain and goal attack Charmaine Soh, goal shooter Lee Pei Shan, wing attack Carmen Goh and the other Singapore netballers are crestfallen after losing 48-42 to Malaysia in the final. Below: Soh and Lee tussling for the ball with Malaysia's N
Above: Soh and Lee tussling for the ball with Malaysia's Noor Azilah Aziz, whose team's strong third-quarter surge was pivotal to the outcome.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Above: Captain and goal attack Charmaine Soh, goal shooter Lee Pei Shan, wing attack Carmen Goh and the other Singapore netballers are crestfallen after losing 48-42 to Malaysia in the final. Below: Soh and Lee tussling for the ball with Malaysia's N

Centre says losses to Malaysia hurt more as games were closer but coach proud of team

The Malaysian netball supporters started their victory cheers two minutes before yesterday's final whistle which confirmed the country's second straight SEA Games netball title, but Singapore's challenge unravelled long before that.

In the decisive third quarter, Malaysia had a 19-9 run to seize control before prevailing 48-42 to seal their third gold after 2001 and 2017. Singapore are the only other winners (2015).

Singapore centre Vanessa Lee and coach Natalie Milicich were calm as they spoke to the media, allowing the tears to flow only after the interviews.

The 36-year-old Lee, the captain in 2017, said: "This one hurts more because we came in more prepared, the games were a lot closer and we had a lot of structures in our play.

"Kudos to Malaysia. They were the better team today."

In a tense final at the Santa Rosa Sports Complex, Singapore, skippered by Charmaine Soh, started strongly, storming 9-4 ahead, and edged the first quarter 13-12 even as their Causeway rivals' bench chanted in an attempt to distract them each time they took a shot.

The tight contest continued in the low-scoring second quarter, with neither team able to gain a foothold as they went into the break tied at 21-all.

It remained close until Malaysia capitalised on a bungled pass for a 27-25 lead. Suddenly they had the momentum and never looked back to end the third period up 40-30.

Of that third-quarter "lull", Lee said: "We didn't hold on to the one-for-one goal and that got us. Typically when we lose the ball, we just go into defence mode. But we were a bit slow so that's a learning point.

"I guess a lot of little things would've changed the outcome, be it just a pass or that transition. There are a lot of good things to take out of this game - (removing) the errors and also to work on what we did well."

Milicich was proud of her charges, saying: "I think it got very physical, especially in that second quarter, and our girls fronted up and it can grind you down but they didn't let it get to them.

"We were prepared for the physicality. The players know how to deal with it and we did. We just lost our way a little bit for one quarter."

SOME POSITIVES

I guess a lot of little things would've changed the outcome of this match... There are a lot of good things to take out of this game - (removing) the errors and also to work on what we did well.

VANESSA LEE, Singapore centre.

The New Zealander feels her squad can be strengthened with more time together, noting Singapore have a young side while Malaysia fielded a team similar to the one from two years ago.

"We've only got four players who were up at the last Games and we've got 20-odd players in Singapore now bidding for positions in the top team. That's a good place to be," she said.

"Although some of these young players have not won gold today; going forward, they will certainly be stronger for the experience."

Malaysia coach Tracey Robinson paid tribute to her players, telling Malaysia's New Straits Times: "The girls produced a strong performance and were tight in all departments to hold a healthy lead."

Correction note: This article has been updated for accuracy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2019, with the headline 'Netball falls short again'. Print Edition | Subscribe