Netball Singapore helping rivals ahead of SEA Games
At least five countries will compete in the netball competition when Singapore hosts the South-east Asia (SEA) Games next June.
And, if all goes well, the competition will feature another two or three more nations, thanks to efforts by Netball Singapore (NS) to grow the sport in the region.
This year, the national sport association has sent coaches to Myanmar, Philippines, Vietnam and Timor Leste, and they will do the same for Laos later this month, to help these nations set up their netball teams.
Also, players and coaches from Myanmar and Vietnam were here during the Asian Championships in September, while the Philippines are currently training here and watching Netball Nations Cup games at the Singapore Sports Hub's OCBC Arena.
The venture has cost Netball Singapore about $50,000 from its reserves so far, with the aim of making the sport a permanent fixture at the SEA Games, as well as to grow the sport in the region.
Netball Singapore president and Member of Parliament for East Coast GRC Jessica Tan said: "We realised from the start that they needed just a little support from us in (forming) a team, we were pleased that the response has been good.
"We just hope that this will help us grow from strength to strength because it is important not just for our team to play well, it is also important to grow the sport in the region."
Asian champions Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Brunei are established netball nations in the region and, along with Myanmar, will compete in the SEA Games next year.
The sport's only appearance at the biennial Games was in 2001 in Kuala Lumpur - with teams from Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand battling for the medals.
The Malaysian women beat Singapore 53-42 in the final to win gold.
LEARNING THE ROPES
Netball Philippines board member Sonny Montalvo is in town with his team this week, learning the ropes in training and also through watching the Nations Cup action.
"We started our team just a month ago and, since the very beginning, Singapore have been helping us with the netball programme," said Montalvo, who is also the team's assistant coach.
Basketball players form the bulk of his team, with others hailing from volleyball and badminton.
Montalvo said: "Philippines is a very big basketball nation, but it is a patriarchal one; men have a better chance (of succeeding) in basketball. It's about time that we put in a similar sport as basketball that is more for women.
"With the help of Netball Singapore, we are trying our best to fulfil the requirements for the SEA Games. That is the closest competition we are preparing for now."
With the Singapore National Olympic Council helping to make introductions, Netball Singapore chief executive officer Cyrus Medora has sent "hundreds of emails" to each country to take up netball, and to form teams for the biennial Games.
The sport is also likely to feature when Malaysia and Brunei host the Games in 2017 and 2019, respectively.
"We already have enough countries (for the SEA Games), but we are pushing for more than that," said Medora.
"It's our one chance to develop netball in the region... and we want to slowly push for inclusion at the Asian Games as well."