Singapore, 31st August 2008….The Fisher & Paykel Nations Cup opened at Toa Payoh Sports Hall today as four of the teams took to the court, with Singapore losing narrowly to Sri-Lanka 63-66 in the opening game.
Before the nations got underway, the spectators were treated to a special exhibition match between a select group of MPs and members of the media. The MPs line up included Guest of Honour Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister of Community Development, Youth and Sports and Senior Parliament Secretary Teo Ser Luck. The media team who won 4-0 included Mediacorp celebrities Jade Seah and Chen Li.
Senior Parliament Secretary, Teo Ser Luck, spoke after his match. “Today’s game was a lot of fun and netball is a sport I would like to continue with. The Fisher & Paykel Nations Cup is an excellent tournament for Singapore to be good hosts and prepare for hosting the World Netball Championships in 2011.”
First match of the tournament saw reigning 5 Nations Champions and hosts Singapore take on Sri Lanka who return for the second year having finished fourth last year.
Singapore played a physical and skilful game and matched the visitors every step edging ahead by four goals in the first quarter (17-13) and then by one at half time (32-31) after a final shot on the whistle. Just two goals separated the teams after the third quarter (47-45) but Sri Lanka pushed ahead to snatch the victory minutes from time to take the first game by only three points.
The home side are co-captained again this year by the experienced Pearline Chan and Jean Ng. They are joined by four new players in the squad who are all looking to make an impression on National Coach Lisa Beehag who said, “It is disappointing to lose our opening match but there are lots of positives we can take from today’s game and I was really pleased with how we played for most of the match.
“It was great to have two players get their first test caps today (Melody Teo and Ang Shi Qi) and they performed well and will have gained a lot of confidence.”
Singapore overcame Sri Lanka last year with a score of 60-54. The visitor’s 206cm goal shooter Tharjini SIvalingam proved a tricky opponent once again (97% shooting score) for the defensive team of Jean Ng and Melody Teo but sisters Chen Huifen and Tan Hui Yan were on fine form (74% and 83% respectively) and produced some crucial goals when required. Sri Lanka showed some great ball movement down the court and looked to be a much-improved side from their first outing in the Nations Cup in 2007.
Sri Lanka coach, Hycinth Wijesinghe said after the match, “I told the girls that today may be the only chance we have of beating Singapore and they went out hard and played very well.
“We only had four days of practice as a team before today but they went out with lots of enthusiasm and energy and I was surprised by how well our defence played.”
She continued, “Singapore have a young squad who are preparing for the World Netball Championships in 2011 so we saw this as a chance to win after last year’s defeat. If we play well in every game then I think we have a good chance of winning the Fisher & Paykel Nations Cup.”
Sri Lanka gets a day off to recover tomorrow then will be back in action on Tuesday against Botswana. Singapore turns out against Samoa at 6pm and will look to build on the positive elements of their opening performance.
Beehag spoke of the plans for tomorrow’s encounter with Samoa saying, “Samoa play a very different style of game compared to Sri Lanka with a zone defence and they like to run onto the ball. We will have a new game plan and give some of our other player’s time on court as it is important to us in this tournament to give all of our squad this exposure as we build for 2011.”
In the second match of the opening day, Botswana and Samoa made their first appearances in the Nations Cup with Botswana winning 49-34.
Captain of Botswana Kelebogile Mocuminyane spoke after their victory. “It was not an excellent performance by us but a very good one. We had to change our style of play to cope with the very physical nature of the Samoans but we worked hard and got the goals we needed to take maximum points.”
Looking ahead she continued, “Against Papua New Guinea tomorrow we will need to employ the same tactics as we did for Samoa as they play a similar style of netball. We had some great performances from our younger players today which is very encouraging for the rest of the tournament.”
Samoa and Botswana have brought developmental sides as they gear up for the World Youth Netball Championships in 2009. This is the first trip to Singapore for both and they are looking to give their players valuable international exposure and experience against a range of playing styles and tactics.
Day 1: Singapore 63 – 66 Sri Lanka
1st:17-13; HT: 32-31; 3rd: 47-45; FT: 63-66
Samoa 34 – 49 Botswana
1st: 11-17; HT: 19-19; 3rd: 28-38; FT: 34-49
4th September – OFF DAY