TWO Malaysian teams went head to head in the netball finals of the ASEAN Student Games on Sunday, Malaysia’s team Saffron coming good for the win.
The day started at 9am with six teams – three representing Malaysia, two representing Singapore, and one representing Brunei. Games were played in ten minute halves, rather than the usual 15 minute quarters. By 1pm, the round robin had left four teams standing.
One of the Malaysian teams, the A-team, took on Brunei’s team, Pheonix, in a play-off for third place. The game was intense and sometimes aggressive, with a player injured within the first few minutes. While both teams had impressive shooters, the defensive pressure of the Malaysian team prevailed, leading them to their victory.
Next came the nail-biting play-off for first place between two Malaysian teams, team Saffron and team Awesome Possums. The first half of the match was almost goal for goal, with both teams holding nothing back in their contest for the ball. The Possums worked well together, moving the ball up the court with ease. But Saffron’s goal shooter dominated the goal circle, scoring a goal 15 seconds before the half-time whistle that put her team in the lead.
The second half of the match was equally gripping. Saffron came out firing, scoring three consecutive goals in the first few minutes. The Possums rose to the competition admirably but Saffron’s shooting combination had found its rhythm. Their mid court continually fed the goalers excellent lobs, and they capitalised on their height advantage in the circle to score goal after goal. The Possums continued attacking till the last minutes but in the end, Saffron emerged as the clear winners by seven points, with a final score of 18-11.
Team Saffron player Rusydina Zulkifli said she and her team were thrilled by their win.
“I’m so happy,” she said, grinning. “This is my final year gift!”
Her team mate, Adeline Loh, added that the win was all the sweeter as it had been a challenging tournament.
“The other teams put up a really good fight,” she said.
Runner ups, the Awesome Possums, were just as happy with their second-placing. Possum Christina Soh said she was surprised at just how far her team had come in the competition, considering the ASEAN Student Games was only the second time the Possums had played together.
“I’m just very proud that my team made it this far, especially after only one practice,” she said.
Unsurprisingly, team Saffron’s goal shooter and captain, Shhobaa Palan, received the “Best Sportswoman” award.
Organiser Nerashya Periasamy said she was chosen because “she not only played well (but) she also encouraged her team throughout the games.”
Shhobaa, however, said she had not expected the honour.
“I didn’t know I was going to get Best Sportswoman. This comes as a surprise to me so I’m really excited about it,” she said.
Considering what her prize was – a one-way ticket from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur courtesy of AirAsia – her excitement was well-warranted.
Shhobaa said she looked forward to playing in many more ASEAN Games to come.
“It’s great, it gets all of us together, everyone’s excited, everyone’s having a good time,” she said.
“It’s a brilliant idea.”