CAPTAIN Nur Syafazliyana Mohd Ali has a mission – to wrest back the SEA Games gold.
Two years ago, the 24-year-old Syafazliyana was reduced to tears after Malaysia lost to Singapore by just three points – 43-46 – in the final at the Singapore Games.
Malaysia and Singapore are expected to meet in the final again at the Kuala Lumpur Games from Aug 9-30.
Netball is making its third appearance in the Games. When the sport made its debut at the 2001 KL Games, Malaysia clinched the gold after beating Singapore 53-42.
Syafazliyana believes Malaysia are capable of erasing the painful memory of the 2015 loss.
“It was so disappointing. Everyone in the team was in tears,” recalled the final year physical education student at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).
“We didn’t play the right strategy. This time we’re better prepared,” added Syafazliyana.
Syafazliyana’s confidence stems from Malaysia’s fantastic win at last year’s Asian Championships in Bangkok.
Malaysia emerged champions for the first time since 1985 when they beat favourites Sri Lanka in the final.
“Our mission this time is clear. We’re playing at home and we’ll do everything we can to win back the gold,” said Syafazliyana.
“We started full-time training in October last year under Australian coach Tracey (Robinson). She was instrumental in helping us win the Asian title.
“Except for three first-timers, the bulk of the team played in the Singapore Games. We have a very experienced side,” she said.
The three making their Games debut are Puah Pei San, Shandralelka Shanmugam and Karishma Loganathan.
Syafazliyana also believes that a gold at the Games will help to generate more interest among Malaysians to take up the sport.
“A gold will surely give netball more prominence in our country,” said Syafazliyana.
“It’ll also put us on the right track in our Asian title defence in Singapore next year. We hope to win again to qualify for the World Championships in England.”