KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 (Bernama) -- The absence of young players in the recently concluded 31st edition of the National Youth Netball Championship has given a bad sign in the sport's development process.
Despite being listed as one of medal contributors for Malaysia at SEA Games and has won the Asian Youth title five times in a row, youth netball has been seen as 'dying' event as only five per cent of the players comprise those aged between 18 and 20.
Where did they go, our national youth netball players?
That was the question raised by National Sports Council (NSC) director-general Datuk Ahmad Shapawi Ismail who could not help but realise the 'disturbed' development of national netball.
"Where are those players aged 18,19 and 20 years?... this championship is for those under 21 years. We should have players aged 18, 19 and 20 because this is a youth championship, but what we have now are players aged only 16 and 17," he said.
While the Netball Association of Malaysia (PBJM) was trying to find justifications for the event to be listed in the 2017 SEA Games, state netball associations were seen to have given lukewarm response by only fielding school players at the national youth championship.
"This is not a good development. State netball associations should help PBJM in scouting new talents as the PBJM had done so much in providing contesting platforms.
"If state netball associations don't play their parts, this will cause major problem to the country," said Ahmad Shapawi.
Therefore, he urged the state netball associations to help PBJM to ensure school netball players to remain active even though some would not be able to give a full time commitment.
He said, what was important was for the players to keep practicing to increase stamina and improving their skills.
"Although they may not be able practice full time, but at least there should be a centralised training at the state level to make sure the school leavers continue to play netball," he said.
Meanwhile, PBJM President Datuk Suraya Yaacob said the participation at the championship was good, but it did not achieve the original objectives to find new talents.
"This is national youth netball tournament, but most participants are school students. It's less competitive, they play only at their levels," she said, somewhat annoyed with the 'take it easy' attitude showed by the state associations.
She said PBJM was not only looking for talents who had the potential to shine, but also to be listed in the youth team and the national team.
In view of the SEA Games in Singapore next June, the national netball team had shortlisted 14 out of the 28 players to attend the fourth phase of the centralised training at the Paralympic Centre of Excellence in Kampung Pandan here from April 4 to 11 before heading to Perth, Australia.
They would undergo the fifth phase of training under coach Aminah Ashaari and Huslina Mohd Hussin before the final list of 12 players was announced.
The first and last time the sport was contested at the SEA Games was in Kuala Lumpur in 2001, which saw the national team won the gold medal.
The national squad also won the gold medal at the Asian Netball Championship 1985 and a silver medal in 1990, 1997 and 2005 editions, which also participated by Sri Lanka, Singapore, Brunei, India, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and Myanmar.
The national youth team, on the other hand, had won the Asian youth title five times in a row, starting in the 2004 edition in Sri Lanka, 2006 and 2010 in India, 2008 in Hong Kong and 2013 in Brunei.
As at Dec 20, 2014, Malaysia is ranked 23rd by the International Netball Federation (INF), while its closest rival, Singapore, ranked 17th.
By Zuriati Zulmi -- BERNAMA