S’pore netballers keep wary eyes on Sri Lanka, Malaysia

9c8d82c0-596a-11e6-be41-ae26bae452d4_image_hiresAfter reigning Asian champions Singapore beat Hong Kong 32-18 at the Asian Netball Championships yesterday, there was no time for celebrations as the team went straight to watch the match between Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

“We are sort of ‘spying’ (on) them. These three teams — Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Singapore — each have an equally good chance of winning the title this year,” said Singapore’s goal-shooter Charmaine Soh, who spoke to TODAY yesterday. “The tension among the teams here is really huge. But it has always been like that ever since I started my netball career. Malaysia and Sri Lanka have always been our fiercest opponents. We tend to follow each other closely.”

Soh, who was a standout player for Singapore yesterday by netting 29 goals, is right. In the past six editions of the Asian Netball Championships, the three national teams have been ever-present on the podium, with Singapore winning the past two editions. Malaysia will also be looking for revenge after Singapore edged them to the 2015 South-east Asian title last June.

But while defending champions Singapore are playing in their first major tournament at this year’s Asian Netball Championships with a new-look squad — after losing three veteran players to retirement in May — national head coach Ruth Aitken observed that Malaysia and Sri Lanka had little changes to their side.

“They are indeed looking very dangerous, but the confidence in the Singapore team has been really boosted too with the win against Hong Kong,” said the Kiwi. “I am really pleased with the level of intensity that all the 12 players displayed on court today. They really worked hard for each other, and played with a lot of heart. Some of our connections on the court still need improvement, but we have improved a fair bit since our first match here. Against Hong Kong, we showed that we can deal with very tall players. We kept our play flat and short and sharp, to make it difficult for them to be able to intercept our play. So that is good training for the potential match-ups with Sri Lanka and Malaysia, who both have some tall ones.”

After beating Thailand (49-28) and Taiwan (57-14) in their first two matches, it is now three wins in three matches for Singapore, who are leading Group A in the table standings at the moment. Singapore will face Maldives today, who have suffered big losses so far. “We will take that match as another opportunity to prepare for the weekend (semi-finals, final),” said Aitken. (Courtesy todayonline.com)