The year 2017 will go down in memory lane as one of the most eventful and dramatic in netball circles even though there was no active league in the Northern Region.
Despite Malawi national netball team’s shortcomings on the international scene, events on the ground suggested that Southern Region teams were losing their grip on national tournaments, having played second fiddle to their Central Region counterparts in two major tournaments.
Administratively, Netball Association of Malawi (Nam) introduced gate charges for local games following pressure from stakeholders, including sponsors and the Malawi National Council of Sports.
There were events that left the netball fraternity ecstatic, including the return of GOtv Netball Champions League and the increase in sponsorship of Rainbow Paints Southern Region Netball League and Mpico Gateway Netball Challenge Cup.
After a year-long break, MultiChoice Malawi announced the return of the GOtv Netball Champions League, which reverted to a Fast5 format.
The turning back to the Fast5 format was meant to help players master rules before the 2017 Fast5 Netball World Series held in Australia.
Revamped Civonets were crowned champions of the GOtv Netball Champions League at Don Bosco Youth Centre in Lilongwe on September 30 after beating defending champions, Kukoma Diamonds, 26-16 in the final.
Civonets are the first team outside the Southern Region to win the GOtv title, and they join Diamonds (two-time winners) and Tigresses (one-time winners).
In other games during the finals, Blue Eagles Sisters finished on third position after beating Mafco Soldiers 26-18 while Thunder Queens beat Tigresses 28-16 to finish on fifth and sixth places, respectively.
Lameck Queens anchored the eight-team competition after losing to seventh-placed Mimosa 18- 16.
Civonets’ shooter Jane Chimaliro was named best of the best, dubbed Katswiri wa Akatswiri, following her exploits on the court.
Eagle Sisters conquer
After some misfortunes in previous two Presidential Netball Trophy finals, Eagles Sisters won their first national trophy in over two decades when they dethroned Diamonds with a 47-45 victory in the final held at Katoto Secondary School in Mzuzu on December 16.
Eagles’ victory left Southern Region teams without any national trophy as they also lost the GOtv Netball Champions League to Central Region side, Civonets.
The cops received K4 million for emerging champions with runners-up, Diamonds, pocketing K2 million.
Thunder Queens humbled Tigresses 50-46 to finish third and pocket K1 million. Tigresses received K800,000.
Eagles defend Gateway Challenge
Central Region teams were excited after Mpico Company increased sponsorship of the Gateway Netball Challenge Cup from K8 million to K25 million. K19 million was meant for prizes, with K6 million set aside for administration.
Eagles retained the title after beating Civonets 44-39 in the final at Gateway Mall Court in Lilongwe.
This was a repeat of last year’s final when the two sides met, with Eagles winning the title.
For emerging champions, Eagles received a trophy and K2 million, with the runners-up pocketing K1.5 million while third-placed Mafco Soldiers, who defeated Green Sisters in a battle for bronze, received K1 million.
Civonets’ Cynthia Khunga was voted best shooter while Fanny Mwale of Mafco Soldiers was named best defender.
Malawi netball Queens star, Takondwa Lwazi of Eagles, won best centre award, with Green Sisters Judith Chikoka winning player of the tournament award.
Sponsorship drought Despite being considered a catchment area for the nation, the Northern Region has been without a sponsor for three years.
Currently, it is not clear if there is a deliberate move by the administrators to help the league secure sponsorship.
It is without doubt that most players, whether from previous and present senior and junior squads, come from the Northern Region.
Rainbow Paints hikes sponsorship
Southern Region Netball League breathed a sigh of relief after Rainbow Paints Limited increased the league’s sponsorship from K4 million to K6.7 million.
Diamonds are favourites to retain the league after maintaining their perfect winning run.
Thunder Queens are following closely on second-position whereas Tigresses are on a distant third and they are mathematically out of the race.
Following pieces of advice from the Sports Council and MultiChoice Malawi to commercialise the sport by, among other things, introducing gate charges, Nam took heed and implemented the initiative during the GOtv Netball Champions League.
The historic matches played at Blantyre Youth Centre (BYC) grossed a meagre K119,000 over two-days.
About K89,900 was realised on the first day, with K30,000 being collected the following day.
This is the first time that spectators paid K200 at the gates to watch local games.
The other time that spectators paid to watch games was when Malawi hosted the Africa Netball Championship in 2013 at BYC.
The 2013 feat was achieved with the supervision of Sports Council.
Similarly, Nam’s affiliate, the Southern Region Netball League, introduced gate fees for crucial game between rivals Diamonds and Tigresses. The match grossed K29,000 in gate collections
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