Ak Fauzi Pg Salleh
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
THE national netball team aim to replicate their success of finishing third at the 27th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Singapore two years ago at this year’s event.
This year's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur in August will be the country's only major tournament this year as they have had to pull out of the Asian Youth Championships which will take place in the same month.
National coach Thilaka Jinadasa believes that her squad is capable of retaining their SEA Games bronze medal as they are better organised this year.
“Our target is to defend our bronze medal,” the Sri Lankan told BruSports recently.
“We are more prepared this time around as we started our training last October to focus on the SEA Games.
“Unlike previous years, this time I’ve introduced early morning (5.30 am) conditioning training sessions and shooting sessions to build up mental toughness and improve fitness level accordingly," she added.
The Royal Bees will be travelling to Kota Kinabalu Sabah on March 2 to play in one of the four proposed exposure games lined up for the year.
“We have planned four series of exposure games with teams from KK. This will be our first test to identify players’ ability and see how they bond on court under pressure since there are a few newcomers in the squad.
“We are considering this tour as part of our second selection (to trim down the squad) which is scheduled to be held on March 10,” she added.
Currently there are 17 players training in the team, with Her Royal Highness Princess Fadzilah Lubabul Bolkiah one of them.
“I am hoping to host one of the leading Sri Lankan school teams in April, by which time I hope the final list of 15 players will decided and they will be able to take to the court for the six-game series," said Jinadasa.
“At the moment we are also negotiating with another team from Sri Lanka to come to Brunei to play a series of games before Ramadhan.
“I have sent in proposals to travel out of the country (most probably to Sri Lanka) to play our last exposure series in mid-July before the SEA Games,” she continued.
Jinadasa, who arrived in the Sultanate in 2011, has been the driving force behind the recent success of the national netball team in the Southeast Asian region.
“Six years ago, it was only a dream to train six days a week and have at least around 10 players for regular training... But I am very proud to say that I have managed to get more players for regular training sessions - and even this year I managed to do almost around 10 training sessions in a week,” she said.
“This shows how players have built their character as international netballers and how they have pushed themselves to become better.
“Their commitment and discipline shows that Brunei netball is now on the right track in the international arena, and this is the time we need more support to maintain our rhythm of training.
“I think that as a team sport in Brunei, netball has built up our own culture - and at the same time respecting the country's traditions. This is evident in the national players' commitment and how much they have sacrificed towards the SEA Games.
“We started training for the SEA Games for almost a year before the event although we knew that we wouldn't get any assistance apart from venue facilities. That just shows how resilient the players are.
“If the players continue this mentality and play more competitive games, I am sure they will become more confident and improve further,” added Jinadasa.
The national team’s latest achievement was finishing second at the South Korea Invitational Netball tournament in September after losing 30-23 to eventual winners Hong Kong.
They also improved their ranking at the Asian Netball Championship in Bangkok in the same month when they finished sixth - bettering their previous ranking of seventh.