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International Netball Sports

A Student, A Mother, and An Outstanding Defender — Sulu Fitzpatrick’s Netball Journey

There is no age bar to learn and grow — Sulu Fitzpatrick is a student who never stops learning. Though most students do not take 10 years to complete a degree, most are not one of New Zealand’s topnotch netball defender.

Currently with the Northern Mystics, netball fans are eyeing Fitzpatrick’s possible return to The Silver Ferns, the team she played for in 2011. That was also the year she enrolled at the University of Auckland — she has been studying there since.

Balancing Personal & Professional Life

Embarking on her sociology degree at the university right after high school, Fitzpatrick hopes to complete her tertiary education next semester. “I promised myself I would do it before I was 30,” the 27-year-old told Newsroom.

Her studies was put on hold after giving birth to twins. Now six years old, Theresa and Tavita, are common sights courtside, cheering their mother on. In fact, Theresa was named after aunt, Theresa Fitzpatrick of Black Fern, though it appears the child is more inclined towards singing and dancing than sports. 

She is grateful that she is still able to continuing studying in the university despite her absences. Now that she is back in Auckland and home with her family — she was living separately from them for the past two year in Wellington while on the Central Pulse — Fitzpatrick is determined to finish her degree. She kept up with her studies by correspondence, though admittedly “very poorly at times”.

Her education

Despite the hurdles in getting her degree, Fitzpatrick loves her chosen specialisation. She is passionate about learning and understanding people and their actions; analysing the motivations behind their behaviour. She applies what she learns in both her life and her sport, perhaps possibly translating into a coaching career in the future. 

“It’s definitely something I could see myself doing in the future,” she shares, acknowledging the effort needed in “managing people, growing people, and supporting them in their own journey”.

She adds, “Sure, it’s been hard. But my mum has always pushed the importance of having something else in your life. The times when I didn’t do anything, I became too netball-focused.”

But that does not mean she’s giving up on her sporting career.

Her game

There’s a calm disposition about Fitzpatrick — at 1.87m, her presence is felt when making a move on the court. Claiming to be a late bloomer, she knows her weaknesses on the court and is learning with the help of Mystics’ coach Helena Wilson on how to best use her feet to create intercepts.

She recently hit a 100 games at the National League Level, having played elite netball for 10 seasons. Despite feeling like she is one of the older members, Fitzpatrick enjoys the weekly fancy-dress team dinners organised by the teens on the team. She enjoys the freshness they bring. “They’re reminding us what it is to just play,” she says.

“That’s really important for us to hold on to towards the end of this season, just to play and play our best.”

Fitzpatrick does not keep a track of the points table, though she is keeping her sights on moving up from the team’s current third placing — after a 47-41 loss to the Steel — to second place if they can beat Magic in their next match.

Putting unnecessary worries out of her mind, Fitzpatrick just wants the team to improve. She is enjoying playing with midcourter Elisapeta Toeava for the first time and also has a “soft spot” for the 18-year-old player, Saviour Tui — a player with “heart” and “integrity”. She feels this young player is not easily caught up with emotions and focuses more on the game.

On her strengths, Fitzpatrick believes it was a three-year journey with her two years at the Pulse deemed a game-changer. There, she lost weight, made herself physically more vigorous, and improved her knowledge about the game.

She also welcomes the lockdown and calls it “a huge blessing”.

“Netball-wise, it was just being able to train. There was nowhere to hide, no one else to push you, or for you to rely on. Just you and your own mind. I found that really helpful, and it brought my fitness up quite a bit. I was able to build mental toughness as well.”

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International Netball Sports

The Sunshine Coast Lightning: Expectations for 2020

Who is the Sunshine Coast Lightning?

The Sunshine Coast Lightning is an Australian netball team in Sunshine Coast, Queensland. It competes in the Premier Domestic League organised by the Suncorp Super Netball. The team was formed in 2016 as the second Queensland-based side, during the disbanding of the ANZ Championship.

Team members

Laura Langman, Karla Pretorius, Steph Wood, Laura Scherian, Peace Proscovia, Phumza Maweni, Maddy McAuliffe, Cara Koenen, Jacqui Russell, and Annika Lee-Jones.

Central players to the team

Laura Langman 

The Silver Ferns captain happens to be one of the best mid-courters in the netball. She is a lynchpin for Lightning who effortlessly slips into defensive and attacking forms of play. Ever since her return to the Club, she hasn’t missed a beat. She surpassed 200 National league games in the 6th round against the team Vixens in 2019. She joined the former coach, Noeline Taurua, to bring back the Gold Medal for Silver Ferns in 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup — her fourth World Cup Campaign.  Her read on the ball is simply outstanding, especially through the midcourt and picking a hand intercept between the two.

Steph Wood

Wood has a strong footing in the goal circle for Lightning. She has formed a strong on-court alliance with both Koenen and Proscovia. Her playing style in the third goal level is remarkable. She is one of the playmakers for the team. It’s not too often that she misses a goal.

Karla Pretorius

She is one of the best defenders of the competition. The way she reads the ball whenever it comes to Lightning’s defence is simply outstanding. Her game smarts are impeccable. She receives many countless intercepts as well as has a knack for doing the little things well. For example, creating a mismatch in the goal circle which forces the goalers to take up a long shot as she did in the dying minutes of the Round 13 clash against the Vixens.

The underdog

We should definitely watch out for Cara Koenen. Having been on the Lightning team for a few seasons now, she is all set to make her mark on the game through a winning partnership with both Wood and Proscovia. 

She surely will “shine bright like a diamond” this 2020 edition.

Last season’s report

After the crazy headstart in 2019,  The Sunshine lost against the Swifts in the Grand Finale 2019 Season. But the sun may shine again in 2020 for them as they are among the few teams who have managed to retain all their 10 players from the 2019 group.

New members have been welcomed into the team and naturally, it took the new recruits time to adjust but they had quite a strong season.

Laura Langman was welcomed back and brought with her, her spark and talent into the team’s mid-court. Lightning also saw new partnerships formed both in attacking and defence.

2020 season expectations

Having retained their players, Lightning can expect to go into the season stronger than other teams who might take some time to adjust with new partnerships. An advantage that could have them pick up where they left off last season.

When Laura Scherian spoke to the Sunshine Coast lightning media, she said, “It’s a bit strange not knowing who we are playing and when we are playing.”

“I think we are ready for whatever comes our way, no matter what it looks like — just being able to put our game out there is what is most important at the moment.”

Fans of Lightning will be sure to watch Karla Pretorius or Laura Langman take an intercept, or Steph Wood score a long-range shot next season.

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International Netball Sports

NETFIT Online Fitness Programme Hits New Zealand Shores For The First Time

In a joint alliance between the Netball New Zealand and the Australian Netball Fitness Organisation NETFIT, New Zealanders interested in learning netball skills, fitness. and wellbeing will not have to look far.

NETFIT is run by Kim Green from the Australian Diamonds and the ex-netballer, Sarah Wall. Named the NETFIT NZ, this programme will be fronted by Silver Ferns captain Laura Langman and sports host Courtney Tairi, who also used to play for the the New Zealand team.

Through virtual sessions aired three times a week on Sky Sport and NETFIT’s website, the ladies will be able to interact with viewers through a variety of experiences, without breaking any of the lockdown rules in Australia.

On Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday afternoons, the two-hour programme will be divided into workouts, skills, nutrition, and well-being segments, with special appearances by world champions Irene Dyk and Katrina Rore. Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua will helm one session per week from her home in Bay of Plenty.

Lagman noted the rather bizarre situation of bringing guests into the Sunshine Coast home during the pandemic, especially to watch her cook and exercise.

She shares with LockerRoom that she is quite inexperienced in the kitchen and calls her cooking segment “kind of ironic”.

But for both kids and adults who are stuck at home during the nationwide lockdown, the programme could not have come at a better time. Beyond bringing entertainment and educational content on fitness and staying active to these audiences, the sport, like many others, is also finding ingenious ways to engage fans and stay afloat in this global crisis. This community-driven initiative is one such example of their efforts.

Langman states, “With the current environment, exercise is the first thing to go — when it’s probably the first thing that you need”.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, she is still gearing up and remains optimistic about a Super Netball season with the Sunshine Coast Lightning.

She adds, “I’ve had a few messages from clubs and parents asking me to send videos to keep up-comers inspired in training during COVID-19. The idea of NETFIT is getting people active, and giving kids skills, ideas — and confidence in the kitchen to be independent and not rely on Mum. It’s really cool.”

It is interesting to note that the pandemic did not birth this programme, which is 18 months in the making, though the lockdown did speed up its delivery, combined with some creative adjustments. Netball NZ has been striving to bring the concept to New Zealand, and finally succeeded in exporting the programme from Australia for the first time ever.

The Australian programme is a hit with sign-up numbers reaching 65,000. The founder of NETFIT noticed a gap in the market for netball fitness and launched the business seven years ago.

Wall, who calls herself “an average elite netballer” despite having played for teams like the Phoenix, Firebirds, and Vixens, Swifts, and Giants across 12 years, believes netball is in her DNA.

But she is no longer chasing the thrill of the competitive sport and prefer to focus on giving back to the netball community. She believes that in tough times like these, netballers can get in touch with their teams online and plan for workouts together.

“Girls can go off and play for their teams, but this is a home base they come back to and get what they need,” she adds.

Tairi agrees with Wall, whom she’s known for 10 years off the court. “We share the same goals to bring something special to young females. We both know how fortunate we’ve been to be sportswomen and we want to pass on the knowledge and skills that we’ve learned.” They connected through a programme for indigenous girls in Australia.

Netball NZ CEO Jennie Wyllie believes introducing the ANZ-sponsored NETFIT NZ is a “positive step forward in unprecedented circumstances”. With further support from partners NZ Police, Special K, and Netball Smart, the future in the virtual realm looks bright for the sport.

Meanwhile, Tairi, who has been running clinics and master classes for NETFIT Australia for the past few years, has her home ready for her virtual fitness clinics. With her camera and laptop, she believes that this way, a more meaningful connection can be made by stepping into viewers’ homes and vice versa.

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International Netball Sports

Magpies Anticipating Strong Season With New, Young Line-Up

2019 was a superb year for the Collingwood Magpies, with the club fighting their way to the finals. However, similar to their 2017 season, they finished in the top four — this time, losing to the semi-final round against their cross-town rivals in the Vixens.

But the Magpies can expect an exciting season ahead with a string of new recruits joining the club.

A quick update on last season

The black and white were looking to secure a first-ever finals win, but 2019 was not their season despite winning 7 games and drawing 2.

Magpies co-captain Geva Mentor tells The Women’s Game, “I think definitely it was finding the groove towards the last couple of games of the regular season. We were trusting each other and trusting the processes we put in place.”

It has been an extremely good run to the finals, where Magpies were victorious in three matches against the Fever, Swifts, followed by the Vixens. Their winning streak was broken when they lost the first final against their crosstown rivals, the Vixens. 

For Mentor, the game against the Vixens was her favourite of the season. She shared that playing for Collingwood is something she enjoys and anticipates, especially against team rivals, Vixens while citing the last game of the regular season played at Melbourne arena.

She felt that “it all click[ed] together nicely” and added that the team played well, making it an exciting game where they tried to “get as many points as possible and win by a certain margin” to enter the finals, which the Magpies did.

The game that stood out to Mentor was against Swifts in Tasmania. The match took place without Collingwood’s coach who lost his mum several days prior. Mentor recalled, “We banded together…we’re just able to take our game to the next level and it was like everyone was just on-song and everyone was on the court for each other and it was an amazing feeling to be part of.”

Team members

Resigned members include Madi Browne, Kelsey Browne, Geva Mentor, Shimona Nelson, Gabi Sinclair, and Matilda Garrett.

In: Jodi-Ann Ward (Severn Stars English Super League), Melissa Bragg (Elevated from training partner), Julia Woolley (Geelong Cougars VNL), Molly Jovic (Melbourne Fury ANL/VNL) and  Kelly Altman* (Adelaide Thunderbirds)

Out: April Brandley (Pregnancy), Nat Medhurst (Pregnancy), Kim Ravaliion (Pregnancy), Ashleigh Brazil (ACL Injury) and Kimiora Poi* (Tacix ANZ)

*temporary replacement player

What to expect

The upcoming superstars of Magpies are none other than the newly recruited players. Hopefully, this will spice the thrill and excitement of their game.

In December, Collingwood visited New Zealand to compete in the Super Netball competition where the team were triumphant in the games and went on to win the Super Club championship. The competition, which hosted teams from both the New Zealand and England Leagues, gave the new recruits some experience on the court.

Mentor urged the crowd to give them as much support as “the good show” they intend to put on for the fans — “a really exciting brand of netball on the court”.

Alongside her team, she wanted to make sure the different playing styles within the team translates well together. That way, a really enthralling match will be delivered on the court.

Personally, Mentor is keen on the opportunity of “playing alongside Kelsey and Madi Browne”.

She mentioned the hurdles the team had to face losing Maddie to injury at the beginning of last year followed by Kelsey at year-end. With the new teammates, the Magpies will have to “click on court” and gel together in a short time before the next season begins.

The power of three

Madi Browne

Post-injury, she is all set to boost her performance in Collingwood’s midcourt based with her experience and star power. Without talented and experienced midcourt players like Kim Ravaliion and Ashleigh Brazil, Browne will be able to pick up where she left off.

Kelsey Browne

With her return to the court from ACL, Browne is expected to contribute speed to the midcourt, alongside her sister. Their presence will be threatening to defenders, forcing them to keep up with the pace of the game.

Geva Mentor

She is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, causing trouble for goalers from opposing teams. She was an integral player in Collingwood’s rise to the finals.

Watch out for

Nat Medhurst will be taking off this season because of her pregnancy and Gabby Sinclair will be looking to secure her position in the team. If her performance in 2019 is anything to go by, she has the potential of being a star goaler in the competition.

Having been with Collingwood for three years, Matilda Garret has displayed her skills and what she is capable of — 2020 could be Garret’s golden year to make the best of opportunities and her talent. 

Geva agreed. “I think it’s her time to almost shine and get some more court time or court opportunities in that way wing defence, goal defence positions and really just grow in confidence so I’m looking forward to seeing her, take the opportunity in both hands and really excel.”

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International Netball Sports

2020 Super Netball & Constellations Cup is On; Quad Series is Off

2020 Constellation Cup and Super Netball confirmed

The constellation cup, contested by the Australian as well as the New Zealand national netball teams, is set to take place this year. The Suncorp Super Netball (also known non-commercially as the National Netball League) — the premier professional netball league in Australia — is also confirmed.

The constellation cup is awarded to the team who wins the maximum number of matches between the two is awarded the constellation cup. It does not include the games that are played as a part of the Netball World Championships and Commonwealth Games (CWG).

The original start for 2020 Super Netball was 2 May but the season was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. This season will instead start on 1 August 2020.  The complete list of fixtures has not been released yet but the 8 teams in the league can look forward to the full set of 60 matches being played.

After the regular domestic season, the Constellation Cup will also be held. Since 2010, the four-match series between Australian Diamonds and Silver Ferns has taken place every year.

Should travel restrictions be lifted depending on the COVID-19 situation, both Netball Australia and Netball New Zealand will start off the series in late 2020. The dates are yet to be confirmed.

Currently, the ANZ Premier, New Zealand’s domestic competition will restart its operations on 19 June this year and is expected to end with a Finals Series on 23 August 2020.

However the Quad Series did not survive this year. Confirmed by Netball Australia, the series, which has been played since 2016 between Australia, New Zealand, England, and South Africa, has been cancelled. The four nations promise to offer their commitment to pin down a date for the next Quad Series.

Netball Australia Executive General Manager of Performance, Stacey West shared, “With great disappointment, and after much deliberation and possible scenario planning, all four participating nations agreed that cancelling the 2020 Quad Series scheduled for September was the most viable option.”

Though the cancellation of the Quad Series leaves Netball Australia with great dismay, Suncorp Super Netball’s CEO Chris Symington is hopeful that the domestic Australian season would return with thrill and excitement. 

He is filled with enthusiasm and believes that since the season start date has been locked away, all stakeholders have a date to work towards. The fans can also look forward to the start of the season.

“Our guiding principles throughout this process have never changed, which includes not just the health and well being of the community but the financial viability of our sport. There has been a collective commitment to those principles from each and every member belonging to the system be it, players, teams, partners and broadcasters. We will continue to take this approach as we look to get our season underway,” he added.

Symington further expressed his gratitude to the devoted fans and members who have stuck through thick and thin with their respective teams through challenging times.

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International Netball Sports

After Last Season’s Win, Swifts Are Ready To Start New Season Strong

After the spectacular end to the last season, NSW Swifts will be looking for straight wins when the league resumes its operation after the break. 

The team

Re-signed members include Sam Wallace, Maddy Proud, Helen Housby, Maddy Turner, Sarah Klau, Lauren Moore, Nat Haythornthwaite, Sam Wallace, and Paige Hadle. From training partner,  Sophie Craig has been elevated and will be part of the season. Kate Eddy (Melbourne Vixens) and Katrina Rore (New Zealand) are out, with the latter being a temporary replacement player.

Last season results

The Swifts had given a great performance and emerged as champions in their first premiership since 2008. The road to winning has not been an easy one for them. Their start was great but it came to a halt when the Swifts lost their captain Maddy Proud in an ACL injury during a match against the Firebirds, followed by young defender Kate Eddy.

However, as a replacement, they managed to get a very experienced player on board, Silver Ferns Katrina Rore.

Looking forward

Maddy Proud will be making a return from her injury. She was not able to be a part of last year’s winning team, but adding Proud to the midcourt, it will not be an easy team to beat.

The fans can prepare themselves to see a strong Swifts lineup in 2020 after the string of injuries last season.

Integral players

The England Rose Goaler “Helen Housby” is a game-changer. She showed off her skills exceptionally well in the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medal match, scoring the winning goal for England.

Her long-range shooting capacity is capable of turning any game. She is a threat in the circle and is a good reader of the game.

One of the most consistent midcourters in the game series is Paige Hadley. Her goal-circle deliveries are simply outstanding and the way she connects defenders and attackers between plays is worthy of applause. 

Sarah Klau has performed extremely well in the last season and at 2020 Netball World Cup, she will be joining the Australia Diamonds.

Klau combined with Maddy Turner, works as a great pair and leave shooters in distress. The best of Klau is yet to come as she is one of the rising defenders in this competition.

Keep an eye out for this player

Sophie Craig is one to watch. This season will be her first playing as a permanent listed player for the Swifts. She has the ability to play anywhere in midcourt.

With Kate Eddy being injured, Craig carries the potential to play that now empty position well.  Craig had been a replacement player in the last season. She played a part in the 2019 premiership and won also over the Sunshine Coast Lightning.

Craig’s future appears bright and she shared with Swifts Media her thoughts on making it to the senior list.

“It’s a dream come true. Hopefully, I can get on the court and perform and go back to back.”

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International Netball Sports

Two-Point Super Shot Rule Change Met With Surprise

For the 2020 season, Super Netball will introduce a controversial yet spectacular two-point super shot in the scoring system. This announcement took place just a month before the start of the delayed COVID-19 season, leaving not-so-positive reactions.

This new scoring opportunity will be executed in Australia’s top-level league where players shooting from a 1.9-meter zone on the outside periphery of the goal circle earns double points for a goal.

Players were given a chance to test out the new rule during a seven-a-side bushfire relief match in early March and in the past years in fast-five netball.

As per the reports from Super Netball, it will “blend the traditional game with the new”. It appears that this way, the game will be even more thrilling and perhaps produce unexpected twists, especially in the final five minutes of each quarter when the rule kicks in.

“With the ever-growing competition for the attention of fans, the time is right to introduce an innovation that will make the game even more dynamic and unpredictable,” said Super Netball CEO Chris Symington.

He added that the statistics from previous seasons of the Suncorp Super Netball suggests that most of the goals were scored with a 3-meter range of the goal post.

“We know that the long shot is statistically more challenging, but the game has always been predicated on the ability for our shooters to score from anywhere in the circle.”

But some were not pleased with the move. For the competition committee, whose duty included providing suggestions regarding the game to the governing body, did not know about the move to implement Super Shot until moments before Super Netball made its announcement.

Other additions to the netball rules have already been accepted, namely rolling substitutions kicking off next season and the addition of five minutes of extra-time for matches ending in a tie.

The season’s opening is predicted to take place on 1 August, which raised questions about the timing of the changes. The roasters have already been laid out and teams which do not have long-range shooters may be disadvantaged.

Simone McKinnis, Vixens head coach, said, “I was shocked … I know it’s something that’s been talked about for a while, but for it to be announced right now, it’s really come a bit out of the blue. Generally, I’m not a fan of it [these types of rule changes] but if that’s the decision that’s been made then we just get on with it.”

Syminton believes the Super Shot combined with the previously introduced rolling substitutions will showcase the world level skills of Australia’s athletes and create an  excitement that is on another level.

Fixtures for the 2020 season will be confirmed in the coming weeks.

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Asia Netball Sports

Two in Two for Singapore Netball at SEA Games

The Singapore netball team won their second consecutive game on Wednesday (Nov 27) with a convincing 62-38 win over Brunei, the 2017 Games bronze medallists.

The Bruneians, though, made Singapore work for the win. They took a 4-1 lead early in the first quarter of the match, and precise shooting and resolute defending helped them finish the first quarter with a 9-8 lead over Singapore.

But Singapore, silver medallists in 2017, picked up the pace after the break and went up 25-20 after the second quarter. 

And in the third quarter, Singapore went up another gear and extended their lead over Brunei, ending the period with a comfortable 43-28 lead. 

Natalie Milicich’s side continued their offensive and outplayed their counterparts in the final quarter to see themselves to another win – the first was a 80-28 thumping of hosts Philippines on Monday.

Singapore will face Thailand next on Thursday, and causeway rivals Malaysia after that. In the 2017 Games, Singapore lost the gold to Malaysia 65-41 in the finals. 

 

This article first appeared on Channel NewsAsia.

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Local Netball Sports

‘Friendly’ Match Sees Singapore Brush Off Host Philippines in SEA Games Netball Opener

Singapore beat host Philippines 80-28 in their opening game at the 30th SEA Games on Monday (25 Nov), in what was labelled as a match between close friends by Singapore captain Charmaine Soh.

“The Philippines team and us have a very close friendship, so playing them on court felt like a game between close friends,” Singapore captain Charmaine Soh told CNA after the game at the Laguna sports complex in Santa Rosa.

“Even in the hotel, we say hi and hug each other like long-time friends.”

Players from both sides could be seen speaking with one another during the game, with Soh occasionally applauding the efforts of the Filipinos as well.

“The players were saying that they improved quite a bit,” she added. 

“We played well, we had quite a jittery start but we managed to carry out the game plan after. I felt that the whole team got on court – the young ones, the old ones, we try to work out combis (combinations) and setups so the team did pretty well.”

The Singaporeans, who last won gold in 2015, raced to a 21-6 lead in the opening quarter. 

An enthusiastic, pom-pom-wielding crowd, rallied on the Philippines side, but the Singapore players kept the cheers to a minimum as they stretched their lead to 43-15 in the second quarter.

Exceptional defence from Natalie Milicich’s charges meant they kept the home team to just five points in the third, before closing out the game.

Speaking on reports that insufficient food had been an issue for the team at their hotel, Soh said that it was settled “almost immediately”.

She said: “The hotel and accommodation are good, everything is fine. 

“Normally we eat a bit more, just that the portion wasn’t a lot. So we coped with the issue by ordering (food) in so that wasn’t an issue at all. We manage to settle the issue almost immediately.”

The team has taken it in their stride, added Soh.

“We should expect the unexpected. This is just one of those unexpected events we have to cope with and this is really a small issue for us,” she said. 

At the last edition of the Games, Singapore beat Philippines 91-22 in the semi finals, but missed out on gold after losing to host and Causeway rivals Malaysia 65-41 in the finals. 

Singapore will face Brunei next on Wednesday.

 

This article first appeared on Channel News Asia.

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Local Netball Sports

Netball World Cup: Tough Lessons Learned for Singapore

A single point made the difference between gold and silver at the quadrennial Netball World Cup held in Liverpool in July. In a nail-biting final that kept spectators on the edge of their seats, New Zealand upset holders and 11-time winners Australia 52-51.

At the post-match conference, New Zealand coach Noeline Taurua said, “It has taken us a long time to be able to get to this stage. Sometimes good things take time.

“I’m very aware of my role, and I’m only one piece in the mix of everything,” she continued, singing praises of New Zealand netball programme.

On the other side of the court, the Australian players were coming to terms with their defeat. Emotions were running high and tears were shed – they had won the last three World Cups and players were not used to losing.

Australia coach Lisa Alexander said her players were “shattered”. 

In the changing rooms, Alexander ensured the players remembered that feeling of hurt, “because that’s what helps drive athletes to higher levels of performance in training”.

In the 3rd-placing match, pre-tournament favourites England beat South Africa to win the bronze. The hosts were gunning for gold on home soil, but fell short by two goals against New Zealand in the semi-finals.

Also making their presence felt were the passionate Zimbabwe fans who lit up the arena with their songs, drums and slick dance moves as they cheered on their team with every goal scored, as if they had just won the Cup.

For Singapore, they will do well to make the most of the experience and bounce back from it. After all, they finished last out of 16 competing teams, losing all seven matches. 

But Taurua commended Singapore’s style of play after New Zealand defeated the Republic 89-21 in a group game.

She said, “Singapore is ranked among the lowest in the competition, but I love their style of play. I thought there were moments when they had us on the back foot, and they put some beautiful shots in.”

Singapore’s defence was resolute at times and skipper Charmaine Soh led the charge, but the players lost out to their opponents’ physicality and size.

Better youth development

Despite the losses, Team Singapore coach Natalie Milicich stressed that she was far from disappointed in her players.

“It was about hanging in there and we had to look at what was achievable with a very young team. Ultimately we are realistic about the fact that we are not professional. We are unfortunate that we don’t have the funding to have full-time paid athletes. If we did, I think eventually those gaps will narrow.”

One way to improve the level of netball in Singapore is by training athletes as early as possible, said Soh, who added that children as young as three or four already start training in Australia and New Zealand. 

In Singapore, children start at age nine and 10. 

Soh also said that having youth programmes could also mean that Singapore would have a larger talent pool to pick from.

Echoing Soh’s sentiments of grooming youth netballers was World Cup ambassador and Uganda captain Peace Proscovia.

The 29-year-old was substituted by her teammate seven years younger in one of the games, and had no complaints about it.

She said, “Coming off and letting someone like Mary go in is my pride. One of my key objectives is to promote the young ones, because the future does not belong to us (who) are edging out. Mary is much younger than me, and she needs that time to gain confidence.”

For Proscovia, netball paved a way out of her poverty-stricken village, and onto the world stage. She is also a PhD student in Australia. 

Sport is more than just playing the game. It builds character, teaches perseverance and honest values. It galvanises people and has the ability to empower women, and inspire a whole new generation of athletes.

Nelson Mandela once said, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair.”

Culture is key 

Off the court, Singapore could learn from other countries that performed better at the World Cup. Champions New Zealand has a population of 4.7 million, just about a million less than Singapore. And debutants Zimbabwe finished eighth, a laudable position considering the team had fewer resources and even needed to crowdfund to afford attending the World Cup.

While just qualifying for the World Cup was commendable, Singapore’s performance still left much to be desired if they want to better themselves at the international level. 

The first steps: investing in young athletes, hiring top coaches, and developing a structured netball programme.

 

This article first appeared on The Business Times.