Aitken set to leave
Kiwi bound for home, Singapore look for 'world-class' successor
When Ruth Aitken was hired as national coach and technical director in 2013, it was hailed as a coup by Netball Singapore, given her CV and reputation.
When the contract of the former New Zealand international and national coach was extended in August last year, the national sports association breathed a sigh of relief, especially after there was talk the Kiwi missed her grandchildren and ageing parents back home.
But the lure of family has only become stronger and yesterday, Netball Singapore announced the amiable 60-year-old will leave Singapore at the end of the year to join the Netball Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic in New Zealand as their Performance manager.
Said Aitken: "I have absolutely loved my three years with Netball Singapore and the national team, but the time has come for me to return home to my family commitments in New Zealand.
"I leave with fantastic memories and many friendships and I'm delighted that Netball Waikato Bay of Plenty would like to work towards building a close connection with Netball Singapore in the future.
"I look forward to being able to liaise between the two organisations for the benefit of both."
The New Paper reported in late August that Aitken was on an open-ended contract after her extension expired in June this year.
It meant that she could leave her post with a month's notice.
At the time, she told TNP that she would discuss her future after the annual Nations Cup last month, when Singapore finished fourth.
Under Aitken's guidance, Singapore won the 2014 Asian Championship and the gold medal at the South-east Asia (SEA) Games last year on home soil.
The team also finished 15th in the World Cup in Sydney last year, and were third in the Asian Championship this year.
Under Aitken, the Singapore netball team rose to their highest-ever world ranking - 15th - last year.
Following the Nations Cup, the national team are on a break and have no major tournaments for the rest of the year.
Netball Singapore has already started the search for Aitken's successor, who will have to form a team to defend the SEA Games title next year in Kuala Lumpur, where the hosts will start as favourites after wresting the Asian crown from Singapore.
The new national coach will also have to prepare the team for the 2018 Asian Championship in Singapore.
Netball Singapore president and MP Jessica Tan thanked Aitken for her contributions.
She said: "Ruth has played an instrumental role in shaping the success of the national team and in widening the pool of developmental players.
"She is an approachable and dedicated coach and she has instilled belief in the team that they can win.
"It will be hard to replace someone of such calibre but we wish her the very best in her new role.
"Our immediate step will be to search for a world-class coach who can take the team to the next level and to prepare for the SEA Games in 2017."
I leave with fantastic memories and many friendships.
— Ruth Aitken (hugged by her players during the Asian Championship in July)