Netball: Singapore 'on track' in preparations for Worlds, SEA Games despite defeats to Fiji, says coach Natalie Milicich

Singapore lost 70-48 to Fiji at the OCBC Arena on April 27, 2019.
Singapore lost 70-48 to Fiji at the OCBC Arena on April 27, 2019.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - National netball coach Natalie Milicich believes her team are on track to reclaim the SEA Games gold medal in the Philippines at the end of the year.

Despite losing all three Test matches against Fiji over the last four days, the New Zealander saw the positives in the team's first competitive outing since the 16-strong squad was named at the end of the Netball Super League season two weeks ago.

The world No. 24 Singapore lost 70-48 to world No. 14 Fiji at the OCBC Arena on Saturday (April 27), which followed 65-57 and 64-57 defeats on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.

Milicich told The Straits Times on Saturday: "The first two matches were very competitive and today Fiji really used their strength against us with regard to really driving hard into that ball and any loose ball.

"We've played some really good structures but it's hard to keep those structures when you're against (physically strong opponents). It's given us a lot to think about - I think we're on track now, we know there are things that we can work on and we'll focus on those heading into the Netball World Cup (in Liverpool in July).

"The Worlds will give us experience, but ultimately the goal is to be ready for the SEA Games."

Areas to work on include establishing stronger links, and improving transitions, between defence and attack.

What is also key for Milicich is the fact that all 16 players were fielded over the three matches, where goalkeeper Joanna Toh and centre Khor Ting Fang earned their first international caps, while Netball Singapore Hall of Famer Vanessa Lee earned her 100th cap on Saturday.

Milicich said of the 22-year-old Khor, who used to be a defender: "She offers a really strong defensive centre game, which is something we will need going into some of the (tougher) matches.

"There were some good moments in all three Test matches which gave us an opportunity to look at lots of different combinations ... once we make a final decision on the 12 for the Worlds, we'll be able to (strengthen) some of those stronger combinations."

The 12-strong Netball World Cup team will be announced by the end of May. Singapore will then spar against the Darwin state team in June, among other warm-up games.

After the Worlds, they will then go on an overseas training tour before the Oct 20-26 Nations Cup, which will be Singapore's last tournament before the SEA Games.

Singapore captain and goal shooter Charmaine Soh noted that while her team could do with finetuning their game, their performance at the Singapore-Fiji Test Series was a good start to the season.

The 29-year-old said: "We had good patches of play today but definitely could have been better. I'm proud that everyone kept to the game plan, and we'll build up from there."