There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens,” the Holy Bible states on Ecclesiastes Three verse One.
The word manifested itself two months ago when multi-talented Malawi Queens defender Towera Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda signed her first professional netball deal with United Kingdom’s (UK) top-flight league outfit Severn Stars after a decade waiting for such a life-changing opportunity.
During the nine years she has been featuring for the national netball team, the 28-year-old witnessed the birth of Mwawi Kumwenda’s career as Malawi’s first overseas professional netballer in 2011 when the lofty shooter joined Australian outfit Peninsula Waves.
Tobe, as netball lovers prefer to call her, was still one of the Queens’ outstanding players when Joyce Mvula became the country’s second professional netball player after signing for UK elite league side Manchester Thunder in 2017 and she was all eyes as her fellow national team defender Laureen Ngwira joined another UK outfit London Pulse in 2018.
The former Kukoma Diamonds player has been patiently waiting for her turn and, finally, God answered her prayers as she awaits a new lease of life as a professional netball player in the dreamland this year.
“This is a great opportunity for my career. I have a new family in Severn Stars, which will help me acquire new skills and ideas. I am happy that I will be playing with skilled and experienced players, who will push me,” Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda said.
Severn Stars head coach Melissa Bessell has trust in the Queens’ vice-captain as she told the club’s website www.severnstars.co.uk that: “Towera has a huge amount of experience internationally. She is a very tenacious player and has a wise head on her shoulders, which is something I love in defence.”
In her, Malawi has produced a fourth overseas-based professional netballer in 2019. Another Queens’ star Takondwa Lwazi-Mtonga also impressed Manchester Thunder who engaged her for the recent British Fast5 Netball All-Stars Championship.
Although Thunder did not give Lwazi-Mtonga a conventional netball contract as Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda, Kumwenda, Mvula and Ngwira, her inclusion in the All-Stars Championship proved that Malawi has talent.
Despite that, international netball clubs’ trust in Malawian players did not come on a silver platter. Kumwenda, Mvula and Ngwira had to put up sublime performances in the foreign leagues to convince the world that Malawi is a haven of talented netballers.
In 2019, multi-award winner Kumwenda signed a new contract for the 2020 season with Australian top-flight league giants Melbourne Vixens despite that she missed most of the 2019 season due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury she suffered during Vixens’ Suncorp Super Netball League match against West Coast Fever in July 2018.
The 30-year-old, who has returned for a fourth season with Vixens in 2020, played a limited role for her club after the injury, having been given varying degrees of court time in the club’s last six games of the 2019 season. She has also been absent for national team engagements for over a year as she recuperated from her injury.
“I always wanted to play for the Vixens. So this is a dream come true! I am so happy to re-sign for next year,” Kumwenda, who has also been absent for national team engagements for over a year, said after signing her new contract.
“The players and staff have helped me in a difficult year, but together we worked hard and now I am happy to get back on court.”
As for Mvula and Ngwira, their stars have always been on the rise at both club and international levels.
In 2019, Mvula did not only help Thunder win the UK top-flight league title for the first time in five years, but also emerged as the league’s Player of the Season.
At the 2019 African Netball Championship in South Africa, the 25-year-old former Blue Eagles Sisters shooter was the Queens’ beckon of hope and it was no doubt she helped the national team secure a silver medal.
Goalkeeper Ngwira, who has now joined Mvula at Thunder, has been one of the outstanding players at Pulse, where she won a number of Player-of-the-Match accolades despite the 26-year-old’s former club anchoring the 10-team Vitality Netball Super League log table.
It is Malawi’s hope that the country’s netball stars will continue to shine in the foreign leagues in 2020 so as to create a path for more local netballers to strike professional deals abroad and enjoy the feeling of playing in state-of-the-art indoor netball courts regularly.