The world of sports has always feasted on the appeal of Cindirella tales about an underdog defying the odds to defeat the odds-on favourite and the Queens are hoping to conquer the Silver Ferns of New Zealand today in their quest to break the jinx and qualify for the semi-finals of the World Netball Cup (WNC).
The Queens will take to the Sydney Olympic Park in Australia at 10:15 am (Malawi time), hoping that their romantic flirtation with the global showcase will reach new lofty heights by breaking into the top four.
Realistically, it is a tall order for the Queens ranked sixth in the world, four places behind their second-positioned opponents, but when she was asked if her charges can cause a major upset today, coach Peace Chawinga-Kalua’s simple response was: “Yes we can!”
Her confidence stems from a surge of national pride within her squad.
The Queens have also had a good run at the tournament so far, winning all their four matches, including against continental rivals South Africa’s Spar Proteas whom they comfortably beat 58-51 before becoming the first side in 12 years to achieve a 100-basket mark after seeing off Sri Lanka.
“We are here on a mission and that is to break into the top four and the girls are determined to achieve that feat,” said Chawinga-Kalua in an interview through WhatsApp.
At the 2014 Scotland Commonwealth Games, the Queens put on a spirited show and came within sniffing distance from beating the Ferns. They led by a slender margin for the better part of the match only to lose in the dying minutes of the final quarter by a three-basket margin due to lapse in concentration.
In that match, Mwawi Kumwenda gave her all—those leaps to catch the ball as if she were plastered with magnet, that cheeky body swerve and, of course, those sublime finishes aided by her attacking partner Sindi Simtowe. Mwawi will be the centre of focus again this afternoon against a national side from a country where she plies her trade.
However, if the Queens are to realise their juicy dream, they will have to improve on their performance against Uganda’s She-Cranes, which was disappointing.
Although they came out 59-53 victors, they only dominated in the first quarter which they won convincingly 19-10. From then on, their performance deteriorated and were completely outplayed in the last quarter which they lost by 17 baskets against nine.
Veteran netball coach Griffin Saenda, who is also Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) technical director, said although fatigue and injuries seem to have taken toll on the Queens, they can still pull a surprise.
“The remaining two games are crucial, fatigue has crept in so has it on the other team and it’s about survival of the fittest. Our players have a big heart and if we can only improve on the wing defence and the accuracy of executing passes, we can get a good result against New Zealand,” said Saenda.
The Queens need to win one of their remaining two games to book themselves a place in the semis. Their final Pool E game is against Jamaica tomorrow.