Netball: Unbeaten Blaze Dolphins win fourth Super League title

Coach credits them for staying motivated over past two years after they overwhelm holders Sneakers Stingrays

The Blaze Dolphins posing with their trophy after defeating the Sneakers Stingrays in the Netball Super League Final at Our Tampines Hub on March 13, 2022. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - When the Deloitte Netball Super League (NSL) 2022 restarted, Blaze Dolphins coach Wang Jing Qing had no idea what to expect as her players had to overcome ring rust after a two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic.

But what she did not see coming was the dominant performance that would see them crowned champions without dropping a game. The Dolphins beat defending champions Sneakers Stingrays 59-40 in the NSL final on Sunday (March 13) to win their fourth title.

Wang, 47, credited her charges for staying motivated during the past two years and working as a team.

She said: "It's not easy coming back after two years. I'm glad we managed to stay focused and consistent all the way to the final. I didn't expect to go unbeaten.

"Not all times are good but we managed to come together and stay as a team till the end. The team was good in a sense that they could follow our game plan but they could also sort themselves out and adapt to situations on court."

Despite the Dolphins' strong start to the season with a 58-37 victory over the Stingrays, defender Jamie Lim felt the team did not gel well.

Lim, 21, said: "The coaches then told us how to improve ourselves individually and as a team... As the season progressed, we caught on to each other's strengths and played to these strengths. Today's game was the best we've had working together as a team."

In the final at Our Tampines Hub, the Dolphins blazed to a 11-7 lead after the first quarter and never looked back. Lim and fellow defender Yew Shu Ning made several key interceptions while goal shooter Lee Pei Shan kept her cool under pressure from Stingrays goalkeeper Reena Divya Manogaran to convert 47 of 54 attempts.

Stingrays vice-captain Toh Kai Wei paid tribute to her teammates for their fighting spirit, saying: "I'm very happy with how they performed today, they went for every loose ball and it was a good fight."

Fier Orcas, making their return to the NSL after four years, finished third after beating Mission Mannas 58-47 in the third-place play-off.

The national squads were also announced on Sunday with three newcomers - Goh Wei Ping, Norah Paul Gabriel and Amandeep Kaur - picked for the opens squad.

Norah, 17, was surprised to be selected but is excited and nervous about the opportunity. The Nanyang Polytechnic sport and wellness management student said: "I have so much more to improve and I want to challenge myself to be better. Hopefully I can contribute as much as I can and gel with the team."

Her first order of business will be as a training partner during an upcoming trip to Sydney, where 14 players have been selected for the inaugural PacificAus Sports Netball Series from March 21-26 with teams from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga.

It will be the team's first time playing international matches since the pandemic and they will leave for Sydney on Thursday.

Toh, 25, will also be stepping up as the co-captain for the series alongside Khor Ting Fang in the absence of stalwarts Charmaine Soh and Aqilah Andin, both of whom have been included in the 2022 squad but are out of action as they are expecting.

Toh, a business executive, said: "(Leading the team is) definitely something new and I'm nervous but it's more important that I keep calm so that my teammates will be calm too.

"We'll also use this trip to fine-tune certain things like communication and teamwork so that when we return, it'll be easier for us to regroup and go for bigger games like the Asian Netball Championships (in September)."

Midfielder Kimberly Lim, who is the squad's most capped player internationally (91) after Soh (122), is happy to make her return to international netball since she ruptured her left Achilles' heel during the 2019 Nations Cup.

Lim, 27, who added that the ultimate goal is to win the ANC, said: "I just want to go there to fight and fearlessly go against the bigger bodies on the international stage and enjoy the experience.

"There's a little pressure because you see the number of caps and think this person is very experienced but I can focus only on what I can do on court while helping the younger ones."

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