Singapore netball coach experiments ahead of rule changes
Coach Aitken tinkering with her squad ahead of rule changes next year
National netball coach Ruth AItken has tried at least four combinations for the goal shooter (GS) and goal assist (GA) positions at the Mission Foods Netball Nations Cup.
The Kiwi trainer has done that partly because her regular GA, Chen Huifen, has opted out of selections for the annual tournament, but she also wanted to adapt the team to a whole slew of changes to the sport's rules next year, which will generally make the game faster.
In particular, one rule change states that an injured player will have 30 seconds for treatment on court, and must then leave the field of play.
At the moment, play is stopped for two minutes while an injured player receives treatment, and she is allowed to play on after, with teams and players sometimes calling such time-outs tactically to disrupt play.
As such, Aitken is in no hurry to find her favoured new GS-GA combination, in the event that Chen does not put herself up for national selection again next year, even with the defence of their Asian crown looming in July.
Following Singapore's 46-38 defeat by Botswana on Wednesday, Aitken said: "We need more than one combination. We've got to keep developing the ability to change out there on court, with the new rules kicking in next year."
"I think you would see teams using their bench a lot more and so, taking the game forward, it would be having more than one playing seven that go right through (the entire match)," added the former Silver Ferns coach.
"At this point of time, I do want to develop and keep growing more than one (combination)."
Already, competition is strong for the two spots in the attacking shooting circle.
Co-vice captain Charmaine Soh, Pamela Liew, Yasmin Ho and even Chen Lili, normally a goalkeeper, have been used in various permutations during the week-long tournament.
But the likes of Yu Meiling, Cassandra Soh and Natalie Long have drifted in and out of the 12-strong squads for major competitions, such as the Asian Championship, the SEA Games and the World Cup in the last three years.
Youngsters such as Jocelyn Ng and Melissa Teo have also graduated from the 21-and-under squad, and will be pushing to make their places in the senior side.
All five players are in the Singapore Invitational team at the Nations Cup this week.
Ho, 29, has been putting in creditable shifts at the OCBC Arena, and was rewarded with two full matches against Taiwan and Botswana on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.
The pharmacist was part of the SEA Games gold medal-winning team in June, but did not make the cut for the World Cup in August.
On stamping her mark at the Nations Cup, Ho said: "I just focused on one game at a time. All the shooters practise our shots every day, so we do what we can."
Asked if she is confident of convincing Aitken to make her a mainstay in the national team, she said: "I can't really say, but I feel good about my performances so far."