Silver lining for Singapore's netballers
Hosts can't cope with Sri Lanka's 2.08m goal-shooter, but can take heart after qualifying for World Cup
One team were the victors and the other the vanquished yesterday, but the future appears bright beyond the M1 Asian Netball Championship for both Sri Lanka and Singapore.
Despite being outplayed 69-50 by Sri Lanka in the final at the OCBC Arena yesterday, Singapore have much to be proud of after qualifying for next year's Netball World Cup as the tournament runners-up.
"I think it's been a very successful campaign for us. There were some tough teams here and we showed the resilience and trust in each other to get this far," said national coach Natalie Milicich, whose side featured four players making their Asian Championship debut.
"We've been wanting to add some depth to the squad and what we've done this week is a great start."
Sri Lanka - with four players making their tournament bow - showed that they had the depth to complement 2.08m goal-shooter Tharjini Sivalingam to win their first Asian title since 2009.
The Republic's netballers had no answer to 39-year-old goal machine Tharjini, who scored all but one of her team's 69 points, while, at the other end, they also struggled to get past 1.83m goal-defence Chaturangi Jayasooriya and 1.86m goal-keeper Gayani Dissanayake.
"It's all about mindset. Our substitute goal-attack (Dulanga Dananji) was saying, 'I want to win the gold medal in my first Asian Championship', and she did," said Sri Lanka coach Thilaka Jinadasa.
"I think this message is great for all the netball lovers out there, especially in Sri Lanka."
Both teams were tied at 16-16 after the first quarter with goal-attack Charmaine Soh (15 out of 16 goals) and goal-shooter Tharjini (16/16) in fine fettle for Singapore and Sri Lanka respectively.
But, with the game finely balanced, it was Singapore who blinked first.
Momentum appeared to have swung the way of the hosts at 20-18 with 12 minutes left in the first half when goal-shooter Lee Pei Shan had a gilt-edged opportunity from point-blank range to put Singapore up by three after Sri Lanka had botched a pass to Tharjini at the other end.
But Lee, 18, missed to let the opponents off the hook as Sri Lanka regrouped to score seven unanswered goals and take a 26-21 lead at half-time.
It was a lead they never relinquished as the Sri Lankan fans celebrated the country's fifth Asian title with the players after the match.
"I'm so proud of my team now and I'm very happy," said a jubilant Sri Lankan captain Chaturangi as her teammates waved back and blew air kisses.
"Without all of you, I would not be able to achieve this goal (as captain).
"I would like to thank our coaches as well and, of course, the Sri Lankan fans here today."
In an earlier match, Malaysia finished third after beating Hong Kong 52-46.