SINGAPORE – He made his international debut nearly three years ago but Ong Wen Yong, vice-captain of the men’s national netball team, still has not forgotten the pride he felt donning Singapore’s colours and the thrill of every block he made.
After that tri-nations tournament in Hong Kong, he had been looking forward to more opportunities to represent the country.
But the pandemic put a stop to all international competitions.
On Friday, Ong will finally get to relive that experience again, this time on home soil, when Singapore take on Hong Kong in another tri-nations tournament.
Malaysia and Singapore A, who consist of mainly developmental players, will also feature in the three-day competition at Our Tampines Hub and Temasek Polytechnic.
Ong, 32, told The Straits Times he was looking to add to his single cap: “The blocks I made then were like a bookmark for me.
“They help me remember how I felt and I want to relive those feelings again.
“It was disappointing that Covid-19 came after that.
“But I’m really excited for the upcoming competition and even more matches next time.
“There are very few men’s netball matches, so we always look forward to these chances to make sure we improve and are consistent.”
Captain Victor Ng, who has been part of the team since 2016, has also missed the intensity of competition.
He said: “You get this great sense of pride and honour and I’m looking forward to feeling that again.
“I really get that adrenaline when the national anthem is played before the match.
“We’re hoping to make men’s netball more known throughout Singapore.
“So such international competitions are good because they can help more people know about us.”
The team typically compete in an annual tri-nations tournament with Malaysia and Hong Kong as well as the Asian Men’s Netball Championship.
They also play several friendly matches throughout the year, usually with Malaysia.
While they were unable to train on court during the pandemic, the players instead focused on strength and conditioning before they returned to the court this year.
Ong admitted it had been a struggle to get used to the intensity again, recalling teammates vomiting at the side of the court after doing sprints.
He said: “Everyone was stuck at home during the pandemic and the only thing we could do was strength training.
“But it also came to a point where we might have become a little lazy also.
“The first training session was quite a struggle, but it was nice to be back and see everyone lining up to do our runs together, then complaining together.
“Ultimately, we’re a team and we really look forward to being together to work towards a common goal.”
Besides going for gold, coach Mary Lee hopes the tournament can help raise awareness as netball is typically thought of as a women-only sport.
The former national player, who hopes to organise more carnivals for men of all ages, said: “World Netball is promoting men’s netball because it is hoping to get the sport included in the Olympics. I hope it will be more accepted by the community here and I hope more men come forward to play it.
“With more competitions locally, people will start to see that the men can play netball too. This will help develop their interest so more guys can come forward.”
Dec 16 (Our Tampines Hub):
12.15pm: Opening ceremony
12.45pm: Malaysia v Singapore A
2.45pm: Singapore v Hong Kong
Dec 17 (Temasek Polytechnic):
9am: Malaysia v Hong Kong
11am: Singapore v Singapore A
1pm: Hong Kong v Singapore A
3pm: Singapore v Malaysia
Dec 18 (Our Tampines Hub):
12.30pm: Bronze-medal match
2.30pm: Gold-medal match