Netball: World Cup on their minds 

Netball: World Cup on their minds 
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: National netball coach Ruth Aitken (in red) and four of her players answering questions on stage during a meet-and-greet session at the Volkswagen Centre at Alexandra Road last evening.
PHOTO: The New Paper

They mingled with a crowd of nearly 100 last night, hanging their South-east Asia (SEA) Games gold medals around necks for pictures and signing autographs on T-shirts and posters.

The meet-and-greet session with sponsors Volkswagen was one of many official engagements the national netball team have been involved in since their victorious SEA Games campaign three weeks ago.

But through it all the women have not lost their focus on their biggest assignment of the year, the World Cup in Sydney from Aug 7 to 16.

On the sidelines of the event at the Volkswagen Centre at Alexandra Road, co-vice captain Nurul Baizura said the players remind each other about the World Cup all the time, especially once the SEA Games was over.

And national coach Ruth Aitken has also kept them on the straight and narrow, especially during training sessions.

Baizura, 25, said: "We usually go to training after work or school, so our minds may not always be there even if our bodies are.

"Ruth gathers us before every training session and talks us through what we need to work on and how long we have before competition. It sinks in then, and helps us not to lose our focus."

In preparation for the World Cup, Aitken will put a lot more focus on physical training, with the team having had only a week off after the SEA Games.

The final squad of 12 will be announced early next week.

Said the Kiwi: "It's about dealing with the physicality and dealing with bigger bodies. We will be bringing the rugby pads in... so that you can push up against people safely without injuring yourself in training."

TRAINING MATCH

The team will likely play a match against a men's team here, and will at least play against Fiji in a training match when they get to Sydney.

The World Cup will obviously be a totally different kettle of fish from the SEA Games, with world No. 17 Singapore drawn with Sri Lanka (24th), Malawi (5th) and South Africa (6th) in Pool C.

Singapore finished 15th out of 16 teams when the Republic hosted the World Championships in 2011, and any improvement will be a significant step forward.

"It is a global stage and we are the minnows, there's no doubt about it," said Aitken.

"The main thing for us is to go and command respect from the others.

"We are going there to play good netball and control what we can control.

"No one knows what will happen there.


This article was first published on July 3, 2015.
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