Fiji’s Waqa: Improved Singapore can break into world's top 10
Fiji's Waqa, who plays in the local league, lauds coach Aitken's guidance of national team
She played against the Singapore netball team at the 2011 World Championships at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, and watched them at the World Cup in Sydney last year.
While the Republic finished 15th out of 16 teams in both editions, Fiji's Alesi Waqa says Ruth Aitken's Singapore team, ranked 16th in the world, have improved under the Kiwi's guidance, and can even break into the world's top 10.
"Size does not matter... you need to play stiff competition regularly and build your confidence from there," said the 30-year-old police officer (left), who is among six foreign players competing in this year's M1 Netball Super League (NSL).
"The way Singapore play has changed; it used to be about fast passes, but now they have adopted more patience and a Kiwi style of defence as well."
Waqa, who plays for the Mission Mannas here, says Fiji - ranked seventh in the world - regularly play against the likes of Papua New Guinea and Samoa, which help in the team's development.
During an interview at Netball Singapore's (NS) premises in Kallang yesterday, Waqa pointed out that the Republic has better facilities than Fiji, whose players are also amateurs.
She said: "Back home, we train on a rugby field.
"Sometimes, we don't even get to train there because of bookings by other sports."
Similarly, Hildah Binang and Letang Mogotlhwane, who both hail from Botswana, lauded the local set-up.
"The facilities are close to each other and training is very organised, everything is in place for the players to do well," said Mogotlhwane, 20, an undergraduate back home.
"The coach is also very experienced, so Singapore should continue to use that to their benefit," added the Sneakers Stingrays player.
This is not the first time NS has brought foreign players in to play in the NSL and train with the national team.
But the presence of players such as Waqa, Mogotlhwane and Binang, who was Botswana's most valuable player at the Nations Cup here last December, is important in Singapore's preparations for their Asian Championship defence in July.
NS chief executive officer Cyrus Medora said: "The reason (we bring the foreign players in) has always been about the development of the national team.
"These players have totally changed the complexion of the league in their first appearance last weekend.
"They also train with the national team every Tuesday, as well as with their respective clubs, where our national players are playing in the league as well.
"The whole intention is for these players to bring the level of the game up."
National coach Aitken will select her Asian Championship training squad at the end of the NSL next month, and will likely trim her squad after they tour Fiji in June.
Stalwarts such as Micky Lin, Chen Huifen and Premila Hirubalan have opted out of national training at the moment.
Medora said the players have not indicated if they would be open for selection for the continental tournament in Thailand this year, when Singapore are aiming for their third straight crown.
The facilities are close to each other and training is very organised, everything is in place for the players to do well. The coach is also very experienced, so Singapore should continue to use that to their benefit.
— Botswana’s Letang Mogotlhwane on the local set-up