Netball: Veterans Hirubalan, Lin and Chen retire from Singapore team

(From left) Lin Qingyi, Premila Hirubalan and Chen Huifen at the Netball Singapore Awards Night on Nov 15, 2015.
(From left) Lin Qingyi, Premila Hirubalan and Chen Huifen at the Netball Singapore Awards Night on Nov 15, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Three of Singapore's most storied netball players have decided to hang up their international jerseys.

National captain Lin Qingyi, co-vice-captain Chen Huifen and Premila Hirubalan, who are all in their 30s and have 328 caps between them, will be making way for new blood.

All three were inducted into Singapore's Netball Hall of Fame in December after playing key roles as the nation bagged three Asian Championships as well as a historic gold medal at the SEA Games on home soil last year.

Hirubalan, the most-capped player in the Republic's history with 117, made her debut at the 1999 World Championships in New Zealand.

A medical officer at the Singapore General Hospital, the 33-year-old relishes the prospect of "going out on a high".

She said: "A lot of highs, a lot of lows but something that I would never have given up or let pass me by. It's been worth all the sacrifice, all the long days of work and training, but then when you win the SEA Games, Asian Championships and did well at a few Nations Cups, that makes it all worthwhile. It's been a lot of fun."

Lin, 30, made her debut in 2004. Her 102 caps include three World Cups, one Commonwealth Games and four Asian Championships - where the team triumphed thrice.

Most notably, she captained the side at last year's SEA Games.

The Deloitte Singapore employee said: "Leading the team to win at SEA Games was probably the most memorable. It was against Malaysia and my first SEA Games. I am glad I could last that long to be part of that experience."

She added that she would still remain active in the sport since "it's been part of me for so long" but her decision is now about "focusing on work and other things".

Chen, 31, is another centurion with 109 international caps, having made her debut in 2005.

The goal attack, a teacher by profession, is keen to help develop the next generation of netballers.

She said: "I have been able to share my stories and experiences with my students and I want to stay involved in the sport to help players develop at a lower level with the students."

Cyrus Medora, Netball Singapore's chief executive officer, paid tribute to the trio.

He said: "On behalf of everyone at Netball Singapore, I would like to congratulate them on all they have achieved in the sport. I would like to thank them for their dedication and leadership - without players like this, we would not have been able to grow the sport to where we are now.

"It takes a huge amount of commitment to juggle top level sport along with studies or a career, and these three players are wonderful role models for the next generation of players we have coming through to show that it is possible and success can be achieved on and off the course with the right attitude and belief."

National coach and technical director Ruth Aitken also hailed the players' achievements, saying: "They have been instrumental in the success that the national team have had over the last few years. They are great talent on the court but their leadership within the group has also been a major factor in the team's achievements.

"We all will miss them, but I hope they will still take an active role in the sport and be able to offer mentoring support to the younger players we have coming through."

Members of the public can catch both Lin and Chen in action on Saturday in the Grand Final of the M1 NSL where they will tussle for the title with their club sides Blaze Dolphins against Sneakers Stingrays at 2pm.