Malawi national netball team’s dream of finishing in top-four at the ongoing 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, firmly hinges on the Queens upsetting the tables as they face thorny England’s Roses in their opening match this morning.
The world’s top 12 teams have been divided into two pools of six teams each in the preliminary round.
The best two from each group at the end of round-robin matches will make it into the ultimate battles for the top-four positions while the rest will scramble for the lower positions.
For the Queens to be among the four, they need to beat one of Pool B’s favourites—either third-ranked Roses or second-ranked New Zealand’s Silver Ferns.
A loss to one of these two giants means the Queens will have to forget about the top four and shift their focus to positions five and six.
But even these lower positions can be achieved only if they beat lower-ranked teams, Wales, Scotland and Uganda.
Queens have never beaten England in any conventional netball competition.
But if their recent narrow defeats by the Roses in International Vitality Netball Quad Series last November are anything to go by, then coach Whyte Mlilima’s optimism gives hope.
In the test matches, England beat the Queens by less than 10 baskets following 60-62, 53-61 and 60-66 scorelines.
“We know people back home are tired of the Queens losing to the top-four teams [England, New Zealand, Jamaica and Australia]. The girls are also fed up as well. They really want to win this time and aim for the top positions,” said Mlilima.
Queens and England avoided each other in the last two Commonwealth Games in which Malawi produced their best results after settling for position five.
Their last Commonwealth Games meeting was in the preliminary round of the 2006 event when the Roses triumphed 63-47.
Nevertheless, boasting of the most experienced squad at the games this is the best time for the Queens to defeat England.
Nine players, namely Jane Chimaliro, Joanna Kachilika, Mwawi Kumwenda, Takondwa Lwazi, Caroline Mtukule-Ngwira, Joyce Mvula, Loreen Ngwira, Sindi Simtowe and Towera Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda return after featuring in the 2014 edition in Glasgow, Scotland.
Martha Dambo, Thandi Galeta and Bridget Kumwenda are making their debut appearance at the Games.
It is even more satisfying to note that three netballers Mwawi Kumwenda (Australia) alongside Joyce Mvula and Laureen Ngwira (England) play in professional clubs abroad and they might have further improved their skills to help Queens have the desired zeal and confidence to break the jinx.
“We have suffered at the hands of England for too long and this is our time to shine,” said Kumwenda yesterday.
“The international exposure most of us have so far gained will be enough to fuel our desire to make our losing streak to England history.”
The Queens have won 13 of the 23 matches they played at the games.
They were among the highest scorers in 2014 with 352 baskets and Kumwenda was the top scorer with 230 baskets.