By Chan Hui Mui/Red Sports
Jean Ng retired after winning her 111th cap for Singapore on the last day of the 2012 Nations Cup. Jean made her debut at the 1999 World Netball Championship and never looked back after that.
She was the first netball player in Singapore to reach 100 caps and has competed in three World Netball Championships, four Asian Netball Championships, one SEA Games and one Commonwealth Games.
“When you think of Singapore netball success, you will think of Jean!” said Singapore ex-national coach, Kate Carpenter.
“Jean is someone who has made an impact in netball!” national player, Chen Huifen, exclaimed.
Jean started playing netball at 10 years old. She then represented her secondary school, Cedar Girls’ Secondary School, in both netball and track and field. Her pet events in track and field were the javelin and triple jump and Jean represented Singapore in her pet events for the combined school team.
Jean was an outstanding athlete at her alma mater, National Junior College where she currently still holds the javelin throw record of 37.42m in NJC. She was also part of the team when NJC finished in the top two in the National Schools’ A Division Netball Championships in 1995 and 1996.
Jean eventually chose to focus on netball.
“I did not think of getting into the national team when I first started playing. As you play more netball, getting into national team was my dream, then, it became reality. Once I was in the age-group squads, I had always wanted to be in the national team,” said Jean.
“Netball is a team sports. There is always someone to train with you and someone to push you along. Also, netball had a good structure where players could progress through the age groups. The support for the players is there. I enjoyed the game a lot more.
“On the other hand, track and field was very much an individual sports. I didn’t get the sense that they have a pathway to groom young athlete to represent the country one day. Thus, netball presented a better change for me to represent Singapore,” added Jean.
After being in the national team, Jean embarked on a great journey.
“Debuting at the 1999 World Championship was something amazing. Being a young player back then at 21 years old, I had a great experience with the seniors,” Jean recalled.
“Winning the Asian Netball Championship in 2005 in front of a home crowd was definitely memorable. I just came back from an ACL injury. It was also the first time we won it. That meant that we were first in Asia. Furthermore, it was a comprehensive win!”
However, Jean’s career was not all smooth sailing.
“I had an ACL tear on my right knee in 2004. I took a year to get back. Then, in 2009, I tore the meniscus on the same knee. Luckily, I had only two major injuries that have impacted my career. It is lonely during the rehabilitation period. The team is doing stuff that you can’t but I knew the rehabilitation was necessary.
“Singapore Sports Council and the coaches played important roles in my rehabilitation programme and integrating me back into the team.”
Jean credited her coaches for her success.
“All the coaches have motivated me to play netball. The coaches in primary school and secondary school were not netball coaches. They were doing other stuff, such as track and field. Thus, our fitness was very good.
“At national level, every coach has left a mark on me. One who had the greatest impact on me was Sue Guardion. She was the first coach who coached me when I made it to the national team. She cemented the behaviors and the expectations of the national players. Kate who has coached half of my national career, certainly she has made an impact on the way we think and the way things are to be done.”
From the coaches’ point of view, Jean was one of the best players to have.
“Jean loves the game and she is committed to the game. She enjoys playing with different players and enjoys learning under different coaches. She has everything you want in an athlete. She is a great person and a superb leader,” said Kate of Jean.
Jean has also built strong bonds with her teammates over the years.
“In a team that’s made up of like-minded people, everyone gels together easily and it is easy to work with everyone. The team that I have felt the closest has always been the team that went for the 2007 World Netball Championship. I have played with some of the players, Pearline, Wendy, Premila and Micky for eight to 10 years. Certain bonds have been built up. We also support each other through the years,” said Jean.
Jean explained her decision to retire after the 2012 Nations Cup.
“The next major tournament is in 2014. I asked myself if I will still be playing at that level (international level) at 36 years old. The answer was no. Furthermore, there is nothing to train for next year. It is also a good time to let the younger players step up. Thus, it is a good time to retire.
“It felt different to play your last match. You know you are not going to sing your national anthem and you will not be out there (again).”
Jean had some last words for the team.
“I can ask for nothing more than to play with a group of like-minded people. Team, thank you for a good memory! Micky, I will miss playing with you in the circle. Micky, Premila and I have played together for about eight years. There is a great understanding between each of us on court. Wishing Micky best of luck in leading the team, now that I have retired!”
On Jean’s last match, some of her teammates had fond memories of Jean.
“I have seen Jean since I was in age-group squad. It is indeed surreal to play with her,” said Singapore co-captain Micky Lin.
“In my open career, she has always been my co-defender. I am definitely saddened to see her leave as we have been working together as immediate co-defenders, co-captains and someone close to me. Also, I am happy for her achievements.”
National shooter, Cassandra Soh shared her memories.
“I first saw her in 2005. I was amazed by her jumps. Playing alongside with her, her jumps always make me feel confident that we will be able to intercept passes and grab the rebounces,” recalled Cassandra.
“I am lucky enough to have her for the past three years. She is a great inspiration to me. She balanced her career and netball very well. She is always filled with strength, both on court and off court. She always leads by example,” added Cassandra.
When asked about her life after retirement from netball, Jean commented,:“I have always wanted to give back to netball. Although I am giving back as a player, after I have ended my career, there is a lot more that I can do. I will still be playing in club as long as I can. I will definite give back in many ways.”