The Malawi Queens performance at the just-ended Africa Netball Championship in Namibia has given Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) food for thought on how to transition ahead of the 2023 Netball World Cup in South Africa.
At the championship, the continent’s second ranked Queens surrendered the slot to Uganda’s She Cranes on inferior basket difference after they tied on points.
Out of the eight games they played, they won six, lost to the defending champions and the continent’s top-ranked team South Africa and drew 44-44 with Uganda.
NAM general secretary Isaac Chimwala said they have since thought of organising a number of training camps where selected younger players will be playing against the senior team to learn the ropes.
He said: “If you have noted, we are able to perform against our rivals but what we lack is speed. We have the experience of the old guards, which is still vital to the team, but we as well need some energetic youthful netballers that can help to improve speed of our game.
“With time, we will be able to come up with a good squad for the 2023 Netball World Cup.”
Chimwala said the championship could have been an easy task if the country had a number of tournaments and leagues to improve on talent identification and promotion considering that the imminent inaugural FDH Bank Netball Cup will be the only tournament at national level and that there are only three sponsored top flight leagues.
The Southern Region teams rely on Rainbow Paints Blantyre and Districts Netball League, the Centre banks on the Gateway Mall League, which has not been bankrolled this season, while the North has just secured sponsorship from GN Engineering.
At present, only 14 of the 50 local top-flight netball league teams have sponsorship.
Netball analyst Wesley Namasala said the Queens need an overhaul as a number of players are in the twilight of their careers.
“If you look at the starting line-up of the Queens, the average age is over 30. We were perhaps the oldest squad at the tournament,” he said.
Namasala also said the squad was hurriedly assembled and, obviously, the technical panel had no choice but to place faith in the old guards.
As a way forward, the analyst said Malawi needs a broader-based talent identification process that includes, but is not limited to, participation in all youth tournaments from regional, continental and world stage.
Said Namasala: “When the players are identified, the technical panel should be given sufficient time to assess them, they should blend with the experienced players and gain confidence. It is a process that requires time and resources but it is the only way if we want to have a smooth transition.
“The sad thing is that the current Queens squad is surely ageing but we have no clear replacements.”
For over a decade, Malawi has not participated at international youth competitions.
When the likes of Linda Magombo, Mary Waya, Peace Chawinga, Judith Chalusa and Sylvia Mtetemela gradually left the stage, the Queens had young players such as Mwawi Kumwenda, Sindi Simtowe, Beatrice Mpinganjira, Carol Mtukule and Grace Mwafulirwa who ably took over to maintain the legacy.
Mwawi was spotted by Australian out-fit Pensular Waves at a tender age following her impressive performance at the 2009 Under-21 Netball World Cup in Cook’s Island.