The effects of poor development structures in the country’s netball system have continuously manifested themselves in Malawi Queens’ performance.
Observers believe if nothing is done anytime soon, Malawi risks falling outside the top six bracket on the world netball ranking.
The writing was on the wall last year when they recorded their first defeat by a lower-ranked team—Uganda’s She Cranes—thrashed them 43-66 to win the Africa Netball Championship.
This helped Uganda to rise six steps on world rankings, to seventh position, just a step behind the Queens.
Their participation in the Taini Jamison Trophy in New Zealand last week, ahead of the Commonwealth Games in Australia, has also proved that the Queens have started losing by wider margins against top-ranked teams while winning by smaller margins against lower-ranked outfits.
They lost by 33 baskets to their second-ranked hosts following a 42-75 beating yet, the last time they met in the 2015 Netball World Cup, they lost by only eight baskets after a 49-57 defeat. They also triumphed by only 15 baskets against 12th-ranked Fiji after a 75-42 but previously the basket difference was 30.
The bulk of the current Queens’ squad is a product of the 2009 Under-21 team, which participated at a world tournament in Cook Islands. Since then, there has not been any participation in global event for the junior Queens and, as a result, there has hardly effective new faces to understudy the ageing squad.
Since 2012 when the Under-20 national netball team failed to defend the Zone V1 Games’ championship against rivals South Africa in Zambia, there has not been a development structure, save for 2016 when a haphazardly-assembled Under-21 squad failed to make the grade in Botswana during the Netball Youth World Cup qualifiers.
“The effect of not having development structures is manifested here. Players that have come from maternity leave—Carol Mtukule-Ngwira, Sindi Simtowe-Msowoya and Towera Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda—seem to play much better than the new faces.
“All this has happened because there is no proper platform and structures for the young players to nurture their talents,” netball analyst Wesley Namasala explained.
While agreeing with Namasala on the need to have proper development structures, former Queens shooter Linda Magombo-Munthali believes it is also important for the team to frequently engage in international friendlies.
“This hardly happens with us. We should be serious about this ahead of any global event,” she said.
Queens’ head coach Griffin Saenda, who is also Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) technical director, on Friday admitted the need to get the national team back on track.
“For the past few years, we have not had a proper youth development structures. We recently talked about this at length with the Netball Association of Malawi [NAM] and it has been agreed to restore the structures this year,” he said.