Netballers off to winning start
Netballers give Aitken perfect birthday gift with resounding win over Taiwan
ASIAN NETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
Something was bothering national netball coach Ruth Aitken for much of yesterday.
It was her birthday, and not one player in the Singapore team, currently in Bangkok with her for the Asian Netball Championship, said a word to her about it.
"My husband and my son may sometimes forget about my birthday, but I thought the team would remember," said the Kiwi, who turned 60 yesterday, jokingly.
And they did.
The girls surprised the former Silver Ferns coach with flowers, a cake and a card, as well as a sweaty group hug, after Vanessa Lee and Co. started the defence of their Asian title with a 57-14 win over Taiwan in a Group A encounter.
"They were very naughty; they did not say anything the whole day. I never knew they could keep a secret so well!" Aitken said of her players.
The veteran coach gave all 12 players a run-out against the world No. 33 team, including goal assist Zhang Ailin and centre Josephine Yeo, who earned their first international caps yesterday.
Co-vice-captain Charmaine Soh said: "It was our first match of the tournament and we were a little nervous and shaky, but we all took the game well. I felt that Ailin and Jo did really well."
While Aitken lamented before the tournament about the attack and defence not performing at the same time, she was happy with the team's display yesterday.
Singapore were never in danger of losing the match. They led 14-2 after the first quarter, 25-6 at half-time and 38-11 at the end of the third period.
She said: "The scoreline may suggest that the match was easy for us, but it wasn't as easy as it seemed.
"I am really pleased with the performance; it was a pretty physical game, given the basketball background of most of our opponents, and it was quite challenging on our defenders.
"They put their heart and soul into the match, and our players worked hard for it (the win), which was pleasing."
Today, Singapore will face Thailand, who beat Maldives 69-19 yesterday.
The Republic beat the same opponents twice en route to claiming the South-east Asia Games gold on home ground last year, but Soh warned it will be risky to underestimate the Thais.
"Thailand have improved a lot. They are fast, agile and a really dynamic team," said the 26-year-old.
"We watched a bit of their opening match today, and they will definitely be a challenge for us. But we are definitely hoping to win tomorrow."
Meanwhile, Afghanistan have pulled out of the tournament, after the players could not get visas in time for the competition.
They were supposed to be in Group B with Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Brunei and Japan. Singapore are in Group A with Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong and Maldives.
YESTERDAY'S OTHER RESULTS
- GROUP A: Thailand 69 Maldives 19
- GROUP B: Malaysia 73 Japan 16
- GROUP A: Singapore v Thailand, Taiwan v Hong Kong
- GROUP B: Japan v Brunei