Malawi national netball team will compete at the Fast5 Netball World Series in Melbourne, Australia later this month without the guidance of their decorated coach Griffin Saenda, who has excused himself on medical grounds.
The coach is conspicuously missing from a press release containing a list of players and technical members which Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) released Wednesday.
Sam Kanyenda, who has been Saenda’s assistant, has been named as head coach.
In a brief interview yesterday, Saenda confirmed his absence: “I have been sick since last month. That is why I am not taking part in the preparations and the subsequent tournament.”
Saenda, who last year helped Malawi beat England to secure the first ever bronze at the world competition, is widely regarded as the best netball coach in the country, having won several trophies at international team and club level.
NAM general secretary Carol Bapu said Saenda’s unavailability is a blow to the team.
“He is vastly experienced and has always given his best for the national team. It is devastating that he is not going to be part of the team,” she said.
Former shooter Mary Waya will deputise Kanyenda, according to Bapu, who hoped that her experience as a player and a coach will help the team succeed at the tournament.
The 20-member squad, which also has Australia-based shooter Mwawi Kumwenda and England-based attacker Joyce Mvula, will go into camp in Blantyre this Sunday.
Centre Caroline Ngwira, who has been out of Queens’ setup for more than a year after she gave birth, makes a return to the team.
Meanwhile, Kanyenda has said he is eyeing a strong start at the competition where the Queens will launch the campaign with a fixture against world number one Australia.
“We have the capacity to do better. The first game will be against Australia and with a good game plan we can win it,” he said.
Malawi failed to win the Africa Netball Championship this year after losing to Uganda but Kanyenda said they are not bothered by that setback.
“African Netball Championship and Fast5 are different. Right now, players are in top form because they have been competing in various tournaments for their respective clubs. Most of our players are fast and that suits the Fast5 style,” he said.
The Fast5 Netball World Series features dynamic rule changes including five players a side rather than the traditional seven, shorter quarters, power plays and super shots.
It will be hosted at Hisense Arena from 28-29 October. New Zealand are the defending champions.