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Unity and desire drives young Sailors squad into 2024 WPL Season

The start of the 2024 Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) season is set to signal a new era for the Lion City Sailors Women’s team.

The squad has seen a big shift in players and leadership during the off-season – with a change in head coach and a revamp of its playing squad – but its core value remains the same.

Unity.

The Sailors will face Tiong Bahru in the WPL opener on Saturday (9 March) at Choa Chu Kang Stadium, and with only four fit players over the age of 22, the team’s young guns will be taking center stage. Most of these players were promoted from the Sailors’ Girls Academy, and played in the second-tier Women’s National League (WNL) last season with Mattar Sailors.

One of the more experienced players in the team is vice-captain Ho Hui Xin. The 31-year-old, with more than a decade of playing experience under her belt, has played a crucial role in galvanising the squad during their preparations for the new season.

“We may be categorised as seniors and juniors because of our age and experience. But in reality, we are one big family working together towards the same goal – to retain our WPL title,” said Hui Xin.

“During pre-season, we made sure there was open communication on the field so that everyone understood the importance of their role. We all pulled our weight so that we can move forward together.”

Newly-appointed Head Coach Daniel Ong echoed Hui Xin’s sentiments, highlighting the strong connection within the squad.

“The bond within the team has been very strong. Our commitment to training, the positive mindset that the girls take into every training session, and the trust we have for one another shows that we are ready to defend the title together,” shared the 35-year-old, who took over two-time WPL Coach of the Year Yeong Sheau Shyan in the off-season.

“We’ve a strong leadership group, with our new captain Nur Umairah (Hamdan) being capably assisted by vice-captains Syazwani (Ruzi) and Hui Xin. Their character and know-how of the game is crucial to our team this season.”

The youthful Sailors Women squad has already kicked off 2024 on the right note with a 4-2 victory against WNL champions Royal Arion earlier in January at the Café Football Charity Cup, with new signings Qarissa Putri Ramandhani and Nur Sarah Zu’risqha getting on the scoresheet that evening.

However, the groundwork to integrate the younger players in the team was already laid prior to that game, as the majority of them formed a Sailors Women Selection side that travelled to Selangor for a series of friendly matches against several Malaysian sides last December.

“When the 2023 season ended, we were already getting ready for the young players to be promoted. That was the case after the 2022 season as well. We already knew the players because we trained quite often with them,” shared Hui Xin.

“That trip to Selangor was a good outing because it was the first time that most of us played together in a game. We also had moments for team bonding during the trip, and that really helped the team to be more closely-knitted.”

Despite the seismic shift in playing and backroom personnel, all eyes will still be on the Sailors to defend the WPL title for a third year running. Daniel admits there will inevitably be pressure after two undefeated campaigns from the Sailors Class of 2022 and 2023. However, he insists he has faith in the squad he has.

Natasha Kaur, 14, is the latest addition to the side, bringing the total number of promoted Sailors Girls Academy graduates to seven. She joins the likes of Tyan Foong, Izairida Shakira, Seri Nurinsyirah, Nadia Nuraffendi, Liyana Rickit and Yuvika Suresh in the senior side for 2024.

“The hunger to improve and succeed in these young players is something that really impresses me,” Daniel said. “I’ve the confidence that we’ll continue to display good football and teamwork for the fans to watch. We want to play a modern style of attacking football, and I want them to be even fitter and better as the season progresses.”

Both Daniel and Hui Xin were in agreement that team fitness has been key in their preparations for Saturday’s clash against Tiong Bahru.

“I’m glad the season is starting because pre-season was quite tough,” chuckled Hui Xin.

“If you ask the team, they’ll say fitness and strength (has been the focus). We’ve also been working on passing, finishing, team and individual movement off the ball,” Daniel elaborated.

Having worked hard over the past few weeks to build up a solid backline and a clinical strikeforce, Hui Xin is looking forward to another memorable season with the Sailors.

“The players, coaching and backroom staff may change, but the desire to put up a good performance for our families and the fans has always been the same. We promise you no less than 100 percent commitment, and we’ll fight hard to keep our title.”

 

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8 Sailors named in Tsutomu Ogura’s first Lions squad

Eight Lion City Sailors players have been named in Tsutomu Ogura’s 26-strong Singapore National Team squad that will face China in back-to-back matches at the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™ Round 2 qualifiers in March. 

Returning Sailor Song Uiyoung gets the nod, while Lions captain Hariss Harun along with six others – Lionel Tan, Zulqarnaen Suzliman, M. Anumanthan, Hafiz Nor, Shawal Anuar, as well as custodian Zharfan Rohaizad – have kept their places after being called up for last November’s matches against South Korea and Thailand, which the Lions lost 5-0 and 3-1 respectively. 

Should Hariss play in both games, he will hit 130 caps for the national team, as he edges closer to surpassing Khairul Amri (132), who is ranked fourth in Singapore’s all-time record appearance makers behind Daniel Bennett, Shahril Ishak and Baihakki Khaizan. 

Meanwhile, Anu will also hit the 40-cap mark with one more Lions appearance. 

The Lions will be looking to get their qualifying campaign back on track as they host China at the National Stadium on Thursday, 21 March, before facing off again away at the Tianjin Olympic Center Stadium five days later. 

The two matches will be Ogura’s first matches in charge of the Lions since being appointed head coach of the Lions on 1 February, as they target a first competitive win over China since 1983.

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He’s back! Song Uiyoung returns home to the Sailors

The Lion City Sailors are delighted to announce the return of fan favourite Song Uiyoung on an initial two-year deal, as the club intensifies their efforts to put together a title-winning side for the upcoming 2024-25 campaign.  

The Sailors’ third signing of the off-season after Toni Datković and Bart Ramselaar, Song rejoins the club following stints in Thailand and Indonesia with Nongbua Pitchaya and Persebaya Surabaya respectively. The 30-year-old attacker will bolster a squad that aims to not only reclaim top honours domestically in the Singapore Premier League (SPL), but also qualify for the knockout stages of the newly-formed Asian Football Confederation Champions League 2 (ACL2). 

Having played the majority of his career in Singapore, South-Korean born Song has established himself as a firm favourite among the country’s football fans, due to his superb technical abilities and unwavering commitment on the pitch. 

Song played an integral role in the Sailors’ initial rise between 2020 to 2022, as he carved out a reputation for scoring in critical matches. Some of his most notable goals include the opener in a 4-1 win over Balestier Khalsa that secured the club’s first-ever SPL title in 2021, as well as the strike that inspired the Sailors to a historic 3-0 win over Daegu FC in the Asian Football Confederation Champions League (ACL) – the first time a Singaporean club had beaten a K-League outfit. 

His record of 32 goals in 58 appearances puts him second in the Sailors’ all-time scoring charts behind Maxime Lestienne (42).

“Song’s a great asset to have in any team. He’s versatile across the attacking third, he can bring others into play and score goals as well, so I’m definitely delighted to have someone of his calibre in the team,” said Sailors Head Coach Aleksandar Ranković. “He’s familiar with the club’s setup and will need no time to bed into this team.” 

Sailors Sporting Director Badri Ghent added, “Song’s pedigree is there for all to see, so when the opportunity to bring him back presented itself, we knew we had to make a move. Apart from his on-field attributes, his professionalism and dedication off it will make him a great example to the younger players who are embedded in our first team this season.” 

Sealing a move back to familiar surroundings, an older and much wiser Song – who has scored four goals in 22 appearances for the Lions after obtaining Singaporean citizenship in August 2021 – is raring to go, as he looks to bring further success to the Sailors in his second spell with the club. 

“I’ve learnt so much from playing in Thailand and Indonesia, and I want to make use of this experience to help the team. Everyone knows how much I love the club – I’ve mentioned before that I want to come back and play for the Sailors fans again, so here I am,” he declared. 

“There are many familiar faces still around, and also some exciting additions to the team. This club is going in the right direction, and I’m going to give my all to help achieve our vision of becoming one of the best clubs in the region.”

Song is currently undergoing rehabilitation with the Sailors for a minor injury sustained earlier in January, in view of getting him ready for Singapore’s upcoming FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™ Round 2 qualifiers. 

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Sailors Women bolster ranks with experienced Laura Gänser

The Lion City Sailors Women’s Team have added experience to a young playing roster with the signing of German midfielder Laura Gänser.

The 26-year-old fills the Sailors’ fourth and final foreigner slot for the 2024 Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) season, joining Sara Hayduchok, Madison Telmer and Miray Altun in a squad filled predominantly with Singaporean teenagers.  

Laura, Sara, Beatrice Tan and Ho Hui Xin are the only fit players in the squad above the age of 22, with Fatin Aqillah still working her way back to full fitness after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury last season. 

“Laura is a natural leader and her ability to organise things on the pitch is something that can really help our young team,” said new Sailors Women Head Coach Daniel Ong.

“She played mostly as a defender back in Germany, but I want her to play in midfield where she can offer a lot in terms of her excellent positioning and ability to produce line-breaking passes.” 

Laura comes with a wealth of experience, having played many years in the lower divisions of German football – featuring for the likes of Karlsruher SC; FC Bitburg, and most recently 1. FC Mühlhausen.

She relocated to Singapore last October after her boyfriend secured a job here with a local German IT company. But the passion to continue growing in the Beautiful Game still burned within Laura. And it wasn’t long before  she identified the best place for her to continue playing football – the Sailors.

Laura began training with the Sailors towards the tail-end of last season, and was part of a Sailors Women Selection side that travelled to Selangor for a series of friendly matches against several Malaysian sides last December.

Having had to patiently wait for her official Sailors debut , she is now understandably excited to make her first competitive appearance in a Sailors jersey this Saturday (9 March) evening, when the reigning WPL champions kick off their title defence against Tiong Bahru at Choa Chu Kang Stadium. 

“I’ve been really enjoying my time with the Sailors. I’m learning a lot from the training sessions and my teammates have been very welcoming as well. I think I can improve my speed and technical skills here,” said Laura.

“I was in the stands when the team played in the Café Football Charity Cup earlier in January, and I really loved the atmosphere that the Sailors fans created at the stadium. I’m really looking forward to being on the pitch and properly contributing to the team.

“To hear the fans sing and chant during the match will give me and the team an extra push to get the result we want.”

While Laura is looking forward to mentoring the Sailors’ fledging youngsters, she believes she, too, can learn from her younger teammates.

“In Germany, I’ve always liked to lead and help the younger ones. I’m still trying my best to improve my English so it may take a little longer to be my usual self on the pitch over here. But it’s not just about me – we’ve many exciting young players in the team, so I can definitely learn how to play quicker and adapt to a faster style of play,” she explained.

Being embedded in an ambitious Sailors setup – one that has laid a solid foundation, with two consecutive Invincibles seasons, Laura is acutely aware she must bring her A-game to maintain the club’s high standards.

“The pressure is huge because we’re expected to win every game – and I know that’s the benchmark, even though we have a relatively new team this year,” said Laura.

“I like this pressure because that keeps us on our toes and gives us the motivation to work hard in each training session. I’m looking forward to competing and battling on the pitch and the goal is very clear – we want to finish as WPL champions again.”

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Sailors signal ambitions with signing of former Dutch Eredivisie star Bart Ramselaar

The Lion City Sailors have unveiled Dutch midfielder Bart Ramselaar as the club’s second signing for the 2024/25 Singapore Premier League (SPL) season. This exciting addition comes as the club looks to launch a serious assault for their second-ever SPL title, while excelling on the regional front in Asia’s second-tier club competition, the Asian Football Confederation Champions League 2 (ACL2).

Joining from Dutch Eredivisie side FC Utrecht for an undisclosed fee, the 27-year-old comes onboard the Sailors on a contract that runs until the end of the 2025/26 campaign and will provide the attacking zest to complement the defensive solidarity brought to the side by Toni Datković, the club’s first signing of the off-season.

Bart promises to bring a new dimension to the team’s attacking third as he looks to form a dynamic partnership with fellow PSV Eindhoven alumni Maxime Lestienne.

It was with PSV where Bart rose to prominence as a technically supreme midfield playmaker. Winning the 2017/18 Eredivisie title with the Dutch giants, he also progressed through the national youth age-groups, before making three international appearances for the Holland senior side. 

Bart then returned to Utrecht – the club where he made his professional debut in 2015 – and enjoyed his most productive season in the 2021/22 campaign with nine goals. He made 11 appearances in the ongoing 23/24 Eredivisie season and scored in a 2-0 victory over Go Ahead Eagles in December 2023, before making the move to Singapore. 

Photo courtesy of FC Utrecht

“Bart is a fantastic addition to the team with his speed and intelligent link-up play in the final third. I’m already looking forward to seeing how he can complement the likes of Maxime, Shawal Anuar and Richairo Živković to give us an even better attacking threat,” said Sailors Head Coach Aleksandar Ranković, who worked with Bart in the 2022/23 season when he was still Utrecht’s assistant coach. 

Singing from the same hymn book, Sailors Sporting Director Badri Ghent added, “Bart is a top talent in Holland, so we’re understandably excited as a club to attain his services. At the age of 27, he still has many good years ahead of him, and we hope that this will be the start of a long and fruitful stint with the Sailors. 

“We want to continue challenging for all honours and take concrete steps forward in our aspirations to become one of Asia’s top clubs in the future, and I’m confident his signing will help accelerate this process.”

Bart – who brings UEFA Champions League experience from his time with PSV – joins a squad brimming with European pedigree, alongside Richi, Maxime, Toni and Rui Pires. And he is already champing at the bit to start his new adventure in the Lion City.

“I’ve played my whole career in Holland, so it was always one of my targets to prove myself in a foreign league one day. I’m really intrigued by this new challenge in Singapore with the Sailors. The club is building a great project here with a clear direction from the Academy up to the First Team. This is something that I very much want to be part of,” he emphasised. 

“I’m here to help the team with my experience and hopefully play some nice football that can get more fans into the stadium. The goal is clear – I want to be a SPL champion here and help the team qualify for the knockout stages of the ACL2.”

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New-look Sailors to kick off WPL title defence on 9 March

They showed their potential in a thrilling 4-2 Café Football Charity Cup victory over 2023 Women’s National League champions Royal Arion earlier in January. 

Now, the Lion City Sailors Women’s Team – with a new coach at the helm and a refreshed playing roster – will be looking to attack the 2024 Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) season with the same vigour. 

Daniel Ong’s charges will kickstart their campaign with a clash against last season’s bottom-placed side Tiong Bahru on Saturday, 9 March, at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium, before facing off against fellow title challengers Albirex Niigata (S) on Sunday, 24 March in what promises to be a tasty second fixture. 

Games against Hougang United and Tanjong Pagar United – who make up last season’s top four – on 14 and 20 April respectively round off an interesting opening four fixtures for the Sailors Women, as they seek to win the title for a third consecutive season.

Following the withdrawal of Police SA, the WPL is now a nine-team league. As such, each side will play 16 matches in a double round-robin format this season.

The Sailors Women will wrap up their 2024 WPL campaign on Sunday, 8 September against Geylang International at Choa Chu Kang. 

Having put together a young and hungry squad filled with several promising youngsters, Daniel is looking forward to his first season in charge, as he looks to build on the solid foundation laid by two-time WPL Coach of the Year Yeong Sheau Shyan. 

“It won’t be easy (to defend the title) as many of the other teams have strengthened their squads. For us, we’re largely focusing on ourselves and how we want to improve as a team,” said the 35-year-old.

“We’ve promoted some really talented youngsters from our Girls Academy, and this is the chance for them to show that they can be national team stalwarts in the future. I have full trust in them, and I’m personally excited to see what they can produce this coming season.”

The Sailors Women’s full fixtures list for the 2024 WPL season can be accessed here.

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Sailors charge up for 2024/25 campaign with signing of former LaLiga 2 defender Toni Datković

The Lion City Sailors are delighted to announce Croatian defender Toni Datković as the club’s first signing for the 2024/25 Singapore Premier League (SPL) season. The 30-year-old adds to the spine of a side that is determined to reclaim top honours domestically and make a splash regionally in the newly-formed Asian Football Confederation Champions League 2 (ACL2).

Toni joins the Sailors on a season-long contract after recently leaving LaLiga 2 outfit Albacete Balompié, for whom he made eight appearances in the ongoing 2023/24 season. A left-footed centre-back who is strong aerially and comfortable playing the ball out of defence, Toni bolsters a strong Sailors backline that already boasts former Australia World Cup player Bailey Wright, as well as Singapore internationals such as Hariss Harun and Lionel Tan.

Toni brings significant experience from the Spanish second-tier, having amassed a century of appearances in LaLiga 2. The majority of these came in FC Cartagena colours, while he was also part of SD Huesca’s 2019/20 title-winning side that earned promotion to LaLiga the following season.

In a storied playing career to date, Toni has also played in top-tier competitions such as USA’s Major League Soccer with Real Salt Lake and the UEFA Europa League with Greek club Aris Thessaloniki, in addition to being capped once at the international level with Croatia.

“Toni has some great touches and the ability to drive into space with the ball – these are qualities that will help the team grow in our all-round play. Above all, he’s a fierce competitor who demands the absolute best from the teammates around him and has the ability to guide the younger defenders at the club,” Sailors Head Coach Aleksandar Ranković said of his 1.84m new signing.

“I’m already excited at the level of competitiveness that he will bring and that’ll only help us drive higher standards at this club.”

Sailors Sporting Director Badri Ghent added, “It’s no secret that a left-footed centre-back gives the team the balance and a different dimension in terms of building up play from the back, so we’re delighted to have secured Toni’s services.

“His strong mentality and wealth of experience in major leagues will be an asset for us, especially in the ACL2.”

Toni is equally excited to get started and is already looking forward to a fruitful voyage with the Sailors.

“It’s a very ambitious project that the Sailors are trying to build in Singapore and that got me really excited at the prospect of coming here. It’s a very competitive team that wants to challenge for every honour and I want to help the team to become league champions again,” he declared. 

“I think I can help the team with my experience, but at the same time I’m aware that there are already quality foreigners and local players who have played many games for the Singapore national team. I’m here to fight together with the team and hopefully we can achieve history for the club.”

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Sailors alumnus Venetia Lim earns move to Australia second-tier

(All photos supplied by Trebol Sports International)

A member of the 2022 and 2023 Deloitte Women’s Premier League title-winning sides with the Lion City Sailors, Venetia Lim will bring her undeniable footballing talent to Australia as she recently joined Boroondara-Carey Eagles FC for the 2024 National Premier League Women’s Victoria (NPLW) season. 

The NPLW Victoria is one tier below the A-League Women’s and is considered one of the best state leagues for women in Australia.

In what is her first venture overseas, Venetia is looking to further her career in one of Australia’s football hotbeds while juggling academics – she is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce (Finance & Marketing) at the University of Melbourne.

“Although part of me still feels like giving in to the familiar, chose to challenge myself further by stepping out of my comfort zone. The prospect of playing in a new environment and a league with higher intensity will fuel my growth significantly and allow me to become a better version of myself both as a footballer and a person,” said the 20-year-old midfielder, who is already well established in the Singapore women’s national team setup.

Having linked up with the NPLW Victoria’s runner-ups for about a month already, Venetia is gradually settling into life in Down Under and is determined to fly the Singapore flag high with astute performances in the coming season.

“My target this season is to be able to fit into the higher-intensity game here and contribute back to the team. The physicality and pace is something I particularly look forward to upscale my own game,” said Venetia, who is known for her excellent work rate and superb technical abilities. 

“I have to admit that I harbour ambitions to be the first Singapore woman to play in the A-League Women’s but currently, I am just focused on doing my best for the Eagles this season.”

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AMP Lab continue to empower women’s football through Lion City Sailors

Local healthcare practitioner AMP Lab will be the Official Partner of the Lion City Sailors Women’s Team for the entirety of the 2024 Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) season, renewing a partnership which started in July 2023.

The first of its kind in Singapore to offer physiotherapy, exercise physiology and sports science services all under one roof, AMP Lab brings their wealth of expertise in these fields to empower the reigning WPL champions with advanced training methodologies, performance analysis and injury prevention strategies.

This collaboration marks a significant milestone in the growing drive for excellence for the women’s game in Singapore, while underlining the commitment of both organisations to provide a sturdy support structure to nurture the Sailors women.

The key highlights of these partnership include:

  1.       A structured Strength and Conditioning program

AMP Lab will design and conduct strength and conditioning (S&C) sessions specially tailored for women footballers. These sessions are focused on optimising physical fitness and agility, ensuring the Sailors are primed for success on the field and peak in performance levels throughout the season.

  1.       Sports Science support

Through key facets of Sports Science that include biomechanical analysis and recovery strategies, the Sailors women will receive holistic player development which addresses both physical and mental aspects of the game.

  1.       Injury prevention and rehabilitation

AMP Lab’s expertise will be leveraged to establish comprehensive injury prevention protocols and rehabilitation programs for players, aimed at reducing risk of injuries and facilitating swift and effective recovery.

  1.       Educational initiatives

The partnership goes beyond the field, with AMP Lab also instrumental in organising workshops and resources to empower the footballers with knowledge on exercise physiology and athlete nutrition.

A strong supporter of women’s sports having partnered with sports groups like volleyball, frisbee and touch rugby in secondary schools and Institutes of Higher Learning in the past decade, it was a no-brainer for AMP Lab to partner with the Sailors.

“At AMP Lab, we are actively challenging societal norms by asserting our firm belief in the inherent capabilities of women to demonstrate physical strength on the pitch and excel in contact sports, analogous to their male counterparts,” said AMP Lab’s Strength and Conditioning coach, Etienne Ding.

“We believe through a calibrated S&C approach and supported by our team of experts, we envision women footballers embracing a dynamic and accelerated style of play. Our overarching objective extends beyond the sporting arena – we seek to establish a comprehensive ecosystem conducive to nurturing female athletes’ growth, concurrently encouraging local businesses to endorse and support women’s sports.

“The discernible alignment between AMP Lab and the Sailors in our collective vision for female athletes is resolute. I am confident that our partnership will yield an exponential positive impact on the team and significantly elevate the landscape of women’s sports,” he added.

The effect of AMP Lab on the Sailors women is already evident a few months into the partnership.

“Most of us in the team, especially the younger ones, grew physically stronger after we started working with AMP Lab last year, and distinctly so. That really helped us in terms of endurance and individual battles out on the pitch. Now we’re much more aware of how to improve our fitness when we work out on our own time,” said Sailors defender Nur Umairah Hamdan.

“The biggest benefit is a structured S&C program which keeps track of our individual progress and ensures we are in peak condition throughout the season.”

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Three more from Class of ’23 depart for new adventures

Having played integral roles in the all-conquering Lion City Sailors Women’s Team in 2022 and 2023, Ernie Sulastri Sontaril and Nur Izzati Rosni will be leaving the club for a new challenge. 

Ernie who was the club skipper over the past two campaigns, led her charges with distinction over and was an assured presence in defence, while Izzati starred with her goalscoring exploits – winning the 2022 Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) Golden Boot and scored a total of 22 WPL goals in a Sailors shirt. 

“It’s been a huge honour to captain this club and play alongside this lovely bunch of girls. We fought for each other on the pitch and overcame many challenges to become back-to-back WPL champions. It’s a beautiful chapter in my career and I leave here with plenty of good memories and friendships forged,” said Ernie. 

“Looking back, it’s been an amazing past two years with the Sailors and I’m proud to have grown so much as a player here. I’d like to thank the club for giving me the platform to improve and I wish the girls all the best in the coming season,” added Izzati.

Midfield playmaker Venetia Lim will also depart as she heads abroad to further her education.

The trio joins Lila Tan, Munirah Mohamad, Nica Siy, Julia Farr, Madelin Lock and the now-retired Noor Kusumawati Rosman, who will not continue with the club in the 2024 WPL season. 

The Sailors thank all of them for their stellar service to the club and we wish them all the best in their future endeavours.