Netball: National coach Natalie Milicich urges netballers to keep up intensity ahead of tougher challenges

Singapore beat Pakistan 84-17 in their Asian Netball Championship Group C match at the OCBC Arena on Sunday (Sept 2).
Singapore beat Pakistan 84-17 in their Asian Netball Championship Group C match at the OCBC Arena on Sunday (Sept 2).

SINGAPORE - Leading by 62-14, the result was already beyond doubt as Singapore entered the final quarter of their Asian Netball Championship (ANC) Group C match against Pakistan at the OCBC Arena on Sunday (Sept 2).

But you wouldn't have guessed that from the way Singapore goal attack Toh Kai Wei punched the air with delight after making a rare lay-up following a delightful combination with wing attack Kimberly Lim.

The hosts eventually won 84-17, with an 87 per cent conversion rate.

Vice-captain Charmaine Soh led the way by scoring from 23 of her 24 shots. Toh (22 from 24), Lee Pei Shan (22 from 30) and Tan Xin Yi (17 from 19) were not far behind.

Toh's celebration was an example of the consistent intensity Singapore showed throughout the game and this is what national coach Natalie Milicich wants the team to replicate this week as they progressed to the Cup group comprising the top four.

The New Zealander told The Straits Times: "We were trying out different things in terms of defensive structure. In attack, our conversion was really good, and I was also happy with how our changes came out strong and made an impact."

However, Milicich was under no illusions that tougher challenges lie ahead as they attempt to reclaim their Asian crown, or at least make the final to qualify for next year's Netball World Cup in England.

The Republic, who won the tournament in 2005, 2012 and 2014, will face four-time winners Sri Lanka (1989, 1997, 2001 and 2009) on Tuesday, Pool D winners on Wednesday and defending champions Malaysia on Thursday.

Earlier on Sunday, Malaysia had beaten the Maldives 74-13 to top Pool A, while Sri Lanka won 101-29 against India to win Pool B.

Hong Kong beat Thailand 65-38 and will qualify for the Cup group with at least a draw against the Philippines on Monday.

"We have not come under intense pressure yet, so we have to make sure we are ready for tougher opponents," said Milicich.

Playing in her first ANC, Toh, 21, is confident that her team will not be complacent.

She said: "I was pumped up after making the lay-up even though we were leading by a big margin because it was an air ball when I tried the shot against Brunei in our first game. When the opportunity came again, I really wanted to put it in.

"With all due respect to our opponents, the second round is when the tougher competition begins. It will be a more physical battle and we will have to toughen up for the harder challenges."