Shawallah to play in Netball World Cup, five months after giving birth
Netballer Shawallah gets unexpected national recall after regaining her fitness during maternity leave
Maternity leave is usually a period for mothers to rest and recuperate or bond with their newborns.
But, after giving birth to her second child in February, national netballer Siti Nurshawallah Rashid spent the bulk of her three-month maternity leave trying to regain her competitive shape.
With an eye on October's Nations Cup in Singapore or December's SEA Games, she returned to weight training to rebuild her strength. The 26-year-old also went for long runs to regain her stamina before she returned to the court.
Her fitness regimen worked so well that she received an unexpected call-up to play in the Netball World Cup, which starts tomorrow in Liverpool, England.
Shawallah admitted that she will miss her four-month-old son and seven-year-old daughter dearly while she's away for the July 12-21 competition, but added that the World Cup is "unfinished business" after her debut two years ago.
In an interview with The New Paper at the Singapore Netball Academy last week, she said: "After my debut, I wanted to do more and was aiming for the Asian Championship (last year), but couldn't play because I was pregnant.
"So, right after I gave birth, I told myself to try and work back to the national team."
After working on her fitness, she returned to the netball court in April and trained with Swifts Netball Club twice a week.
- Northern Ireland
- Sri Lanka
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- Trinidad & Tobago
"I wasn't rusty in terms of skills, but just had to work on my fitness," she said.
In the same month, she was recalled to the national training squad. Since then, she has had three court training sessions and at least one strength and conditioning session a week.
Shawallah, who also resumed work as a school programme executive at Peirce Secondary School two months ago, credited her family for supporting her dreams as well.
"I'm blessed to have my mother-in-law who supports me," she said.
"She takes care of my kids in the day and then my husband takes care of them at night."
Singapore coach Natalie Milicich said Shawallah, who can play in several positions, is a "role model".
"She's the first mum we've had in the national team. Her desire to get back and how hard she's worked make her such a good role model for young women," said Milicich.
"She has a calmness about her despite being very busy and she brings that calmness out with her on the court."
Shawallah's comeback embodies the strength that was also reflected before she found out she was pregnant last year.
She was part of the 14-member squad that went to New Zealand for a nine-day training tour. She had felt nauseous and lethargic then, but continued playing in several friendlies.
She realised she was expecting only after taking a pregnancy test upon returning home.
She said: "I was still playing rough and my stomach looked flat. I told myself it couldn't be. I didn't know it, but I was actually two months' pregnant then."
Captain Charmaine Soh was impressed by Shawallah.
Said Soh: "She adapted very well and, in fact, I feel like she's better than before.
"Her discipline is there and communication between her co-players is there as well."
At the World Cup, the team will be hoping to better their 15th-placed finish of the last three editions of the quadrennial meet.
Milicich is confident of meeting the team's target of breaking through to the top 12.
"I'm very confident because, if we win our first game (against 11th-ranked Barbados), we'll already improve on our last ranking," said the Kiwi. "There'll be pressure, but that's the goal."
Singapore, the world No. 26, are also drawn with New Zealand (No. 4) and Malawi (No. 9).
The 12-strong squad have only two players with World Cup experience - Kimberly Lim and Soh.
Soh conceded that the team are young and lack experience, but that they make up for it with their burning passion.
"They have the drive and I feel like they are all game-changers. They go for every ball, they are daring and will hustle their way through," she said.
You can bet that Shawallah will be among the game-changers doing the hustling.