Olivia the interceptor

Olivia the interceptor

If you were at the Toa Payoh Sports Hall this week, you would have noticed an Englishwoman in Singapore colours at the Netball Nations Cup, flailing herself at passes in the defensive third.

Despite being new to the national squad, Olivia Flanagan is fast becoming a fan favourite for her tenacity and eye-catching interceptions.

Said the 31-year-old Manchester native after Singapore's 60-32 loss to Uganda last night: "I am the kind of player who thrives on getting interceptions.

"This wasn't the type of game where we could get interceptions... and because of that I felt that I wasn't doing much of a good job.

"This game was frustrating but I felt I've played well in the other games.''

The 1.81m-tall goal defence/goalkeeper/wing defence, a PE teacher with Anglo-Chinese School (International), arrived from Dubai about two and a half years ago.

She turns out for the Bedok Kings Vipers in the Netball Super League, and caught the eye of the national selectors after winning the league's Most Valuable Player (Defender) award this year and was invited to train with the Asian champions.

Flanagan, who once trained with England's Under-17 development squad, said: "No way I thought I would represent Singapore; I didn't even know I'd be eligible to play and I didn't think I was good enough.

"But the climate in Singapore really helps because I've actually improved my fitness a lot by cycling to work every day and working out in the school gym every morning. I'd never be able to do that in the UK because it's so cold."

The rules require a player to reside in the country she represents for a minimum of two years to be eligible or be born in the country.

Flanagan's addition to the squad is a boost, with Singapore aiming to retain their Asian Championships title here next year, especially with the retirement of defensive stalwart Jean Ng last year.

The defence now is a blend of experience in captain Lin Qingyi and Flanagan and youth, in Chen Lili and Nur Aqilah.

Said national coach Ruth Aitken: "Olivia's got a real tenacity about her. She never gives up and has this wonderful enthusiasm. I really enjoy having her as part of the team.

"They'd all go back to the drawing board in terms of selection (for the Asian Championships) but obviously we do want some consistency going through and she is working really well.

"If she keeps improving the way she is, she will have a very good future."

And Flanagan is happy to oblige.

She said: "I am really looking forward to the Asian Championships. I feel like I will be a part of it and really want to challenge for the title again."

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