By Susil Premalal
“The attacking failed in the Air Force team. But the defence of the HNB team was extremely good. That is the reason why Hatton National Bank was able to win the Dialog Netball National Championships”, said HNB skipper Pabasara Gunasekera. In the final HNB beat Air Force 47-27 at the Albert F. Pieris Indoor Stadium in Wennappuwa.
In the first quarter HNB led 10-7, second quarter HNB led 12-7. In the third and fourth quarters HNB led, 13-7 and 12-6.
The HNB netball team is a leading team in the island. There are three national players in the side. They are Dharshika Abeywickrema (GA), Gayanjali Amarawansa (C) and Gayani Dissanayake.
All three represented Sri Lanka at the 2018 Asian Netball Championships in Singapore where Sri Lanka emerged winners. The HNB team has been winning the Mercantile League and the mercantile knock-out championships for the last three years. They have won the Netball Nationals on 14 separate occasions.
Skipper Pabasara Gunasekera is an Old Girl of St. Joseph’s Girls’ School, Nugegoda. She is the wing attack. She has won the Netball Queen Award on three occasion’s in-a-row at the Netball Nationals. They were in 2004, 2005 and 2007.
This time the Netball Federation did not award Best Performance Awards. “This is s big set back to players. If the awards were made it would be good for said”, said skipper Pabasara.
“The Air Force team is a fighting outfit. But in the final their attacking failed. That is why they could not surge ahead. There were several mistakes in the HNB team, but the HNB defenders – Gayani Dissanayake, Kumarini De Silva and Anjali Eknayake – defended well and were able to shape up the mistakes in attacking.”
The tournament was conducted on a league basis. In the second round HNB beat Seylan 59-45, HNB beat Air Force 51-41 and beat Army 55-41 to qualify for the final on an unbeaten note.
The Air Force team in the second round beat Seylan Bank 64-40 and beat Army 50-37 to qualify for the final.
The coach of the runners-up team Air Force, Ruba Jayalal said, “We had a good chance of winning. We had a good start in the first quarter, but due to our mistakes and injuries, we could not take advantage of it. National player Thiini Wattegedera was injured. This was a great setback. That advantage went to HNB”.
Third place went to Seylan Bank after Army were disqualified. Army was disqualified as they had two school level players in the side after the team was registered.
18 teams took part in the competition conducted on a league basis. All matches were played for one hour.
The HNB winning team: Pabasara Gunasekera. Dharshika Abeywickrema,Umanga De Soysa, Gayanjali Amarawansa, Gayani Dissanayake, Kumarani Silva and Anjali Ekanyake.
Coach – Shashika Samarasinghe
Manager – Ann Weerakkody.