The 2023 Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) title is in the bag, and with the Lion City Sailors’ coronation just days away, Ernie Sulastri Sontaril looked back on what has been a character-defining season for every Sailor involved with the Women’s Team.
Ahead of the season’s final game this Saturday (25 November) against Tiong Bahru at Choa Chu Kang Stadium, the Sailors skipper’s proudest moment this season is not exactly a single moment, but a resilience – across the entire team – that has peppered what has been a challenging year.
“The team showed bravery throughout the season to win the league for a second consecutive year, especially with some of our key players missing due to injury or overseas scholarships,” said Ernie.
“No matter what the obstacles were, we went through thick and thin together. We needed to adapt and build chemistry with the new players. It was great to see our young Sailors building more confidence, even scoring in matches. They will keep the Sailors’ legacy going.”
Several times across the season, the Sailors bench could only pull together just two or three players due to the slew of injuries suffered. For the veteran, resilience and trust is what encapsulated the team’s spirit this season, and – should the Sailors avoid defeat on Saturday – key factors behind what could be a second consecutive Invincible season.
“What kept us going was the belief we had in each other on the pitch. We always encouraged each other. Whenever someone made a mistake, we simply covered them and fought as a team,” said the 35-year-old.
“The idea is to just stick to our game plan and enjoy this last match. I’m looking forward to finishing with a positive result and no injuries.
“This season’s trophy lift will be emotional as we won’t have many players present in person but I believe their heart and soul will be. We have something special planned to honour them on Saturday too.”
Often standing alongside Ernie in the Sailors’ defence, Munirah Mohamad shares Ernie’s bittersweet memory of depleted matchday squads.
“It is definitely going to be an incredible feeling lifting the trophy on Saturday. When we think about all the injuries, not having players on the bench and even being forced to try out new positions, the hard work and dedication from the team has really paid off,” said Munirah.
“We always found ways to overcome obstacles that were thrown our way and kept a positive mindset throughout the season.
“The seniors and juniors learned a lot from each other while training together. The youngsters are better than us in certain aspects and the seniors were able to share our experience with them,” added the 26-year-old.
The job is not yet done however, as Tiong Bahru lies in wait.
“We are not going to be complacent. Even though we are already champions, we are going to continue to play with the same mentality that we have throughout what has been a challenging season, and finish the year with the same spirit.”