SINGAPORE - The Singapore national Under-21 netball team “mean business” and that has left their coach Goh Seck Tuck purring with pride.
Defending champions Singapore beat Hong Kong 62-36 in the semi-finals of the Asian Youth Netball Championship on Saturday (July 6) in Kashima, Japan, and they will face five-time champions Malaysia on Sunday, in a repeat of the 2017 final.
Malaysia defeated Sri Lanka 72-54 in the other semi-final.
Reflecting on the U-21 team’s performances in their first international outing, Goh is pleased to have been proven wrong by his charges.
He told The Sunday Times: “The approach of the younger generation of players is slightly different and I thought they cannot focus too well because they have a lot of other interests.
“But, for them to (buckle) down and train hard and show that they want to make it work... I’m satisfied.
“I was constantly challenging them to prove me wrong and show that they mean business, and I’m proud of them – I feel it’s a good outing so far.”
Against Hong Kong, the Republic initially trailed 7-4 before edging ahead to lead 18-12 at the end of the first quarter.
The momentum then shifted in Hong Kong’s favour in the second quarter, scoring five consecutive goals in the last few minutes to trail Singapore 29-24 at half-time.
But Goh’s charges stepped up their attack and took control of the game, outscoring their opponents 19-6 and 14-6 in the third and fourth quarters respectively.
Noting that his players had held back a little at the start of the game, Goh said: “I always tell them netball is an attacking game – we have to constantly (defend against) the opponent’s attack, but we must also (capitalise on) ours.
“When we were not attacking Hong Kong enough, they attacked us and we corrected that during half-time.
“In the last quarter, we let the rest of the players take the court and the flow of the game was there because there were fresh legs and everyone was excited to play, and the team went out on a high.”
Yesterday’s win also sealed qualification for the 2021 Netball Youth World Cup in Fiji, with the top three teams at the Asian Youth Netball Championship earning a spot.
Captain Janna Poong, who played wing attack yesterday, feels the team have gone from strength to strength since their first match against Nepal – which they won 112-2 – at the June 29-July 7 tournament.
The 20-year-old believes the improved teamwork and communication throughout the week have translated to strong performances on court.
Shrugging off the pressure of retain the title her seniors won two years ago, Poong said: “There’s that expectation of us, but we’re a completely different team and I don’t feel the pressure – we know what we have to do and what we want to do. We’re ready to take them on and win.”
Goh knows Malaysia will be tough opponents as six of their players also play for the senior team and they have more international experience than his team.
But he is confident that the determination of his players will prevail.
“Experience doesn’t come overnight, but the players are hungry and they want it hard enough,” he added.
“If we can take the lead from the first quarter, it will make a lot of difference.
“If Malaysia show their superiority and pull away, we will have a harder time. Regardless of the outcome, we’ll definitely put up a good fight.”