The Blaze Dolphins, with a new-look side, will find out just how big a challenge it is when their bid for a hat-trick of M1 Netball Super League (NSL) titles begins today.
They will be without their senior players and former Singapore internationals Micky Lin, Premila Hirubalan and Chen Huifen, who are taking a break, in their search for a fourth NSL crown since their first win in 2016.
And coach Wang Jing Qing is looking to players like Lee Pei Shan, Khor Ting Fang and Jamie Lim to step up in their season opener against Swifts Barracudas. All the matches at Our Tampines Hub will be played behind closed doors owing to the coronavirus outbreak which originated from Wuhan.
Wang said: “I will definitely miss the seniors guiding the young ones but it might not be a bad thing. It’s good exposure for the young ones.
“We would like to achieve the best that we can achieve, the main focus will be on improving the individual and team’s overall performance.”
Last year’s runners-up Mission Mannas were coy about their chances, with captain Charmaine Soh saying: “We can’t really predict how it will turn out. I wouldn’t dare to say that we would win, we’ll take things one step at a time and work out our strengths and weaknesses.
“This season will allow the team to gain more experience and exposure,” added the national captain.
Mannas will face Sneakers Stingrays, who were third last season, in the opening game. In their last meeting, the Mannas narrowly won 54-53, and Soh believes today’s match will also go down to the wire.
She said: “It’s going to be very tough. They’ve been training together for a very long time and they are very agile and speedy.
“But the game is good for us to try and find our line-up and build up communication within the team.”
Stingrays coach Goh Seck Tuck said of the Mannas: “They are a strong team, so it becomes a target to beat them.”
NETBALL SUPER LEAGUE
- 11AM Mission Mannas v Sneakers Stingrays
1PM Llabten Narwhals v Magic Marlins
3PM Swifts Barracudas v Blaze Dolphins
It might not be a bad thing. It’s good exposure for the young ones this year.
WANG JING QING, Blaze Dolphins coach, on the absence of three senior players.
I wouldn’t dare to say that we would win, we’ll take things one step at a time and work out our strengths and weaknesses.
CHARMAINE SOH, Mission Mannas captain, on their chances of pipping Dolphins to the league title.
Last year’s ruling, that required all six teams to field two Under-21 players for at least half the game, will remain.
Goh added: “We need to do something. If not, we will be stagnant.
“This year may not be the strongest NSL, but it has its implications for future development and works well for us as a sport.”
Netball Singapore decided to play the games behind closed doors after the Government upped the level of its disease outbreak response for the virus from Yellow to Orange yesterday. Only players, officials, umpires, bench officials and organisers will be allowed into the venue.
The games will be streamed live on Netball Singapore’s Facebook page.