Tuesday 16 September 2014

Asian Netball Championships 2014: Singapore crowned Asian champs again

A perfect week of competition for Singapore ends with an 18-point win over Sri Lanka
By Jean Au, TODAY, 15 Sep 2014

Singapore retained their title as netball champions of Asia, beating Sri Lanka 59-41 in the final of the 2014 Asian Championships held at the OCBC Arena yesterday.

A full house of 3,000 fans cheered the team to victory in a repeat of the 2012 final, which Singapore won by only one point.

This outing proved a lot less tricky though, despite the national team mixing youth with experience.

Among the old hands, Premila Hirubalan, with 91 caps for Singapore, was delighted.

“It is (the dawn of a new era for netball in Singapore), in every sport people have to go and people have to come in. The good thing about this team is that we have the old and the younger (players) … so Singapore netball is looking pretty good for the future,” she said.

Singapore coach Ruth Aitken was equally pleased, telling TODAY: “It is huge for Singapore ... we had such an amazing audience they all had a blast. Now they know what a great sport netball is and it will raise the profile of the sport.”

President of Netball Singapore Jessica Tan believes the win sets up the chance to really spread the sport throughout the region.

“This championship had really new teams such as Myanmar, Vietnam and Japan. So the future is bright not only for netball in Singapore but across Asia,’ said Tan.

Singapore made a poor start to the final, with goal shooter Charmaine Soh and goal attack Chen Huifen hitting only 50 per cent of their shots in the first quarter, which gifted Sri Lanka a 12-8 lead. However, at the start of the second quarter, the pair finally settled and made 12 out of 12 and five out of five of their shots, respectively.

“The whole team kept encouraging one another and it built my confidence. When we went into the second quarter, I tried not to think of anything, just my team-mates, and doing it for them,” said Soh, who finished with 78 per cent shooting accuracy.

In contrast, 2.06m-tall Sri Lankan goal shooter Tarjini Sivalingnam bagged 91 per cent of her goal attempts, but for Aitken, the key statistic was that she only got 45 attempts.

“We had to maintain defence against Sri Lanka. You can’t expect just the goal keeper to be the dealing with Tarjini, so I thought the pressure we put on defence right across the court was outstanding,” she said.

Next up for the Asian champions is the 2014 Nations Cup (Dec 7-13) at which Singapore will host teams from Botswana, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Republic of Ireland and Samoa. They will then start as favourites at the SEA Games, before heading to Sydney for the World Cup in August next year.

Despite the win, Aitken was wary of the team becoming complacent. “For the moment (everything’s perfect), but come Monday, we’re back into planning mode. A team’s got to keep evolving and improving, and players have to do so too,” she said.

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