“We have a big challenge ahead and our aim is to prepare our National team focusing on Asian Netball Championship which is scheduled to be held from next September 3 to 10 in Singapore,” said the newly appointed National Netball Selection Committee chairman Damayanthi Jayathilaka.
Sri Lanka is the reigning champion of the tournament which they won in 2018 and also the most successful team, having won the Asian Netball Championships five times. Singapore has won it three times and Malaysia has two. From the first edition of the tournament held in 1985, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia dominated the tournament by always finishing within the top three. The only exception is the third edition of the tournament held in 1993 where host nation Hong kong managed to win the championship.
Sri Lanka’s task is to get ready to retain the title first and want to select the best team to achieve that goal. The players’ physical and mental fitness is paramount in achieving this task.
Damayanthi Jayathilaka the former National netball captain as well as former National Netball Federation Secretary had vast experience as a player and also she did fairly well as a former Secretary in the Netball administration.
“I came here as the chairman of the Selection Committee with my qualification and my vision is to uplift this sport and short term plan is to get Asian Crown once again”.
At the moment we have a National pool which was 22 members earlier and then pruned down to 15 and finally added three more players and now having 18 players. They are under training with National coach Hyacinth Wijesinghe. I, myself and my two Selection Committee members Thisangi Kodituwakku and Chamika Jayasekara also two former National players are always working together and we always take committee decisions to benefit the game. We have no personal agendas and will never work under any other influence and we wanted to give our best.” The President of the Netball Ranjani Jayakody invited us to give our best for the game and our responsibility is to make the best selection, said Damayanthi Jayathilaka”.
Damayanthi Jayathilaka has vast experience as a Netball player. Having captained the National netball team to get the 2001 Asian Netball crown and member of the Asian champion team of 1997. Damayanthi also captained the Sri Lanka team in 2002 for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester which Sri Lanka finished in 12th place out of 72 teams. She also represented the National team for Championship in New Zealand in 1999 and World Championship in 2003. She works in the Port Authority and having a busy schedule with one daughter and a son in her family.
“I have committed with my two members actually five members have approved for the Selection Committee from the Sports Ministry and two of them have resigned and now three of us get all responsibility,” said Damayanthi Jayathilaka.
“As a former player and former skipper I am very excited to work in this capacity. But most of our present players get injuries and we are trying to refrain from injuries. There are two senior players already in injury list while one most senior player Tharjani Shivalingam recently added to the pool. However during our playing days we continued this game with out injuries. I don’t know today some players are practicing with injuries and we have to focus on fitness which is more important for this game. Not like early days, today the game has become very fast and developed technologically and we have to adjust to that”.
“We will be selecting final 12 member team with three stand by players for the Asian Championship and that will be finalised in next month”.
“I have an idea to get the services of experienced New Zealand coach Margrat Foster who is conducting a training programme world wide along with five international players. If we can get their services before the Asian championship it will be a great experience for our team. At this situation it is very unlikely to play International matches before the Asian Championship and get foreign teams here to play matches. Actually I have seen several young players, some are new to the National team and their performances are very high during the last National Netball Championship. We have a blend of youth and experienced players to ready for the Asian Championship”.
Only three months time more to the Asian championship and the Covid 19 or the country’ s present situation will not be an excuse as all other Asian countries are getting ready and we have to go forward,” said Damayanthi Jayathilaka.