That winning feeling is back

Singapore captain Charmaine Soh challenging for the ball in the 57-47 Nations Cup win over Papua New Guinea at the OCBC Arena last night. In today's final, the hosts are hoping to beat Namibia, who they drew with in league play, and lift the Nations
Singapore captain Charmaine Soh challenging for the ball in the 57-47 Nations Cup win over Papua New Guinea at the OCBC Arena last night. In today's final, the hosts are hoping to beat Namibia, who they drew with in league play, and lift the Nations Cup to complete their turnaround from a disappointing World Cup. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Netballers bounce back from poor World Cup to make 1st Nations Cup final since 2014

M1 NATIONS CUP

Singapore 57

Papua New Guinea 47


A winless World Cup campaign in July took a toll on Singapore's netballers, sapping their belief.

But in the past week, a draw with world No. 33 Namibia, a narrow loss to Botswana (No. 26) and three successive wins, including one over world No. 12 Cook Islands, have lifted their spirits.

In beating No. 20 Papua New Guinea 57-47 last night, they made the M1 Nations Cup final again after a four-year absence - the icing on the cake for the 28th-ranked team, who earned the right to face Namibia today.

A beaming captain Charmaine Soh said: "We were pretty down after the World Cup after losing all the games. From losing all the games - we thought we couldn't win any more - to winning most of them, I'm so proud of them.

"With each game here, the team got stronger, we fought hard and trusted each other."

Coach Natalie Milicich also praised her charges for bouncing back from the disappointment.

On making the final, she said: "It shows the amount of work we've been doing.

"It was a really big turnaround from some tough games at the World Cup to finding ourselves at the beginning of the week.

"We knew that if we had the patience, the results would come."

Singapore hit a roadblock a few minutes into last night's match when wing attack Kimberly Lim exited with an Achilles strain, and will miss the final.

It took a while for the hosts to settle down but, with Carmen Goh moving from centre to wing attack and Kwok Shuyi filling Goh's role, they held on to lead the first quarter 13-12 at the OCBC Arena.

They went into the final period 43-29 up and, backed by a vociferous crowd, held on comfortably.

Papua New Guinea coach Ani Iamo said: "We needed to maintain our fitness and form. Singapore were the better team, but tomorrow against Ireland, we need to get in there and get the win (in the play-off for fifth position)."

Namibia beat Botswana 54-47 to top round-robin play with nine points yesterday, while the Cook Islands defeated Ireland 45-34 and will play off for third with Botswana.

Singapore had drawn 54-54 with Namibia in their opener last Sunday and know a tough test stands between them and their first Nations Cup title in 12 years. They had triumphed in 2006 and 2007.

Milicich said: "It'll a tough final for us, but I think we've got better throughout the week so it's really important that we are relaxed. The players are in a good place, there's a lot of confidence."

Soh called on her teammates to maintain their composure and communicate with each other when they have possession.

The 29-year-old said: "Our team works well by being more vocal with each other.

"We need to get each other to refocus and connect well from defence through midfield and attack.

"Since we're in the final, we got to go all out and do our best."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2019, with the headline 'That winning feeling is back'. Print Edition | Subscribe