Silver lining in bronze medal

Ireland's Kristy Owens squaring off with Singapore's Charmaine Soh in the match for third place yesterday. Singapore won 60-41.
Ireland's Kristy Owens squaring off with Singapore's Charmaine Soh in the match for third place yesterday. Singapore won 60-41.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Coach Milicich says S'pore remain on track for top-two finish at Asian Championships

Beyond the high of closing out their Mission Foods Nations Cup campaign with a win, there is depth in the Singapore netball team that puts them on track for a top-two finish at next September's Asian Netball Championships, said national coach Natalie Milicich.

World No. 19 Singapore finished third in the Nations Cup after beating 22nd-ranked Ireland 60-41 at the OCBC Arena yesterday. The unranked Cook Islands were the surprise tournament winners after they beat world No. 30 Swaziland 39-38 in the final.

The hosts' target had been to feature in that final, but Milicich, who joined the national set-up in September and was taking charge of her first major event as Singapore coach, was heartened by her charges' progress throughout the Dec 3-9 tournament.

"The biggest thing for me is the depth that we've built - we could've put any one of those players on and they would have been ready to take the court," she said.

"We've still got to keep our options open to (which players) may be available. I'm going to keep putting the pressure on to make sure we don't have any gaps at all heading into the Asian Championships (hosted in Singapore).

"We want to win that, so we have to make sure we've got all the players that could possibly be available and the best in Singapore to play."

COLLECTIVE EFFORT

The biggest thing for me is the depth that we've built - we could've put any one of those players on and they would have been ready to take the court.

'' NATALIE MILICICH, national netball coach, on her charges' progress throughout the Dec 3-9 tournament.

While she kept her starting seven (Charmaine Soh, Kimberly Lim, Melody Teo, Aqilah Andin, Nurul Baizura, Toh Kai Wei and Vanessa Lee) for the entire match against Ireland yesterday, Milicich praised the contributions of all other players, including Siti Nurshawallah and Rima Yanti. The former earned her first cap at the Nations Cup while the latter had entered the tournament with two caps.

"If we keep working on building depth in the off-season, we can see those players grow," Milicich said.

Co-vice captain Baizura earned her 100th cap yesterday - joining the likes of Jean Ng (111 caps), Premila Hirubalan (117), Chen Huifen (109) and Micky Lin (102) - and was named Singapore's Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

The 27-year-old said: "The first loss (to Ireland on the tournament's opening day last Sunday) was purely on us as we didn't treasure all our balls, but today everyone was very calm from attack to defence.

"(Goalkeeper) Melody and (goal defender) Aqilah did well to turn over some nice and crucial balls, and we weren't jittery so I'm really proud of the team."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 10, 2017, with the headline 'Silver lining in bronze medal'. Print Edition | Subscribe