Netballers want to lay down marker in SEA Games opener
Coach Aitken wants Asian champions Singapore to get off to fast start today
SINGAPORE v BRUNEI
(Today, 12pm, OCBC Arena Hall 1)
Building on the high of last year's Asian Netball Championship triumph, hosts Singapore cannot wait for their South-east Asia (SEA) Games campaign to get started.
After more than a month of an intense final training programme and playing training matches in Fiji in April, national coach Ruth Aitken said yesterday her women are raring to go, as they open their campaign today against Brunei at the OCBC Arena.
"We feel like we have been preparing forever," the 58-year-old Kiwi told The New Paper yesterday.
"We want to stamp our mark on the competition and also provide a really good spectacle of netball for the public."
Over the next eight days, Singapore will also face Thailand, Myanmar, the Philippines and arch-rivals Malaysia in the round-robin contest.
The top four sides will then play in the semi-finals.
"It is a huge week. We have got seven games in eight days, so how we manage our squad is really important," Aitken said.
"I think one of our strengths as a group is at this stage, we feel we can use any of the players in our squad.
"We have to hope nothing untoward in terms of injuries happens, but it is really important in these early games that we get everyone out on the courts so they are ready to be used if needed," she added.
Brunei finished seventh at the 2014 Asian Championships but Aitken is still wary.
"We don't know a lot about Brunei and it is the first game so we haven't had a chance to scout them," she said.
"They played in the Asian Championships last year, so we've got an idea from that, but I'm not quite sure how much they've changed since then.
"I really rate their coach, Thilaka (Jinadasa), She was the coach of the Sri Lankan team when they won the Asian Champs in 2009. So she's been doing some good work and I'm sure it will be a great game."
Singapore captain Micky Lin agreed. "From what I have seen so far, their goal attack is quick and fast," the 29-year-old said.
"We will need to quickly assess their style of play and counter that."
Of the 12 players in the Singapore squad, eight featured in last year's Asian Championship-winning side, including 32-year-old veteran Premila Hirubalan, who is set to win a century of international caps (she currently owns 97) at the Games.
A mixture of experience and youth, this year's team will also include 20-year-olds Shelby Koh and Kimberly Lim and 19-year-old Shina Teo, who was called up after performing well in the 21 & Under squad..
"The players are all blending well together," said captain Lin. "We can't wait to get out onto the court."
The highest-ranked team in the competition, world No. 17 Singapore are still looking for their first gold medal at the SEA Games.
The last time netball was featured in the Games was in 2001 when Singapore lost to Malaysia in the final.
The teams will meet each other again on June 2.
"Malaysia-Singapore matches are legendary in terms of their intensity," said Aitken.
"We've been quite close the last few times and while we've beaten them, they're knocking on the door.
"They have got some great young talent in their team and youngsters think they can do anything. So we have to be on our game."
Tickets for the final and the Malaysia game are already sold out, and today's opener could also be a sellout.
"When the game starts, it is seven of us against seven of them," said Lin. "The fans' support could give us that extra something."
- PHOTO: ST
There are five days to go to the SEA Games opening ceremony on June 5.
The three-hour spectacle will boast the world's largest projection system used in any sporting event to date.
Tickets are sold out, but millions of television viewers will still be enthralled by the 5,000 performers and volunteers, who will transform the National Stadium into a kaleidoscope of colours to kickstart the SEA Games. - DAVID LEE
- PHOTO COURTESY OF SINGSOC
OneKM is proud to join the countdown to the 28th SEA Games with its retailers.
OneKM, which officially opened in November 2014, is the largest shopping, gastronomy and lifestyle mall in Paya Lebar. The formation of the number 5 signifies the number of letters in OneKM.
Joining in the grand celebration, more than 60 enthusiastic retailers gathered at the Atrium to showcase their iconic products, and laid them in the shape of the number 5.