England Netball (EN) has cancelled the 2020 season due to coronavirus disease (Covid-19), shattering dreams of Malawi netball stars Lauren Ngwira and Joyce Mvula to claim a second league title in the United Kingdom.
The duo’s team Manchester Thunder, the defending champions, were leading in the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) when the season was suspended in March after four games into the campaign.
Another Malawian player, Towera Vinkhumbo, signed for VNSL Severn Stars and was enjoying game time in her debut season as well.
In a statement issued yesterday, EN said that before the cancellation it considered extending the season and the option of resuming the matches behind closed doors.
“Concluding the season now is the most appropriate measure to guarantee the safety of the netball family, protect the long- term future of all VNSL teams and ensure the VNSL can take necessary steps to come back in a strong position for a successful season in 2021,” the statement says.
The statement, according to www.skysports.com, further says that EN was planning to organise a tournament later in the year.
“Despite the 2020 season coming to an end now, England Netball and the VNSL Board are continuing to review the option of a stand-alone short form VNSL competition or a potential event in the autumn, if it’s achievable and safe to do so,” it said.
The EN added that any potential restart would have been “well into the autumn at the earliest”. In the UK, autumn runs from September to November.
Reacting to the cancellation, Mvula, whose team won all the opening four games to bag 12 points, said it was disappointing that the pandemic has halted their bid for the title they were optimistic of winning.
“We had the momentum because of our strong start to the season. So, it is disappointing that it ended this way. We understand, however, that life is more important than netball,” she said.
“I believe, we will have the same vigour when the new season starts,”
Vinkhumbo’s team , Severn Stars was not among the early title contenders as it was second bottom of the 10-team table when the league was suspended due to the pandemic in March.
In a telephone interview, Vinkhumbo said she was devastated that her progress has been derailed by the pandemic.
“The circumstances behind the cancellation are understandable but I admit I am disappointed because I was adapting to the new environment,” she said.
United Kingdom is among the most Covid-19 affected countries as there have been more than 260 000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and more than 37 000 people have died.
Australia-based Mwawi Kumwenda is also affected as the Suncorp Netball League suspended the season.