REPORTING FROM KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA
Malaysia’s SEA Games netball team avenged their 2015 loss to their rivals from across the Causeway when the hosts clinched the gold medal 65-41 in front of a packed Juara Stadium on Sunday (20 Aug).
The hosts started strong, racing to a 20-7 lead in the first quarter, and built a 36-12 lead at halftime.
By the third quarter, a Singapore comeback was an insurmountable task.
Malaysia, who are also the reigning Asian Netball Champions, put pressure on Singapore’s attack and forced them into several turnovers.
Singapore’s captain Vanessa Lee said, “I guess coming into the game, we didn’t have a good start. When we finally got settled down, the score was a bit too wide for us. As you know, playing a catch-up game is always hard. But I’m really proud of the team because they didn’t give up, even until the last whistle. Kudos to Malaysia, they played well.”
Some Singapore players were seen wiping away tears during a timeout in the third quarter.
At this point, coach Yeo Mee Hong tried to spur her players on by reminding them about their supporters. She said, “It was a big margin but when we regrouped, I told them, you have your family members here to support you. We should deliver something, a good performance for them. And they did. They came back, fighting spirit. I thought it was an excellent performance.”
Yeo says the players have a two-week break before they regroup to prepare for the Nations Cup at the end of the year.
Co-vice captain Nurul Baizura also said there were positives to take away from the loss. “We are taking the loss positively,” she said. “Hopefully the younger ones take this as a stepping stone and learning journey to know that this is what international level (of play) is all about.”
Malaysia previously beat Singapore 50-37 during the round robin stage.
The match was attended by Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor, as well as Singapore’s Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin and MP Jessica Tan.
Former Singapore coach Ruth Aitken and a number of former national team members, including veterans Micky Lin and Premila Hirubalan, also travelled from Singapore to support their former teammates.
After the medal presentation ceremony, Aitken was seen hugging and consoling some of the players who were in tears.
Thailand and Brunei took the joint bronze medal in the event.