Asian Netball Championships: towering 208cm Sri Lankan shooter stands between Hong Kong and the World Cup
Robin Manihera’s side take confidence into Saturday’s semi-finals after historic one-goal win over Singapore
Hong Kong face an enormous task in more ways than one as they try to win their way into next year’s World Cup in Liverpool, with Sri Lanka and towering 2.08-metre goal shooter Tharjini Sivalingam standing in their way at the Asian Netball Championships.
Hong Kong take on the undefeated Sri Lanka in the semi-finals in Singapore on Saturday for a place in the final, with the top two teams in the tournament booking their ticket to Liverpool.
Hong Kong were no match for Sri Lanka and Sivalingam on Thursday, going down 71-48, but a historic 50-49 win over arch-rivals Singapore on Wednesday will ensure Robin Manihera’s side take some confidence into Saturday’s showdown.
“I’ve been involved with Hong Kong netball for nine years and we’ve never beaten Singapore at the youth or open level,” Hong Kong co-captain Connie Wong said.
“We got close on a number of occasions recently but weren’t able to finish off with a win, so to finally break the drought and hang on to our lead throughout the game has given us a lot of confidence going into the semi-finals.”
After winning their two matches in the preliminary round, Hong Kong fell to Malaysia 53-43 in their first match of the second round before lifting to see off Singapore.
After leading by as many as sevens goals at various points of the match, Hong Kong dug deep late to hold off a fast-finishing Singapore in front of a vocal home crowd.
“We did what we had discussed – just staying and concentrating on our game, not getting flustered, sticking to the task, and we did all those things and remained focused,” said Hong Kong coach Manihera.
Hong Kong battled hard against Sri Lanka and stayed within reach for much of the first half, but were no match for their powerful opponents after the break.
Despite the lopsided result, Wong is hopeful the lessons Hong Kong learned will hold them in better stead come Saturday.
“Obviously Sri Lanka’s game plan is quite simple – get it to the shooter,” Wong said. “Now that we have experienced playing against her and that style of play, we believe we have made the necessary adjustments to interfere with their playing style.”