NATIONAL netball coach Thilaka Jinadasa (pic) has lauded the performance of her charges at the 9th Asian Youth Netball Championships in Hong Kong despite missing out on the chance to move up a rank at the biennial tournament.
The Royal Bees remained sixth in the 12-team competition following their 34-38 defeat to Thailand in the fifth place play-off at the Macpherson Stadium in Mong Kok on Sunday.
Sri Lanka were crowned champions after a close 53-48 win over Malaysia, but there were individual accolades for Brunei after Siti Nurul Nazihah Hj Hassan was named the most improved player in the tournament while Siti Norsaihah Mohd Adi Najmi bagged the award for best defender.
"They (players) have improved immensely," she said recently.
"We only lost two out of the six games for the first time at an Asian level tournament. They worked very hard for this tournament and I am very happy for them," added Jinadasa, who coached her native Sri Lanka to the 2009 Asian Netball Championship title.
Brunei started their campaign with a 55-24 defeat to Singapore in the qualifying stage and bounced back with a 62-23 win over Abu Dhabi. They qualified to the plate competition and win all their three matches in the group.
They defeated fifth-ranked Thailand 43-39 in their first plate competition match and followed that up with a 50-37 win against zeight-ranked Chinese Taipei and a 54-40 victory over seventh ranked Japan. The national team, however, could not carry their winning momentum against Thailand on the final day of the tournament. "Our attacking line failed in that match, especially the wingers," said Jinadasa.
"They lost focus and were always waiting for passes, and they were also not ready defensively. "They were almost close in the third-quarter by just a few goals but the feeding to the shooters was not accurate, and even the shooters were not accurate. "Their shooting was too average… Far below my expectations.
"It is in the nature of the sport that shooters have to be fluent and accurate, otherwise it is hard to win tough games," Jinadasa added that she is not in favour of the new changes in the format of the tournament where teams still need to decide the new ranking in a play-off match despite already completing their matches in their respective group.
"We manage to secure our sixth rank but if not for the new format of the tournament, we could have ended up in a better position because we already beat Thailand in the plate competition," she continued. "It was a very funny format too. In the trophy category, all countries won medals. Even Hong Kong, who lost all their group games, still won medals as third-runner ups," she added. Organised by the Hong Kong Netball Association and the International Netball Federation (INF), the 9th Asian Youth Netball Championships served as a qualifier for the INF Netball World Youth Cup.
Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore qualified for the world meet in Botswana in August 2017. Brunei was represented by 10 players in Hong Kong; captain Siti Marhayati Ahmad, vice captain Dk Khalisha Pg Abd Rahman, Siti Nursyaahidah, Nur Syuhaidah Fahriyana Hj Sukri, Siti Norsaihah Mohd Adi Najmi, Siti Nurul Nazihah, Navika Klai Klia, Eramardena Anchak, Ummi Nur Nadzirah Hj Erwan and Dk Mas Sarah Hannani Pg Abd Hamid.
The country also sent two umpires - Asmawi Hj Sulaiman and Zadrainata Hj Zaini - to the Dec 14-20 tournament. Prior to leaving, Brunei Netball Association (BNA) president Datin Paduka Hjh Intan Hj Md Kassim said she was disappointmed about the lack of support for the national team ahead of their campaign.
"It is sad to see that not all the netball clubs in the country are willing to cooperate and help out the association (BNA). And what's more disappointing is that they see BNA as their enemy and competitor," she said in her speech during the flag handing ceremony at the Lecture Room of the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas on Dec 11.
"Some clubs even went to the extent of not releasing their players to train for the national team and I really think that this kind of attitude should not be encouraged. "This kind of behaviour is not right as it is important that a sport governing body have the right support from everyone - especially the clubs under it.
"I didn't expect that BNA would be able to send the national team to compete at this year's Asian Youth Championship, but with the hard work of several executive committee members, we managed to raise funds for this trip," she added.