Singapore netball team finish third in Asia
Coach Aitken heartened by team's composure, newcomers and the defence
HONG KONG 27
It has been a decent tournament, but there is work ahead.
That's national netball coach Ruth Aitken's assessment of her new-look squad, who beat Hong Kong 34-27 to finish third at the Asian Netball Championship in Bangkok yesterday.
The event is the first major test for the Singapore team since the retirement of three key players - former captain Micky Lin, defensive stalwart Premila Hirubalan and goal assist Chen Huifen.
Despite failing to retain the title they won in 2014, after losing to Sri Lanka in Friday's semi-finals, former New Zealand coach Aitken is pleased with what she saw from her charges.
"(The tournament) has been really great," said the coach.
"We've managed to expose some players to pressure situations in international netball.
"We were a little disappointed with (Friday's) display because we didn't play as well as we know we could.
"But we showed great character to come back today."
Aitken praised her team for their composure against Hong Kong - whom they had beaten 32-18 in a group encounter five days earlier - and finishing third.
With the recent changes, Singapore are in a transitional phase ahead of next year's South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur, where they aim to retain the gold.
There is also the Asian Championship at home to look forward to in 2018, with the two finalists of that tournament qualifying for the 2019 World Cup.
Despite finishing third - Singapore's first time outside the top two at the Asian Championship since 1997 - there were reasons for Aitken to smile.
She singled out newcomers Josephine Yeo, Zhang Ailin and Pamela Liew for praise.
In addition, captain Vanessa Lee bagged the Most Valuable Player award.
Said Aitken: "Defensively, our team have really stepped up, and all seven defensive players have done really well.
"One thing we need to work on is our confidence to release the ball quicker (to the attackers) and capitalising on the turnover ball.
"It's just really getting familiar with new combinations and having more opportunities to experience pressure in international competitions.
"In September, we'll have the Nations Cup and we're really looking forward to that."
In yesterday's final, Malaysia beat Sri Lanka 41-31 to claim their first Asian title since 1985.