Monday, April 22, 2024
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Brunei Town

Propelling netball to new heights

Fadhil Yunus

Netball has been arguably one of the most popular mainstream sports in the country at the recreational and competitive levels. This is mostly due to the large number of enthusiasts and players participation in tournaments.

The national netball team has also achieved regional success after securing bronze medals at the Southeast Asian Games in the past few editions.

The Brunei Netball Association (BNA) – the governing body responsible for netball related affairs – is constantly making efforts towards advocating youth development with the hopes of building a competitive team and representing the senior team in the future.

Indeed, there is a natural career progression for the players from the grassroots level with considerable experience and knowledge gained by the time they earn their first international cap.

The national under-21 team resumed their international commitments following their participation at the Asian Youth Netball Championships (AYNC) in Jeonju, South Korea.

The players in the squad have embarked on a journey that spanned years of development.

The players who are the cream of the crop in their age group have also been recruited by BNA’s Head of Development Rosni binti Haji Yahya.

The Brunei Darussalam National Under-21 team. PHOTO: BRUNEI NETBALL ASSOCIATION

The Under-21 Team Manager Siti Rauufah binti Haji Omarali said, “We have a development team that recruits players from schools.”

She continued, “They started when they were 12-13 years old with Rosni.”

Having said that, the players have already grasped a basic understanding and knowledge in netball and have partake in training sessions during their early years of development.

Siti Rauufah also added that nine out of the 12 players are part of the Co-Curriculum Education Department (JPKK) scheme where they represent the country through the Sports School Brunei Darussalam (MSSBD) in the ASEAN Schools Games.

“From that, you can see their growth from the continuous exposure and training where they are then channelled to the under-21 team.”

For most of the players, it will be their first foray in the international level in the Asian Youth Netball Championships.

In March and April last year, the team assembled the top 28 players into two teams.

However, this year, the list was lowered to the top 20, 15 and eventually to the final squad of top 12 players. The team still has three reserves players who are on standby in the event that any of the first 12 players getting injured or any other unforeseen circumstances which may result in their prompt withdrawal.

Siti Rauufah said, “These are familiar faces within the netball community. They actively join tournaments and training. Where there is a netball court, they are there. You can see the difference in their skill level.”

The player were also involved in the Brunei Netball League in 2021. In addition, the under-21 team has been seen as the succession to the senior national team.

“They have been training with the Royal Bees (the national senior team). So, the players are the future. For most of them, it will be their first time at this stage,” Siti Rauufah shared.

The team’s participation in the Thailand Indoor Games is yet to be confirmed but the players will be continuously training to fight for a spot with the Royal Bees.

Brunei Under-21 Team Captain Hei Yein, Vice Captain Dani and Wani are the recognised senior members having played with the Royal Bees during the Deloitte Netball Super League in Singapore last March.

“They gained the experience with the Royal Bees and it will be nice for them to lead the team,” said Siti Rauufah.

Two of the youngest players – will also be eligible to play in the Under-18 team in the ASEAN Schools Games next year, with Brunei expected to be the host country.

The two players in question are 15-year old Farzana and 17-year old Fify. Both players are expected to lead the under-18 team after their Jeonju spell.

Progressively, the next phase of development for the under-18 team will be the under-21 team.

Hei Yein was a surviving member of the team that played in the previous edition of the AYNC in Japan in 2019.

Hei Yein also competed in the ASEAN Schools Games in 2018 in Kuala Lumpur together with her teammate Wani.

The unity and chemistry the team developed for the past year has brought the players closer together.

“They grew up together even though they were playing with different teams. Now it’s been more than one year since they are together and they are close than ever,” said Siti Rauufah.

“This is the product of the development team of BNA. They have started for quite a long time and every Tuesday and Saturday they will come out and play.”