Former Malawi Queens captain Emmie Waya-Chongwe has lamented the dominance of old-guards in the squad that has travelled to South Africa for three test series against Spar Proteas.
She said the matches, which will be played between November 26 and 30 in Rustenburg, could have been ideal for up-and-coming players to gain international exposure and build a new team that could fight for titles at the 2022 Commonwealth Games and the 2023 Netball World Cup.
In the 15-player squad, the Peace Chawinga-Kalua-led technical panel has included 10 regular players whose average age is 31. These are Martha Dambo and Thandi Galeta (27), Takondwa Lwazi-Mtonga (28), Towera Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda, Jessica Mazengera-Sanudi and Bridget Kumwenda (29), Grace Mwafulirwa-Mhango and Sindi Simtowe-Msowoya (33), Beatrice Mpinganjira (35) and Caroline Mtukule-Ngwira (36).
Five players Juliet Sambo, Beauty Basiyao, Maggie Sikwese, Tendai Masamba and Mary Nyirenda are the new faces in the squad.
No player from the Under-20 Junior Queens that took silver at the 2018 African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region Five Youth Games in Botswana has made it into the squad.
Waya-Chongwe said the absence of overseas-based star shooters Mwawi Kumwenda and Joyce Mvula, due to other commitments, could have created enough room for blossoming stars to don national colours.
She said: “To say the truth, it is disappointing to see the old-guard dominating the squad for the test series when we are supposed to be seriously looking at the team’s transition process. I am not saying it is bad to have old faces in the squad, but we just need a few of them to blend with the youth.
“There are about 10 old players and five new faces when it should have been the other way round.”
Waya-Chongwe added that the fact that Malawi had the oldest squad with an average age of 29.6 against South Africa’s 26.5 at the 2019 African Netball Championships should have given national team selectors food for thought to consider developing a strong youthful team for future competitions.
The former Queens skipper added that it could be better to go to South Africa and lose with up-and-coming players than win with a team, whose majority might not help the country to effectively fight for glory in future competitions.
Netball analyst Wesley Namasala concurred with Waya-Chongwe that blossoming talent needed to be given a chance to learn the ropes and mature into formidable players as quickly as possible.
“However, there is a need for a perfect balance so that blossoming talent should ably tap wisdom from the old-guards. At the same time, over reliance on the old-guards is detrimental to the team’s progression,” he said.
But Chawinga-Kalua defended the dominance of old players in her squad, saying with the long break due to Covid-19, they were not specifically looking at promising players, but netballers that could deliver in terms of experience and fitness.
“Due to the break, most players are rusty and cannot sustain the runs required for competitive matches. In spite of that, we attempted to include some future players in the squad and we hope to build from there,” she said.
“Otherwise, we have selected a squad based on performance. Moreover, when transitioning a team, we do not do it at 100 percent, but in phases; hence, the inclusion of some new faces.”