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.


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.”