Mwawi Kumwenda springs into the air with eyes fixed on the ball. She catches it but lands awkwardly. A pained look crosses her face as she grimaces while holding her twisted knee.
This injury, sustained during a Suncorp Super Netball League match between her Australia team Melbourne Vixens and West Coast Fever on July 28 2018, opened a can of worms for the national team as, after undergoing a successful surgery, doctors advised Mwawi to rest for a year until August 2019 for proper recuperation. The development made her miss the 2019 World Cup in Liverpool England between July 12 and 21.
And there is no need to explain why the 2015 Netball World Cup player-of-the-tournament is important to the national netball team.
“Of course, she might recuperate sooner than expected, but the doctors have insisted she needs ample time for a full recovery and it would be risky for her to get into the netball court much earlier,” the lofty shooter’s manager Hlupekile Chalamba told The Nation.
The injury already saw the 28-year-old missing the Queens’ African Netball Championship campaign for the second time in a row. In 2017, she failed to travel with the Queens to Uganda due to club commitments. Then, the Queens faltered against the current defending champions Uganda’s She Cranes.
At the 2018 championship in Zambia, the Queens, who suffered a 46-51 loss to Uganda, banked their hopes on the shooting prowess of another export Joyce Mvula and Alinafe Kamwala in Mwawi’s absence.
It was clear that her services were badly needed to help the Queens get onto a recovery path. However, fate could not allow her get into the court as the national netball team played second fiddle to the Ugandans once again. Even 17th-ranked Zambia also had the audacity to beat the sixth-ranked Queens 56-54.
Former Queens’ star shooter Linda Magombo-Munthali said Mwawi’s injury should give the Queens technical panel food for thought to seriously plan on sharpening the skills of available shooters ahead of the World Cup in March this year.
Mwawi’s exploits in the foreign land made her such a celebrity that she was voted World-sportswoman-of-the-year in 2017 and made way for other Malawian netballers Mvula and Laureen Ngwira to be trusted with deals abroad.
So far, the two have been exceptional as their individual brilliance at English clubs Manchester Thunder and now-defunct Team Northumbria, respectively, have given the national team a glimmer of hope that all might be well at the next World Cup, where the Queens are expected to improve from last event’s sixth-place finish.
In 2018, Mvula was voted and awarded as Manchester Thunder players’ player-of-the-year and the most improved player.
She was also nominated for the Coaches Player of the Season award but she could have gained a bigger reward through the Vitality Netball Super League player-of-the-season accolade, which she narrowly lost to Jamaican international defender Shamira Sterling of Loughborough Lightening.
Ngwira was also nominated for the same award in her debut Vitality League season despite her team failing to make a top-four finish before being disbanded later.
“I surely did not expect this to happen as early as this. This is a great honour for me,” the goalkeeper said.
Things might even get sweeter for her as she has secured another deal with the Vitality League outfit London Purse ahead of the 2019 season.