The Queens made their fifth appearance at netball’s global showcase—the 2015 World Netball Cup (WNC)—in Sydney, Australia where they again finished sixth after losing to continental rivals South Africa’s Spar Proteas 48-46.
Despite their failure to break into the top four once again, the Queens turned on a spirited display and charmed the world with their unorthodox style of play featuring tricks, flicks and fancy footwork to combat the height and strength of more developed sides.
They set the ball rolling with a seven-basket margin win against continental rivals South Africa’s Proteas 58-51.
Then they followed it up with impressive wins over minnows Singapore and Sri Lanka. Their win over the latter was not just a parade of an awesome show of force, it was significant in that they became the first team to reach the 100-basket mark at the world tournament in 12 years.
That was not all. The Queens punched above their weight to lose by a narrow margin to Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls 63-62 in a nail-biting semi-final qualifying match that drove the turnout at Sydney Olympic Park through a confounding gut of emotions.
It was a notable improvement for the Queens when one considers that the last time they faced the Sunshine Girls at the Scotland Commonwealth Games in July 2014, they were mercilessly torn apart 81-50—translating to a 29-basket yawning gap.
And to reduce that gap to just one basket, was by no means a big improvement.
However, as the tournament progressed the going got tough as the minnows were phased out and the Queens struggled to raise their game. The gulf in class was notable as their more exposed opponents appeared tactically and technically sound.
It also became evident that fatigue was catching up with the Queens and to worsen matters, as they went into battle for the fifth-place match against South Africa, they had still not recovered from their heartbreaking loss to Jamaica.
The rhythm, the fighting spirit and the passion—were all gone in a side that was also battling fatigue.
“There is no way we could have become a bad team overnight. There were a number of contributing factors.
“First, we played two tough matches against New Zealand and Jamaica, these are very tough teams and you could see that fatigue had caught up with the girls. The other thing is that we could not raise our game. We made some unnecessary and costly mistakes,” said Queens’ technical director and seasoned coach Griffin Saenda Snr.
Just before the team’s departure for Australia, Queens coach Peace Chawinga-Kalua bemoaned lack of thorough preparations, including strength-testing matches and high-level fitness training due to lack of adequate funding and they paid the price for that in Australia.
Ironically, when the Queens were going through their paces at Blantyre Youth Centre (BYC), their resource-rich opponents such as South Africa, England, New Zealand and eventual champions Australia were undergoing high-level training in Europe.
And yet the nation expected the team which they had not invested in, to defy the odds wonders.
“This team has shown that it has potential, but it needs the required support,” she Chawinga-Kalua.
Nevertheless, despite the obstacles, the Queens remain one of the best teams in the world and to their credit, they are still the nation’s most successful sporting team.
They finished fifth at the World Cup in 2007 and sixth in 2011, and famously beat Australia in the short-form Fast5 tournament in 2012.
At this year’s tournament, they did not break into the top four, but they left a mark, matching teams such as New Zealand and Jamaica pound-for-pound. To cap it all, New Zealand-based MwawiKumwenda was crowned playerof the tournament.
Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) president Rosy Chinunda, believes the Queens can realise their dream only if they are supported financially.