Stalwarts step away from national team

From left: Netball Singapore president Jessica Tan, Charmaine Soh, Vanessa Lee, Nurul Baizura and guests of honour Geva Mentor and Madi Robinson, of England and Australia. Soh, Lee and Nurul were inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Netball Singapor
From left: Netball Singapore president Jessica Tan, Charmaine Soh, Vanessa Lee, Nurul Baizura and guests of honour Geva Mentor and Madi Robinson, of England and Australia. Soh, Lee and Nurul were inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Netball Singapore Awards last night.PHOTO: NETBALL SINGAPORE

Stalwarts Vanessa Lee and Nurul Baizura are "taking a break" from international netball, but stopped short of announcing their retirements from the Singapore team last night.

Both veterans, along with Charmaine Soh, were inducted into the Netball Hall of Fame at the Netball Singapore Awards Night at the Singapore Cricket Club.

Nurul, 28, who has 113 caps, said: "I wouldn't say that I wouldn't come back because I don't know what the future is, but I am taking a break from international netball."

"I am married already and trying to focus on my family, so netball will take a back seat for a while," added the co-vice captain, who got married last December.

Captain Lee, 34, also cited a change in priorities for stepping away from the national team.

An executive with a private swim school, Lee said she wanted to focus on her career and take care of her "niggling" right knee injury, which she has had since 2006.

"I'll still play in the NSL (Netball Super League) next year and who knows?" said Lee, who has 98 caps.

"You take a break and you feel itchy and want to come back because you love the game so much."

National coach Natalie Milicich said the departures of Lee and Baizura will "definitely change the team" but is optimistic about the future, especially with July's World Cup in Liverpool looming.

The New Zealander said: "We have brought in some young ones who have played in the NSL for some time but have never made the national squad before.

"They are new to the international level but I think they will make a big difference."

She also revealed that Soh will skipper the team, while Aqilah Andin is promoted to vice-captain.

Soh, Lee and Baizura all said that they were "honoured and privileged" to join Yap Hui Kim, Vicki Woo, Jean Ng, Premila Hirubalan, Chen Huifen and Micky Lin in the Hall of Fame, which was set up in 2012.

Soh, 28, revealed that she had wanted to quit after the 2011 World Championship on home ground, after she missed a crucial shot in the classification match against Fiji at the Indoor Stadium.

The Fijians won the game 57-47 in extra time.

Soh, who has 99 caps, said: "If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to keep going; my teammates Prem and Micky encouraged me not to quit after my first major competition, that it was a long journey ahead for me.

"I've learnt a lot since then."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 28, 2018, with the headline 'Stalwarts step away from national team'. Print Edition | Subscribe