In a demonstration of the Singapore team's strength in depth, three players were given their international debuts and did well to help the side beat Japan 67-13 in their Mission Foods Asian Netball Championships Group A opener.
Given a chance at the Sports Hub's OCBC Arena yesterday by national coach Ruth Aitken, goalshooter Natalie Long, wing attacker Kimberly Lim and centre Anna Soo did not disappoint as the team started their title defence with a convincing performance in front of a 1,650-strong crowd.
On her bold decision to blood the rookies, Aitken said: "My main aim is to give all 12 players a run-out in the first few games to get them comfortable with our playing style and each other.
"In the case of the trio, I wanted to give them confidence by showing my faith in them.
"Sitting on the bench will probably make them more nervous so this is my way of telling them I believe in them and there is no pressure of making your debut."
The 58-year-old New Zealander's belief was justified as the rookies put in assuring performances that belied their lack of international experience.
Soo was industrious in the middle of the court, constantly harassing the opponents while linking defence and attack.
Lim's darting runs and passing in the final third created problems for the Japanese and was dubbed a "pocket rocket" by Aitken. Long shone as the focal point of Singapore's attack, accounting for 25 goals from 32 shots.
Her conversion rate of 78 per cent was better than that of her experienced team-mates Chen Huifen - nine goals (75 per cent) - and Charmaine Soh - 26 goals (70 per cent).
The coach said of the trio's displays: "I thought they did really well in their first match for Singapore.
"Soo's tenacity showed today while Lim controlled the forward court with her quickness and her ability to get the ball around opponents.
"As for Long, it's always hard being the shooter as everyone is looking at you to make the final shot... (but) I thought she did really well, especially in her positioning to constantly make herself available to the ball."
After the match, Long revealed that she was struck by a bout of nerves after finding out she was in the starting line-up.
Giving herself a performance rating of only five out of 10, the 24-year-old said: "I missed a few shots due to my nerves. I can do better in my shooting as well as my reading of the game and communication with my teammates."
Singapore will face Vietnam in their next group fixture today.
In Group B, title challengers Sri Lanka and Malaysia got off to winning starts as well, with the former seeing off a spirited Chinese Taipei side 57-36 while the latter defeated Brunei 78-15.
This article was first published on Sep 8, 2014.
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