Nations Cup 2015 Preview: Battle of the Nations
09 December, 2015
Peng You Xin
Charmaine Soh in action for Singapore at the 2014 Nations Cup. Photo: SportSG
After Samoa stormed to victory last year, the Nations Cup is back again from 13th to 19th December, with a whole new line up of teams. Six talented sides, ranging from Northern Ireland to Papua New Guinea, have been invited to our garden city to contest alongside Team Singapore.
If you’re planning to catch the matches, expect no less than heart-stopping, adrenaline-fueled excitement.
Finishing third last year after a close bout against Malaysia, Botswana, currently ranked 19th in the world, is back again in Singapore to try once more to seize the Nations Cup title.
Netball has a strong following amongst the girls in the country, thanks in part to the sport being introduced into the schools’ curriculum. As such, it’s not surprising that Botswana’s key player at this year’s Nations Cup is an 18-year old, Letang Mogotlhwane. She will not be unfamiliar to local Netball Super League fans either, having played for Blaze Dolphins!
The only other Asian team participating in Nations Cup 2015, Chinese Taipei should not be underestimated. The team managed a fifth place finish to pick up the 2014 Asian Netball Championships plate, despite coming together a short while prior.
Interestingly, the team’s head coach is a Singaporean - Goh Seck Tuck, who was the founder of one of the country’s largest netball clubs and was the former coach of the Singapore 21 and under team, leading them to the nation’s only Asian Youth Championship title!
There is much at stake for Chinese Taipei and their key player Cheng Hui Ping, as a good showing at this year’s Nations Cup will get them an international ranking.
Hailing from Europe, Northern Ireland is currently ranked 12th in the world and boasts a strong reputation on the international netball circuit.
Despite making their debut at the Commonwealth Games last year, they finished in a respectable seventh place, adding on to a list of accolades that includes a 2009 Nations Cup title and a top eight ranking in the 2011 World Championships.
This marks Northern Ireland’s third foray into Nations Cup waters, and they will be relying heavily on 28-year old goalkeeper Gemma Gibney, who has been named player of the year five times.
Papua New Guinea
Nicknamed “Pepes”, the Keapara word for "butterfly", the netballers from Papua New Guinea will look to 37-year old vice captain Winne Mavara to lead from the middle. Capable of playing as a centre, wing attack and wing defence, Mavara is the nation’s most capped player, with a 102 appearances, and is undoubtedly the most popular amongst the fans.
With netball being the country’s largest participative sport for women, Papua New Guinea boasts a large talent pool that has helped them climb to a world ranking of 16. They will look to do well at this year’s Nations Cup to continue building the team’s international reputation.
Despite a world ranking of 15, Team Singapore will be one of favourites to secure the Nations Cup title after a buoyant year for the local netball scene. The current champions of Asia built on their 2014 Asian Netball Championship with a 28th SEA Games gold medal in June, and the team’s good form should see them through to an appearance at this year’s Nations Cup final as well.
Head coach Ruth Aitken, who recently signed a new contract with Netball Singapore, will look to 25-year old vice-captain Nurul Baizura and the rest of her players to give the home crowd plenty to cheer about.
Namibia’s decision not to be part of this year’s Nations Cup has opened up an opportunity for a special appearance by a Singapore Invitational side. Comprising of some of the best local Netball Super League players, like 24-year old shooter Yu Mei Ling, the Singapore Invitational also has an ace up their sleeves in the form of veteran Fiji international Sera Dakuitoga.