Malawi Queens have vowed to go flat-out and beat Zimbabwe by the widest basket difference possible as they face-off this morning in their opening game of the African Netball Championship in Lusaka, Zambia.
Queens coach Griffin ‘Zagallo’ Saenda yesterday said a good start will boost their hopes of winning the continental competition for the first time since 2011 and they will do everything possible to achieve the feat.
Queens, ranked sixth in the world, have not won the competition since they lost to South Africa at home in 2013. They failed to compete in 2015 due to financial hiccups and they faltered against hosts and defending champions Uganda last year.
The Queens also risk stuttering on the International Netball Federation (INF) world rankings table if they lose to 13th ranked Zimbabwe, who are among the fast-improving netball teams in Africa.
Zimbabwe have moved four steps up on the rankings within the past two years and they managed to reduce their losing basket margin by 15 in their last two meetings against the Queens at the continental showpiece. They lost 43-68 in 2013 before having a narrow 45-55 defeat in 2017.
“We know that nowadays, no team is an underdog at the event and there is no room for complacency. Every basket counts and we need impressive victories in all matches to have a chance of becoming champions.
“We have to take each game as a title decider starting with our opener. Zimbabwe are no longer a small team. We need to be on top of our game to defeat them,” Saenda said.
Former Queens’ player Judith Chalusa, who is also Southern Region Netball Committee (SRNC) chairperson, yesterday advised the Queens—who have maintained nine players from last year’s African Netball Championship squad—to avoid commiting unnecessary fouls, especially in defence because that is what caused their failed bid last year.
“It is, therefore, important for the technical panel to concentrate in that area. Otherwise, we have a good squad,” she said.
In the absence of injured Australia-based shooter Mwawi Kumwenda, the Queens will bank on the services of other exports United Kingdom-based Joyce Mvula and Laureen Ngwira alongside the likes of Joana Kachilika, Martha Dambo, Juliet Sambo, Bridget Kumwenda-Chalera, Thandi Galeta-Saenda, Jane Chimaliro, Alinafe Kamwala, Jessie Mazengera-Sanudi , Takondwa Lwazi and Towera Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda.
Meanwhile, The Herald of Zimbabwe yesterday reported that Zimbabwe has left no stone unturned in its quest to beat the Queens so as to increase their chances of qualifying for the 2019 Netball World Cup, which has seen Malawi and fifth-ranked South Africa earning automatic qualification by virtue of being within the world’s top-six bracket.n