The just-ended African Netball Championship in South Africa was a lost opportunity for Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) to start rebuilding the Queens ahead of upcoming tournaments such as the 2022 Commonwealth Games and the 2023 Netball World Cup.
Malawi’s opponents took advantage of the continental showpiece to expose up-and-coming players.
The Queens on the other hand, missed the opportunity and had the oldest squad at the seven-team continental championship.
The team had an average age of 29.6 followed by dethroned champions Uganda’s 27, eventual winners South Africa’s 26.5 and Zimbabwe’s 25.
The four-time silver medalists had 25-year-old shooter Joyce Mvula as the youngest player followed by two 26-year-olds Laureen Ngwira and Martha Dambo.
The squad also had 27-year-old centre Takondwa Lwazi-Mtonga and three 28-year-old—Towera Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda, Jessica Mazengera-Sanudi and Bridget Kumwenda.
Grace Mwafulirwa-Mhango and Sindi Simtowe-Msowoya are 32 while Jane Chimaliro and Beatrice Mpinganjira are 34.
Captain Carol Mtukule Ngwira is the oldest at 35.
The continent’s top-ranked team South Africa’s Proteas featured four 23-year-olds, two 25-year-olds, a 26-year-old, two 27-year-olds, a 30-year-old, a 31-year-old and a 35-year-old.
The continental competition further exposed the Queens’ stagnation in youth development as they had nine of their 12 players that featured at the 2019 Netball World Cup in England in July and three replacements were also the old-guards Mpinganjira, Mazengera-Sanudi and Dambo.
However, Zimbabwe had six new youthful faces while South Africa and Uganda had seven, apiece.
While seven of the Queens players featured in the last three editions of the world cup, not more than three did the same for South Africa as the rest either had a single World Cup experience or did not have such a feel.
Former Queens captain Emmie Waya-Chongwe said it is high time the national netball team borrowed a leaf from their continental counterparts, who are fast upping their game through talent development.
“The fact that we have been finishing second for the fourth time in a row on the continental stage, is enough proof that we need to build a new team for the furture. Of course, we had a strong squad that could win the title but will these old players have the same strength and energy in the next three to four years?” she asked.
“We needed to use this event as a platform to build a future squad for the imminent global events. It is sad that instead of drafting in some junior players to gradually learn through the ropes, the technical panel replaced old guards with other experienced.”
Queens coach Peace Chawinga-Kaluwa could not comment on what the technical panel will do to ensure proper transitioning of the national team players.
But Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) president Khungekile Matiya said they will sit down with the Queens’ technical panel to map the way forward.
“This is indeed an issue that needs to be sorted out to ensure the Queens continue to make the country proud in years to come. We will soon hold a meeting with the national team panel to see how we can go about it,” she said.
In the absence of the junior national netball championship for talent identification, the Queens struggle with proper player succession plan which continue to haunt their future prospects.