Netball: New girl Joanna Toh relishing call-up to Singapore's World Cup squad

Captain Charmaine Soh (GA) is one of the two survivors from the last edition of the Netball World Cup in 2015, though the majority of the squad do have major tournament experience.
Captain Charmaine Soh (GA) is one of the two survivors from the last edition of the Netball World Cup in 2015, though the majority of the squad do have major tournament experience.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Despite calling up just two players with prior experience, Singapore have set a lofty target of finishing in the top 12 for the July 12-21 Netball World Cup in Liverpool, England.

To achieve their target in the 16-team tournament, the Republic must finish in the top three of their four-team group, which include New Zealand, Malawi and Barbados.

They were 15th in 2007, 2011, and 2015, and 12th in 1999, which remains their best finish.

After announcing the 12-woman squad on May 24 (Friday), Netball Singapore chief executive officer Cyrus Medora told The Straits Times: "We are world No. 24 and in our Group B, Barbados are 12th and the ones closest to us in ranking. We will give it our best shot and to try and beat them in our first game."

Captain Charmaine Soh and Kimberly Lim, who plays centre and wing attack, are the only survivors from the last edition in 2015 though the majority of the squad do have major tournament experience.

Except for goalkeeper Joanna Toh, who earned her first cap in April in a test match against Fiji. Toh, 22, said: "I'm super excited because this is a great opportunity to play against teams with different styles and show them what we got.

"In this past two months with the national team, I realised I have to be always focused and in the zone. The intensity is much higher than at club level and I have learnt from the coaches many different things in terms of game plays and tactics."

National coach Natalie Milicich intends to use the World Cup and October's Nations Cup to look at more players and prepare for December's SEA Games, where Singapore aim to reclaim the gold medal they lost to Malaysia in 2017.

Milicich said: "We have a big loss with Chen Lili out injured, but at 1.86m, Joanna really helps us with the extra centimetres when we play against tall shooters.

"She has taken a huge step up and we want to help her grow her game further in the next six weeks.

"With Nurul Baizura taking a break, we have a very big hole in mid-court to fill. We still have Kimberly, and we welcome back Shawallah (Rashid) from having a baby and (Kwok) Shuyi, who was in and out of the squad, and worked very hard to get back in.

"In these six weeks, we will work on our connections - defence to mid-court, and mid-court to attack - and make sure we are fit and strong for the hard knocks. We will play six matches, including against the Darwin state team, in eight days as part of the preparations."

Making a surprise return to the squad is 26-year-old Shawallah, who gave birth to her second child, a boy, only in February.

She said: "I wanted to be a good example for my kids and show that mothers can also represent their country in sport.

"Thank God, I was still in shape after giving birth, and so it was a matter of working on my stamina and fitness after my confinement period.

"Training twice a week with Swifts Netball Club helped, and I'm surprised but happy to make the squad because it is a once-in-a-lifetime dream to play in the World Cup.

"We expect competitive and bigger opponents. It's a good learning experience to see where we stand."

Singapore's World Cup squad: Lee Pei Shan, Charmaine Soh, Tan Xin Yi, Toh Kai Wei, Carmen Goh, Kimberly Lim, Shawallah Rashid, Kwok Shuyi, Aqilah Andin, Melody Teo, Sindhu Nair, Joanna Toh.