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Wins for Dolphins, Marlins and new team Tiger Sharks
SATURDAY 24th January 2015…The 16th edition of Singapore’s Netball Super League (NSL) began today with all six teams in action at the OCBC Arena.
A little earlier in the year, and a shorter format than usual – due to the packed year ahead for the National Team – there was nothing lacking in day one of action as reigning champions Mission Mannas started proceedings with a match up against their 2014 final opponents Blaze Dolphins.
Match 1: Mission Mannas 44-52 Blaze Dolphins (HT 23-30)
Blaze Dolphins have been finalists in the last three editions of NSL but are yet to take the trophy. They stated their intentions strongly today and came out firing to take a 23-30 half-time advantage. Under the captaincy of Lin Qingyi, they are re-joined this year by vice-captain Chen Huifen’s sister, Tan Hui Yan. The siblings partnered in the shooting circle to great effect and forced the Mannas defence to rotate positions several times in an attempt to find a combination to interrupt their flow (including co-captain Nurul Baizura in GD for the final quarter). Blaze had some interesting changes of their own including Lin Qingyi in the unusual position of centre from the second quarter to help control the mid court.
The international players on court for this match were Letang Mogotlhwane for Blaze Dolphins and Hildah Binang for Mission Mannas, both from Botswana. Binang is making her second NSL appearance (played for Sneakers Stingrays in 2014) while Mogotlhwane is a debutant following her participation in last year’s Nations Cup, alongside Hildah.
The second half was a hard fought affair (Mission Mannas took the third quarter 12-9) but Blaze Dolphins kept their work rate high enough to maintain a winning lead for a 44-52 final score and their first points on the competition.
Captain Lin Qingyi said, “I think our team took a while to settle but I am pleased with our start to this season’s NSL. I actually used to play Centre when at school and for NSL its all about the team you have and making best use of the players in your team so I am happy to play where needed and where is best for the team.”
Match 2: Sneakers Stingrays 31-45 Magic Marlins (HT 19-20)
Last year’s third and fourth placed teams respectively were second on court and eager to start their campaigns in winning fashion.
Sneakers Stingrays are riding off the back of being crowned the National League Champions and Magic Marlins – NSL champions in 2011, 2012 and 2013 – have Wendy Tan as their new coach for the season and Jean Ng (Singapore’s most capped player) is back in their defensive line-up.
An adrenaline fuelled end-to-end opening quarter (11-10) set the tempo for the half. Fast paced and end-to-end, there was still just a single point between the teams at half time (19-20).
Adding their international experience to the Sneakers this year is Asilika Binang of Fiji who was last in town back in 2011 for the Nations Cup. For Magic Marlins, Violet Oneile from Botswana makes her debut on court in Singapore and was a dominant presence in the shooting circle for her team today as Goal Shooter with a 92% shooting percentage. Vanessa Lee, member of the 2011 Singapore team for the World Championships, has joined Sneakers this year and had a solid start to her campaign as GK, alongside Parveen Nair wearing the GD bib today.
Nur Liyana Nordin captained her team by example and has great on-court chemistry with the familiar Marlins faces of Grace Sim, Jean Ng and Pamela Lieu.
Marlins found their ‘magic’ in the second half and started to edge in front (8-11 in third quarter) as the legs on court seemed to tire. They pushed through for what was a fairly comfortable 31-45 win in the end.
Marlins’ Captain Nur Liyana Noordin was delighted with the result saying, “For this season we have trained a lot so getting the first win is a big morale boost for us. We have a few players back in this year so our key strength is that we are playing for one and another. The team that is the most consistent over the next three weeks will take the title.”
Match 3: M1 Sunfish 28-43 Tiger Sharks (HT 11-17)
New to NSL this year are the Tiger Sharks – the second select team (Mission Mannas being the other) in the competition which boasts a strong line-up of current national players including Premila Hirubalan as captain, Charmaine Soh as vice captain and Ang Shi Qi. Joining them from Fiji, and making her first trip to Singapore is Alisi Naqiri who made a great impression, teaming up with Hirubalan, with her interceptions and physical presence in the defensive circle.
The national 21 & Under side comes into the competition in the form of M1 Sunfish again and includes national players Kimberly Lim, Shelby Koh and Nur Aqilah Afiqah. Adding to their mid-court options is the youngest player in the competition: Sarona Hans from Botswana at just 16 years of age. She was part of the team that came for the 2014 Nations Cup and will be looking to take a lot from the weeks of training and playing ahead.
M1 Sunfish started well and kept pace with their seniors for the first quarter with seven goals each. Strong defensive play from the two veterans (Hirubalan and Naqiri) limited scoring chances for Sunfish as the match progressed with an 11-17 advantage at half time the Tiger Sharks shed on for the win and a final score of 28-43 showing they’re definitely one to watch in the coming rounds.
Hirubalan gave her thoughts saying, “I am very proud of our team getting their first win today. It wasn’t easy but we worked well as a unit and we have the potential to do well this season. Alisi was fantastic today, a great addition to the team. She played like us and we played like her.”
There is a lot at stake in this year’s Netball Super League. Not only is there a grand prize of S$6,500 for the winning team, but each player is aiming to put themselves in contention for the National team ahead of a big year which the SEA Games – netball makes a return for the first time since 2001, and the World Cup in Sydney in August.
Netball Singapore’s elite league continues next Saturday (31st January) at Toa Payoh Sports Hall, matches from 2pm.
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