SEA Games: A buzz like no other

SEA Games: A buzz like no other
The Singapore netball team at the sponsorship announcement with Volkswagen Group Singapore on 28 April 2015. The team was presented a seven-seater Volkswagen Touran TDI to use for the rest of 2015.

Pre-competition hype is nothing new to Singapore national netball coach Ruth Aitken.

The 58-year-old led giants New Zealand for 10 years and guided them to one world championship crown and two Commonwealth Games gold medals.

But the affable coach says the hype surrounding the upcoming 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games here is nothing she has seen before.

"This is way more important than the Asian Netball Championships (which Singapore won last year)," she said, at the sidelines of Netball Singapore's sponsorship announcement with Volkswagen Group Singapore yesterday.

"In Singapore, there's more hype than there was in New Zealand for the Commonwealth Games.

"It's amazing how much support there is for our team and it's about embracing that excitement but still staying calm enough to deliver our product."

The team, the Asian champions and heavy SEA Games favourites, returned last week from a training tour in Fiji, where they played four matches against the hosts and Papua New Guinea.

"We did that (same trip) last year before the Asian championships and that worked out well for us, so we are hoping that it would be the same again," said Aitken.

This is only the second time netball will feature at the SEA Games, which is officially scheduled from June 5 to 16.

Threat from Malaysia

The first, in 2001, saw the Singapore women go down to hosts Malaysia in the final in Kuala Lumpur.

While Malaysia present the only real threat in Singapore's quest to win their first SEA Games gold, Aitken is guarding her team against over-excitement and complacency ahead of the tournament, which will feature a round-robin format and kicks off at the Sport Hub's OCBC Arena on May 31, with the final on June 7.

Said the Kiwi: "After the Asian championships, people now expect us to win (the SEA Games); they think we just have to turn up to win, which is not quite how Malaysia will be approaching the competition.

"They are our top opponents, they are a talented team and we respect them.

"While the rest of the teams are inexperienced, we do have to make sure that we deliver our game plan against them well to put ourselves in the best position for the match against Malaysia."

Yesterday, the team received a boost from Volkswagen Group Singapore, which presented them with a seven-seater Volkswagen Touran TDI to use this year.

The diesel-powered car will be used primarily by Aitken as well as the national players for training and other team commitments.

Volkswagen Group Singapore managing director Steffen Schwarz said: "Netball Singapore has a reputation for excellence and a tradition of success, which makes it a great fit for the Volkswagen brand.

"I am confident that the players and officials from Netball Singapore will appreciate the space, versatility and performance of the Touran."

This article was first published on April 29, 2015.
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