updated 2 Sep 2011, 15:32
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Sister-like spirit in Singapore team
by Lim Say Heng

The experienced shooter, arguably the national team's best, played netball for Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School, as did Qingyi and Hui Fen, who are both two years younger.

What would you do for your family?

Would you do your best to persuade your sister to fight on when she has doubts over her ability to juggle motherhood, work and training?

Would you sneak into your sick and quarantined sister's room - against express orders not to do so - with a chocolate bar, because she is feeling lonely and miserable?

Would you give up a place in a World Cup team, who eventually finished second, to fly across continents to prepare for another world championship where a top-10 finish is already a great achievement?

That is what the women - nay, sisters - of the Singapore national netball team do for each other - bad singing, poor memory and hyperactiveness be damned.

Other than their own families, these 12 sisters-in-arms will give up nothing for their passion and craft, one that has taken years of injuries, missed social outings and plenty of perspiration to hone.

And starting tomorrow, the team will do battle with the world's finest at the World Netball Championships at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

But for now, we take them out of their bodysuits and allow you a peek of the women beneath.


Jean Ng (Captain)

Position: Goal defence/goalkeeper
Age: 33
Height: 1.74m
Caps: 86

While she picked up netball in primary school, the naturally athletic woman also excelled as a track and field athlete from her Cedar Girls' days up till her time at the National University of Singapore.

As a javelin thrower and triple jumper, Jean represented Singapore as part of the Combined Schools team at various meets.

FYI: "I can't sing. When I sing the national anthem in the line (before matches), everyone asks me to just shut up.

Some of them try not to laugh, especially Premila Hirubalan, who stands near me most of the time."






Lin Qingyi (Vice-captain)

Position: Goal defence/goalkeeper
Age: 26
Height: 1.74m
Caps: 37

Qingyi is also known as "Micky" - she supposedly resembles the famous Disney character - and "Goldfish" to her teammates, for being forgetful.

She leaves "souvenirs" such as towels and water bottles behind after training sessions, but is hardly tardy when it comes to training and competition matters.

"Netball is to me what water is to goldfish. It's part of my life right now and I can't get out of it."

FYI: "I can't swim. I had to skip swimming lessons in school because of netball."






Pearline Chan

Position: Wing attack/centre
Age: 31
Height: 1.68m
Caps: 62

The veteran, who earned her first international cap in 2000, admires working mothers from all walks of life.

After all, she has had to juggle her work as a Singapore Sports Council senior executive, training and motherhood since she gave birth to her son Tyler in 2008.

While Pearline considered giving up the sport with her punishing schedule, supportive teammates, husband, parents and in-laws have kept her going.

FYI: "I might have joined basketball instead in Fairfield Methodist Secondary School. My dad used to play the sport and he was teaching me when I was 11 or 12."






Charlene Porima

Position: Wing defence/centre/wing attack
Age: 33
Height: 1.72m
Caps: 36

Charlene, who was born here but moved to New Zealand at the age of two, picked up netball in primary school but preferred basketball instead.

She also played volleyball before her high school's netball coach managed to nurture her talent in the sport.

Charlene recently gave up a place in the New Zealand women's touch rugby World Cup squad to train with the Singapore netball team for the world championships.

FYI: Charlene is a detective with the New Zealand police force. "It has always been a career goal since high school. I did about three-and-a-half years of general duties before I joined the criminal investigation branch."





Vanessa Marie Lee

Position: Wing defence/centre
Age: 27
Height: 1.70m
Caps: 38

Vanessa was on her way to choir auditions, "even though I don't sing very well", as a Secondary 1 student in St Anthony's Canossian Secondary when her friend persuaded her to sign up for netball instead.

Initially neutral, her passion for netball grew as she learnt and played the sport, and rose through the ranks.

FYI: "I am kind of a cleanliness freak. I shower before and after training. My teammates don't understand why I shower before training since we are going to perspire anyway, but they have gotten used to it."







Nurul Baizura

Position: Wing defence/centre
Age: 21
Height: 1.70m
Caps: 7

Affectionately known as Bai, the spunky lass was recently "initiated" into Open squad during their South Africa tour this year, where she braided the hair on one side of her head.

She also confesses to not being able to "keep still", walking around and bouncing balls even after long training sessions.

FYI: "I am young, but an old person at heart when it comes to music. I like classic rock bands like Journey. I am also into country songs because it's vocally unique."





Chen Hui Fen

Position: Goal shooter/goal attack/wing attack
Age: 26
Height: 1.69m
Caps: 48

During her primary school days, Hui Fen was scouted by the basketball teacher-in-charge, but mistakenly went for netball training instead.

"After a while, I realised that the teacher would give me a funny look when I walked past her."

Now a teacher herself, she also played handball for NUS' Eusoff Hall during her undergraduate days.

FYI: "At the last world championships, we had a piece of wood with the word 'teamwork' etched on it.

"Before every game, we would rub the wood against our limbs like a bar of soap, literally touching wood to prevent injury.

"But one day, it dropped right in front of me and broke. I also sprained my ankle badly that day."



Li Ling

Position: Goal shooter/goal attack
Age: 23
Height: 1.88m
Caps: 50

Originally a professional basketball player, she switched to netball in 2005 after being scouted by national coach Kate Carpenter while the China-born Singaporean was undergoing rehabilitation at the SSC in 2004.

Her relationship with Singapore Slingers forward Pathman Matialakan also developed in the SSC physiotherapy room in 2008.

FYI: "We registered our marriage last year, but will be holding our traditional wedding ceremony only after the world championships."






Asha Louise Tett

Position: Goal attack/goal shooter
Age: 25
Height: 1.78m
Caps: 7

The English player picked up the sport when she was five, while her mother Sharon was still a player, specialising as a centre.

She spent more than 10 years in Singapore, representing the United World College (UWC).

Asha also played touch rugby and basketball for UWC and was an England U-21 player, winning a silver medal at the 2005 World Youth Championship.

FYI: She represented Singapore at the 2005 Asian Championship as well.






Premila Hirubalan

Position: Goalkeeper/ goal defence/wing defence
Age: 28
Height: 1.70m
Caps: 69

Premila made her Open squad debut in 1999, when she was a 17-year-old Raffles Junior College student.

Despite her tender age then, she was dubbed "a raw diamond" after her standout performance at the world championships that year.

The Raffles Girls' School alumnus has a twin brother Prem, and younger sister Premeeta. Her father, V P Hirubalan, has served as Singapore's ambassador to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Oman.

FYI: Premila has a standing vertical jump of 75cm, one of the best in the world.






Tan Hui Yan

Position: Goal shooter/goal attack
Age: 28
Height: 1.70m
Caps: 55

She was recently cleared to play in the championship after suffering a knee injury in a Netball Super League game in April.

FYI: Hui Yan and Hui Fen are sisters, despite the different spellings of their surnames.

In a 2005 Straits Times interview, Hui Yan said: "Kate (Carpenter, national coach) knew we were sisters, but because our surnames are spelt differently, she thought we had different fathers!"






Charmaine Soh

Position: Goal shooter/goal attack
Age: 21
Height: 1.75m
Caps: 0

The 21-year-old student is set to make her international debut at the world championships, after being promoted from the 21 & Under squad.

This comes after China-born goalkeeper Chen Lili had to be withdrawn from the championship squad, as her citizenship could not be approved in time for the tournament.

FYI: The Mighty Mannas player was named the local Netball Super League's Most Valuable Shooter this season.

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