Malawi Queens’ glimmer of hope


For the first time in the history of Fast5 Netball World Series, Malawi Queens stunned the netball world after winning bronze at Hisense Arena, in Melbourne, Australia last weekend.

This was Malawi’s best ever finish since the competition was introduced in 2009.

Unlike the conventional netball where seven players take part and the introduction of substitutes happen when play is off, Fast5 format features five players.


Each team plays each other once during the first two days in a round-robin format before determining the play-offs’ pairing.

During the inaugural tournament in 2009 at Manchester in England, the Queens finished fifth above Samoa on sixth whereas New Zealand were the champions followed by Jamaica on second and Australia third.

England ended on fourth.


A year later during games held in Liverpool, England, the Queens maintained their fifth position ahead of continental rivals, South Africa.

Again it was New Zealand that won the title with England settling for second place whereas Jamaica were third and Australia fourth.

In 2011, the Queens were not invited but they returned to the competition in 2012 when the games were held in Auckland, New Zealand and they ended on fifth position while South Africa finished on third place.

A year later, the Queens maintained their fifth-place finish but were left dejected during the 2014 games when they slumped to sixth position for the first time.

In 2015, the games were not held and they returned this year.

The turn-around of the Queens’ fortunes began with the hiring of male coaches, Griffin Saenda of Kukoma Diamonds and his assistant, Sam Kanyenda of Blue Eagles Sisters.

Prior to the team’s departure, there was uncertainty surrounding the team’s trip due to inadequate funding.

Eventually Netball Association of Malawi (Nam) secured support from Airtel Malawi (K14.4 million) whereas Illovo Sugar donated K2 million. Unicaf University donated K700,000 while Old Mutual gave the team K500,000.

The absence of skipper Caroline Mtukule-Ngwira from the side also sent tremors across the netball fraternity’s spine as it was going to be the first time in 10 years for Malawi to compete at the international level without their influential skipper.

Another shocker happened when Saenda announced his squad for the Fast5 Netball Series, dropping unfit Sindie Simtowe- Msowoya.

Other notable casualties included Beatrice Mpinganjira of Tigresses and Diamonds’ star shooter, Alinafe Kamwala.

Saenda made bold decisions, stepping away from the expected appeasement policy where some players were not picked on merit.

After a slow start when Malawi lost to Australia 24-23 and England 43-22, the Queens made a timely recovery to stay in top-four contention when they beat giants Jamaica 46-12.

The following day, the Queens underlined their intent and hunger to break the barrier when they first humbled South Africa 36-21 before losing to New Zealand 52-27.

In the third-fourth place play-off against England, Saenda showcased his ability to read his opponent’s moves. It did not come as a surprise that the Queens exacted revenge on England with a 35-32 victory.

The Queens’ ability to stop England from scoring a lot of baskets during their counterparts’ powerplay was crucial.

In response, Malawi bounced back strongly in the fourth quarter to stun England with Mwawi Kumwenda being at the heart of the teams’ resurrection.

Furthermore, Malawi Queens’ technical panel was careful when it came to team formation. They succeed in balancing the side to have speed in attack and defence.

The inclusion of Jane Chimaliro and Joyce Mvula might not have been popular, but the pair when called into action, managed to alternate roles.

Chimaliro was crucial to coordination between the centre court and defensive players. She had speed and was able to create spaces.

Centre court players such as Thandi Galeta-Saenda, Takondwa Lwazi and Bridget Kumwenda were also impressive and they were energetic, keeping the supply lines open.

When called into action during the rolling substitutions that happened when the game was in play, the trio stood up to the task.

In defence, Towera Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda was Malawi’s steel whereas Grace Mwafulirwa-Mhango made vital interceptions that made the difference.

Joanna Kachilika was also equally good. The trio, when in action, initiated runs and passes to build attack from the back.

Having clinched bronze, Malawi can now aim higher. In the history of Fast5, Malawi has never beaten New Zealand who are six-time record winners having missed it once in seven times to England.

A win over New Zealand will inspire Malawi to new heights.

It is clear that the Fast5 format provides minnows with good chances of beating netball heavyweights, and it is not surprising that in the previous editions, Malawi managed to overcome Australia, England and Jamaica.

Malawi’s progress during the competition in Australia could partly be attributed to the GOtv Netball Champions League, whose format in the first three editions, was in line with Fast5 requirements.

The competition enabled Malawian players to understand better the Fast5 format.

However, the absence of a synthetic and proper in-door facility will likely hinder Malawi’s progress on the international scene.

As Saenda has suggested, Malawi must play more test matches against the world’s best to bridge the gap.

The Queens’ players can only get better if they play with the best.

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