Malawi Queens coach Peace Chawinga–Kaluwa has named her final 12-player squad for African Netball Championship set for South Africa from October 16 to 23 with Australia-based Mwawi Kumwenda and former captain Joana Kachilika conspicuously missing from the list.
This will be the third time Mwawi will be absent at the continental event after missing the 2017 and 2018 editions in Uganda and Zambia while Kachilika has been left out for the first time in five years.
The two were named in the 24-player provisional squad, but they have been left out alongside other notable faces such as Tropical Queens wing-attacker Thandi Galeta and Kukoma Diamonds shooter Alinafe Kamwala.
First Choice Tigresesses wing-attacker Beatrice Mpinganjira has returned to the squad after failing to make the grade in the past two years. Diamonds shooter Jessica Mazengera-Sanudi has also made the squad.
With Mwawi out, the Queens will have shooter Joyce Mvula and goalkeeper LaureenNgwira, who play for English top-league club Manchester Thunder, as the only overseas professionals.
Mwawi’s manager HlupikileChalamba yesterday said the 30-year-old has excused herself because she has not fully recovered from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury she suffered in July last year during her club Melbourne Vixens match against West Coast Fever.
“She could not make it as she is still having her rehabilitation programme to ensure full recovery. She needs proper training after staying for [over a year] without performing due to her injury,” she said.
Chalamba said that Mwawi was grateful for being considered to be part of the girls in camp.
“In fact, instead of coming to Malawi this month, she had to ask her team for extended stay [in Australia] to continue with her training and rehab programme until this December,” she said.
“As you are aware, it was a serious injury and it takes time for one to fully recover for a game. She believes she will be fit to play games from next year. Since her rehab, she has not played a full game.”
On her part, Kachilika said she has no hard feelings about her rare exclusion saying: “Izindizampirabasi. That is part of life.”
Chawinga-Kaluwa said the players were selected based on their performance during training and is confident that the team will do well at the championships.
“For Mwawi, we were recently notified about her unavailability and we understand her situation. Other than, that local players that have made it to the final squad were quite impressive during training,” she said.
Veteran goal-defender Caroline Mtukule-Ngwira is back as Queens’ captain while wing-defender Grace Mwafulirwa-Mhango is her deputy.
Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) general secretary Carol Bapu yesterday said the announcement of the final squad means the Queens have completed their preparations and they expect the team to end their title drought at the continental showpiece.
The Queens have not basked in the continental glory since they lost to South Africa 52-54 during the 2013 edition held at the Blantyre Youth Centre.
They did not compete in the 2015 edition which Zimbabwe won, but they lost to fast-improving defending champions Uganda’s She Cranes in the final of the 2017 and 2018 editions.
Eight teams, including the continent’s top-ranked side and hosts South Africa, will compete at the championship.
Other teams are Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho and defending champions Uganda.
The following is the list of players:
Defenders:Mtukule-Ngwira, Mwafulirwa-Mhango, Laureen Ngwira, Towera Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda and Martha Dambo. Attackers:
Mpinganjira, Bridget Kumwenda-Chalera and Takondwa Lwazi-Mtonga.
Shooters: Jane Chimaliro, Mazengera-Sanudi, Mvula and Sindi Simtowe-Msowoya.