Hatton National Bank has been a major force in the local netball scene over the last two decades. So, it came as no surprise when the ladies in blue and yellow claimed the inaugural Dialog National Netball Championship title for 2018 over the last weekend.
The tournament was a competitive one, featuring the nation’s top four teams, HNB, mercantile rivals Seylan Bank, Air Force SC and Army SC. Played on a league basis to ensure that the best team made it to the top of the pile, the competition saw Sri Lanka’s best face off in full length competition (matches lasted an hour – the standard in international competition) for the first time.
Read More : Defense leads HNB to championship over Air Force
No doubt HNB came in as favorites, with the likes of Gayani Dissanayake and Gayanjali Amarawansa, who were recently part of Sri Lanka’s Asian Championship winning team in their ranks, alongside some quality players, who have donned the national bib in the past. There was however one big problem, they only had 7 players, meaning that every player would have to play the entire game. Playing 4 15-minute quarters for the first time domestically was always going to be a challenge, especially when some of their players hadn’t done so at any kind of intensity in the recent past.
HNB’s road to the final saw them defeating all three of their opponents by 10+ goals, proving their dominance throughout the tournament. They blew away Army 55-41 and arch rivals Seylan 59-45. In fact, their toughest challenge came from Air Force, headed by Sri Lanka skipper Chathurangi Jayasooriya, where they won 51-41.
Read More : HNB into final; Seylan stun Army in thriller
With the two teams meeting in the final, expectations were high for the tightly fought game. However, it was HNB’s defense that came to the fore in a somewhat low-scoring encounter. The efforts of Gayani Dissanayake, Kumarine Silva and Anjali Ekanayake saw HNB turn over the ball repeatedly, enabling the attacking end, led by Darshika Samarawickrama to keep the score ticking over just enough to win by 20 goals 47-27.
Air Force was led well by the tall, athletic Sri Lanka skipper Jayasooriya and had a good tournament too, barring their performances against HNB. They were more prolific than HNB against Seylan and Army, winning by big margins, 64-40 and 50-37 resepctively. They will be disappointed with conceding a big win to HNB in the final but with a young team at their disposal, expect bigger things from the ladies from Air Force in future.
Over the years, Seylan Bank is the one team that has really challenged HNB’s dominance and the Mercantile Championships have seen many a close final between the two teams. One of the main reasons behind Seylan Bank’s competitiveness over the years has been national superstar Tharjini Sivalingam. This time however, the bankers were unable to bring their A game and had to settle for a position outside the top two.
Read More : HNB outclass Army; Air Force ease past Seylan
Army, finishing at the bottom of the table, would surely be disappointed with their performance, particularly going down to an aging Seylan Bank team in their 2nd league game of the tournament. Sri Lanka representative Thisala Algama was the only highlight in their performance, as she shot with considerable consistency throughout the tournament.
Overall, the inaugural National Netball Championship was deemed a resounding success by all participants, particularly as it saw games moving from a shorter duration to the standard duration of one hour which is seen around the world. Such prepatory tournaments will be vital to Sri Lanka Netball’s growth in the future as they prep for the World Cup in 2019 and Asian Netball Championships the year after.