Ex-skipper Vanessa Lee's return lifts national netball squad
After taking a break, veteran makes herself available for M1 Nations Cup and SEA Games
Almost a year after stepping away from the national netball team, former Singapore captain Vanessa Lee has put herself back in contention for the upcoming M1 Nations Cup and SEA Games.
The 35-year-old had called for a timeout last October, after leading the Republic to a silver medal at the Asian Netball Championship on home soil and being inducted into Singapore Netball's Hall of Fame.
At that time, she figured it was time to focus on her day job. But she realised she was not ready for life without netball.
"I took a break for about two weeks where I just focused solely on my work and family," Lee, the academy director of a private swim school, told The New Paper yesterday.
"But my body wasn't having it. It just didn't feel right and I was itching to play (netball)."
Although she still turned out for Mission Mannas in the Netball Super League (NSL), Lee admitted that she missed the adrenaline rush of competing on the international stage.
Deep down, she knew that she was just not ready to quit the national team yet.
Lee noted: "I know I don't have much time left to play because I'm turning 36 soon, so I just want to play to my fullest and enjoy it while I still can."
This is not her first comeback.
Lee had called time on her international career in 2012, after Singapore beat Sri Lanka to win the Asian Netball Championship in Colombo.
She returned to skipper the team four years later.
Lee recalled: "I initially retired in 2012 because after we ended the Asian Championship, I was physically and mentally drained.
"I was with the national team for quite long then and I thought my time was up.
"But honestly, I haven't imagined life without netball… so it's always nice to play with my teammates again."
Under the invitation of then- national coach Ruth Aitken, Lee made her first comeback in 2016.
She led the team to a SEA Games silver medal in Kuala Lumpur the following year and the Asian Championship silver last year, before deciding that it's time for a hiatus.
Having seen her in action in the NSL, it did not take long for current national coach Natalie Milicich to invite her to rejoin the team for the Fiji Test Series in April.
It was an invitation that Lee found hard to reject as she earned her 100th cap.
Her fire rekindled, the versatile Lee continued to train occcasionally with the national team.
Milicich reckons that Lee's presence in the team helps spur the young side, who are preparing for the M1 Nations Cup at the Singapore Sports Hub from Oct 20-26 and the SEA Games in the Philippines from Nov 30-Dec 11.
Said Milicich: "Vanessa knows how to lead a team and her skills both on and off court will complement and support Charmaine (Soh) and Aqilah (Andin).
"To have her experience back training with the national squad is of critical importance to the team as we prepare for the SEA Games."
Soh, who took over as skipper after Lee stepped away last year, echoed Milicich's sentiments.
Said the 29-year-old: "I'm really elated for Vanessa to be back officially.
"She has always been very steady and reliable, especially during clutch moments, and I'm sure the team will be able to benefit from her experience as a player and leader."
Things may not be as simple for Lee, due to her work commitments. But she is striving to find a balance between her job and netball.
"Work is an issue at the moment because I can't really get off as and when I want, and I'm trying to build my career at this point," she revealed.
"But then again, I hope that I can continue playing competitively and let's say I do get a spot in the team, I'll definitely give my all and cherish every moment of it."
What: M1 Nations Cup netball competition
When: Oct 20-26
Where: Singapore Sports Hub, OCBC Arena Hall 1
Who: Singapore (world No. 26) will take on Ireland (24th), Namibia (32nd), Botswana (25th), Papua New Guinea (19th) and Cook Islands (16th).
Tickets: Available via www.apactix.com/events/detail/m1nationscup-2019