The glamour that surrounds the Malawi national netball team was built over many years and it was former players like Mary Waya, Peace Chawinga, Connis Mhone and others that developed a team which created storm at tournaments they participated in.
The Queens became such a famous team even though they were not able to beat the world netball giants like Australia, New Zealand, England and Jamaica. What was the big attraction on our girls was that they played a different type of netball of continuous passing, which analysts called unorthodox style of play.
The Queens, however, were forced to pass the ball but without penetrating into the scoring circle because their opponents usually closed them out. Most of our players are short against very tall opponents, who could form the kind of formation that they then stretched out their hands to block off the passing.
Because they failed to pass the ball against such a formation that was like a chain, the Queens would then continue passing the ball to each other to try and find a loop hole of the defensive formation their opponents engaged. When they tried to pass the ball over the tall opponents onto the scoring circle, the tall defenders easily intercepted such balls.
Then came into the limelight a very tall Mwawi Kumwenda, who easily caught the ball dexterously. Most of Malawian netball players — even footballers — are short in height. We need to try and look for tall players like Mwawi is.
The rest of the opponents that the Queens meet are very tall and that’s an area we need to invest in. We ought to have more tall players like Mwawi and that would stop Mwawi from thinking she is indispensable.
The problem that is in netball is that these women always keep grudges against each other and they take revenge through things like what has happened with Mwawi.
I have heard that some Netball Association of Malawi (Nam) officials didn’t take it kindly to what Mwawi did when she protested strongly about unpaid allowances for the players. Some Nam officials accused her of leading the protest and went to the extent of saying Mwawi is rich but why is she demanding more money.
Mwawi responded that she was doing it for the benefit of the other players, who needed the money most. I can’t remember if the money was honoured but she became a hero amongst fellow other players.
Mwawi should have known that the grudges are still there. She must have detected that she was under target that one wrong move then she would be punished heavily. She was supposed to report on time at the training camp and if there were other personal business she needed to attend to she should have professionallys asked for some personal business to attend to.
Her actions were taken as arrogance and probably there must have been some unkind verbal exchanges that led to her dismissal from camp.
Mwawi should stop thinking she is above our netball. Nam officials should stop acting childishly at times by taking personal grudges into the administration of the sport. At the same time, it’s time Nam and all its coaches started spotting more tall talent and nurture such players to become better than Mwawi.
I have said it many times that the reason why netball is not growing is because there is no proper investment into the sport. Look at its infrastructure, it’s nonexistent. For how long would our players continue to play on hard concrete and open courts.
The only time the Queens play is when there is a tournament or when one of the giant teams including South Africa invite the Queens for Test Series. The giants of world netball are strong because they are constantly playing Test Series against each other.
As for the Queens, they wait to be invited because Nam cannot afford to invite countries like New Zealand, Australia, Jamaica, England or even South Africa. And who would want to come to Malawi and play on a hard and open surface? Which country can allow its players to be scorched by the sun?
Even South Africa can refuse to come and play in Malawi and only does so when Nam hosts the Cosana or the African Championship.
This is an area we need to boost for our netball — the right infrastructure that can attract more players to the game and in the process identify tall players to be made into better players than Mwawi. That way Mwawi will have to fight for her place in the team rather than being seen to be arrogant as it was in this case.
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