SINGAPORE: Veteran national team netball player Charmaine Soh announced retirement after Singapore defeated Papua New Guinea 59-56 to win the 2023 Mirxes Nations Cup on Saturday (Oct 28) at the OCBC Arena, Singapore Sports Hub. It is Singapore’s third Nations Cup title, which they last won 16 years ago. Singapore won the first two editions of the tournament in 2006 and 2007 and were finalists in four subsequent editions in 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2019.

Soh is arguably one of the most iconic netball players for the national team. She made her debut for Singapore against Jamaica at the Netball World Cup held in Singapore in 2011. Over the years, she has been a key player in many successful Singapore national netball teams, including those that won the gold in the 2012 and 2014 Asian Netball Championships and the 2015 Southeast Asian Games.

“It’s been amazing from the start, from getting selected to the team and being the newbie to now being the oldest in the team. I would like to thank my teammates and the coaches who have been with me throughout these years. I’m really thankful to them for shaping me into who I am today. And to the team, I would like to tell them to continue to work hard and ‘jia you’ to the young ones,” shared a tearful Soh, Singapore’s most capped player with 128 appearances with the national team over 12 years.

The 33-year-old was inducted into the Netball Hall of Fame in 2018 and has competed in three Netball World Cups (2011, 2015, 2019), five Asian Netball Championships (2012, 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2022), and three Southeast Asian Games (2015, 2017 and 2019). She also held leadership roles within the team, serving as co-vice-captain from 2015 to 2018 and national captain in 2019.

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SINGAPORE’S FIRST NATIONS CUP TITLE IN 16 YEARS

In the inaugural tournament, Singapore lost to Papua New Guinea in the round-robin match but turned the tide when the two teams met again in the final as the hosts won 46-41 at the Toa Payoh Sports Hall. The following year, Singapore defeated all their opponents in the group stage and won 56-32 against Trinidad and Tobago in the final.

This year, Singapore won the title the same way they did in 2006, losing to Papua New New Guinea in the group stage but beating them in the final.

In the first match, Singapore suffered a narrow 50-52 defeat to Papua New Guinea. After that loss, the Singapore team regrouped, focused and went on to win the rest of their group matches. They were impressive in their 22-goal win over Cook Islands (58-36) in their second match, and they followed it up with a hard-fought 50-44 against Canada next. In their fourth match, Singapore had no difficulties winning 55-31 against the younger Singapore ‘A’ team. Singapore then set up their rematch with Papua New Guinea in the final with an 11-goal victory over Sri Lanka (65-54) in their last round-robin match.

Photo credit: Mirxes Nations Cup

It was a fiercely contested final as both teams were pouncing on each other’s defence, trying to find ways to score goals. However, midway through, Singapore made some errors, allowing Papua New Guinea to edge ahead and claim the first quarter with a two-goal lead (18-16).

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However, Singapore managed to calm their nerves and dominated the second quarter. The home team overpowered their rivals through solid defensive play from Jamie Lim, Aqilah Andin, and Khor Ting Fang, complemented by precise shooting from Amandeep Chahal and Toh Kai Wei. Singapore established a nine-goal lead at the half-time interval, gaining a 19-8 advantage.

Despite some errors creeping into Singapore’s game during the third quarter, Papua New Guinea couldn’t capitalise. Instead, Singapore’s sustained defensive pressure enabled them to win the third quarter by three goals, further extending their lead (48-37). It was a tense final quarter for Singapore as they experienced a higher turnover count and more missed shots than in previous quarters. The Singapore players on the bench, as well as the fans, were kept on the edge of their seats as Papua New Guinea mounted a strong comeback and reduced the gap in the closing stages of the game. Although Papua New Guinea registered 19 goals compared to Singapore’s 11 in the fourth quarter, it was not enough as Singapore held on to win the match 59-56 and lift the Mirxes Nations Cup 2023 title. 

Reflecting on her team’s performance against Papua New Guinea, Singapore national coach Annette Bishop expressed her pride in her team’s resilience, stating: “They were brilliant. They stuck together and stuck to the task. Papua New Guinea were coming at us, but we stood tall, and that was what we had to do. Minimise our errors and then just grow our game. We attacked the ball and, and just needed to tidy up on our defence.”

Minister for Culture, Community, and Youth Edwin Tong congratulated the Singapore national netball team on their triumph and made a special mention of Soh on her retirement.

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“A huge shoutout this Sunday to our national netball team for securing a historic victory. Their first title in 16 years! They faced Papua New Guinea, a team to whom they had lost narrowly in the tournament opener, and emerged triumphant in the finals! This victory not only brought the Mirxes Nations Cup title back to Singapore but also marked our third title in the tournament, the first since our memorable win in 2007,” posted Minister Tong on his Facebook page.

“What truly sets this victory apart is the camaraderie among our players. Their strong teamwork and unity made this victory even more meaningful. And not forgetting our coaches who dedicated themselves in nurturing and developing this team of young promising players. I also want to extend the shoutout to our sharpshooter, Charmaine Soh, for her remarkable achievement of 128 appearances for the national team. Her unwavering dedication and exceptional skills have been a cornerstone of our success.”

The minister added that the victory was a testament to the resilience and unity of the national netball team. He hopes that as we celebrate this momentous occasion, we can look forward to a brighter future for Singapore netball.

Match Results – 28 October 2023 (Saturday)

Final – Papua New Guinea vs Singapore: 56-59

3rd Placing Match – Cook Islands vs Canada: 49-48

5th Placing Match – Singapore A vs Sri Lanka:  55-48

Final Standings:

1st: Singapore

2nd: Papua New Guinea

3rd: Cook Islands

4th: Canada

5th: Singapore A

6th: Sri Lanka