U-21s help Dolphins retain NSL title

The Blaze Dolphins celebrate after being the first team since the Magic Marlins (2011-2013) to win back-to-back NSL titles.
The Blaze Dolphins celebrate after being the first team since the Magic Marlins (2011-2013) to win back-to-back NSL titles.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

She may be only 21 and in her first Netball Super League (NSL) season, but Yew Shu Ning has proven to be an indispensable member of the Blaze Dolphins.

Combining with veteran defenders Micky Lin and Premila Hirubalan, Yew, who also plays in defence, restricted the Mission Mannas attack to help the Dolphins retain their NSL title with a 45-38 victory yesterday.

The Nanyang Technological University student was ecstatic with her team's performance at Our Tampines Hub.

"It feels like a dream. We fought hard and we went for every training with a goal in mind. For example, one session we'll work on defence and the next, on attack," she said. "We focused on each segment of play and made sure we worked on it until it was perfect."

Both teams started strongly, with the Mannas leading 7-5. But the Dolphins caught up, thanks to key interceptions by Yew and Hirubalan, to lead 12-10 after the first quarter and never looked back.

Dolphins coach Wang Jing Qing said: "It was a bit messy at the start and everyone was running all over the place, so I thought we had to tidy that part up."

Aided by the Mannas' unforced errors, the Dolphins became the first team since the Magic Marlins (2011-2013) to claim back-to-back NSL titles.

Wang highlighted the importance of senior players (like former international Lin, Hirubalan and Chen Huifen) in her team, but also praised Under-21 players Lee Pei Shan and Yew.

"The players fought really hard today, especially the senior players," said Wang.

"They're very willing to share their knowledge with the younger ones, so that helped a lot...

"Shu Ning had a very good season and she started very well. It's not easy to play both goal defence and wing defence, so I thought she adjusted very well throughout the season."

Yew's performance would have caught the eye of national coach Natalie Milicich, who announced the National Opens squad at the closing ceremony.

While Yew will train with the U-21 squad until June's Asian Youth Netball Championship, she and five other U-21 players will join the Opens squad as training partners after that. That will give her a chance to represent Singapore at October's Nations Cup and November's SEA Games.

Milicich said: "We have a really strong squad this year and the U-21s have really stepped up. I'm impressed by how they've coped with this level and how the older ones have embraced them.

"The U-21s will push the senior players, creating a healthy environment, so that no one can feel comfortable in their position and they'll always be fighting for it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 14, 2019, with the headline 'U-21s help Dolphins retain NSL title'. Print Edition | Subscribe