Two Malawi Queens stars goalkeeper Towera Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda and goal shooter Joyce Mvula have shined brighter in the United Kingdom’s (UK) Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) by sweeping individual awards.
Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda, who plays for Strathclyde Sirens of Scotland, has won the Players’ Player of the Season and Best Goal Defender awards while Mvula of Manchester Thunder is the league’s second best shooter.
According to VNSL website www.netballsl.com, the Vinkhumbo Nyirenda, “who made her VNSL debut in 2020, but truly stamped her mark in the competition with Sirens in 2021, was exceptional.
“The Malawian was a rock at the back for a Scottish side, who exceeded all expectations this season,” the website said.
In an interview yesterday, Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda said the winners were announced yesterday, but the prize presentation is expected to be held in London on Sunday at the end of the semi-finals and final game of the VNSL 2021 season.
Speaking from he5r Scotland base, she attributed her achievement to God, saying she never thought players from rival teams of vote for her as their best player as well as best goalkeeper of the season.
“Honestly, I am so overjoyed and in disbelief at the same time that I have been decorated with these two top awards. Vitality Netball Superleague has some of the most skillful netballers in the world and winning these two individual awards is surely the will of God,” she said.
Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda also paid tribute to her teammates and coaching staff, especially coach Karen Atikson who also won VNSL Coach of the Season Award, for being part of her success story.
She is is also among the seven players that have made the 2021 VNSL All Star VII, which recognises the league’s most outstanding goalkeeper, goal defender, wing defender, wing attacker, centre, goal attacker and goal-shooter.
On the other hand, Mvula was the runner-up for the Gilbert Golden Shot Award won by Lightning’s Mary Cholhok. She has scored 650 goals, 122 behind Cholhok.
Since joining Sirens at the start of this season, Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda has been instrumental to the improved performance of Sirens, which are sixth on the 11-team log-table with 31 points from 20 games. Loughborough Lightning lead the pack following a tie on 51 points with Thunder and Team Bath, who have made it to the semi-finals alongside Rhinos (36 points).
Her individual brilliance is also evident on the league’s statistical chart where she has proved to be the most outstanding player on the defensive lines; she tops the list of players with the most intercepts (60) and the most turnovers (93).
Alongside Mvula, Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda was on the list of top 10 players nominated for the award, but came out the best after accumulating the most votes among fellow players in the league.
When the list was narrowed down to a final shortlist of four players on Wednesday this week, the former Kukoma Diamonds player was the only goalkeeper competing for the accolade.
She was up against Team Bath centre Serena Guthrie and goal-shooter Kim Borger and Leeds Rhinos’ goal-shooter Donnel Wallam.
Malawi Queens coach Peace Chawinga-Kalua yesterday hailed Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda for making the country proud.
“Towera is a complete player, who is talented, focused and eager to improve her skills. This is why she is excelling in the foreign land and it is not surprising that she has won the accolade,” she said.
Chawinga-Kalua added that Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda’s achievement is proof that the country has great netball talent.
So far, all the netball players that Malawi has exported have been star performers in the foreign leagues abroad. Shooter Mwawi Kumwenda, who plays for Australian giants Melbourne Vixens, has won several individual awards, including the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball Most Valuable Player.