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Netball: From sitting in stands to standing on court

The Straits Times by LIM SAY HENG

Four years ago, a 14-year-old Lee Pei Shan watched from the OCBC Arena stands as the Singapore netball team clinched their third Asian crown on home ground.

The experience inspired the then-budding netball player, who had just been picked for the Tanglin Secondary School team, to want to don national colours one day.

Yesterday, the 18-year-old was named in Natalie Milicich's team of 12 for the Sept 1-9 M1 Asian Netball Championship and now has a chance to take to the court at the same arena.

"It feels great to be part of the Open team, and also to have the chance to play in front of a home crowd," said the shy 1.86m goal-shooter before training yesterday. "It is a mixture of emotions - happiness, excitement and nervousness - but the seniors told me to just focus on the game plan and to appreciate the home crowd's support."

Lee, who finished her Institute of Technical Education business services studies last December, is one of four new faces in the team that finished second to Malaysia at the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.

The other three are goalkeeper Sindhu Nair, goal-shooter Tan Xin Yi and Ayshath Zaseela, who can play wing defence, centre or goal defence. Tan, 21, and Ayshath, 19, are uncapped, while Lee and Sindhu, 22, each have two caps.

Also returning to the team is 28-year-old Chen Lili, who tore her right anterior cruciate ligament during the Nations Cup last year.

Goal-shooter Lee Pei Shan is among four new faces in the Singapore team for next month's Asian Netball Championship. In 2014, the then 14-year-old, just picked for her secondary school team, was in the OCBC Arena watching Singapore win their third As
Goal-shooter Lee Pei Shan is among four new faces in the Singapore team for next month's Asian Netball Championship. In 2014, the then 14-year-old, just picked for her secondary school team, was in the OCBC Arena watching Singapore win their third Asian title. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

  • S'PORE TEAM FOR ASIAN NETBALL C'SHIP 2018

  • • Vanessa Lee (captain)

    • Charmaine Soh (vice-captain)

    • Nurul Baizura (vice-captain)

    • Kimberly Lim

    • Nur Aqilah Andin

    • Melody Teo

    • Toh Kai Wei

    • Lee Pei Shan

    • Chen Lili

    • Sindhu Nair

    • Ayshath Zaseela

    • Tan Xin Yi

"I was quite worried when I first got injured, and I thought I couldn't make it for the Asian Championship, but I had a talk with the coaches and we decided that I should try to come back for it," said Chen, who has 75 caps.

"I went through surgery and rehabilitation every day after that, but I was still quite scared when I first went on court during the New Zealand tour last month, but the coaches and my team-mates were very encouraging."

The nine-day training trip gave Milicich the opportunity to see how her players matched up physically against bigger players, as well as for her to assess their abilities to handle the pressure of high-intensity matches, the New Zealander said.

She added: "These factors, in addition to sticking to the game plan, will be key to success at the ANC, which is set to be the most competitive edition. I believe this team have the calibre to secure a top-two finish."

The two top sides from the 12-team tournament will qualify for the Netball World Cup in Liverpool, England, next year.

Singapore finished third in the 2016 Asian Championship, behind winners Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

Captain Vanessa Lee said: "The tour put things in perspective and told us what we needed to do. We have been doing these things in training the last few weeks, and we just need another one or two weeks before we get to the level we want."

Singapore are grouped with Brunei and Pakistan in the first round-robin stage, and will open their campaign against their Asean neighbours on Sept 1.