Captain slams unrealistic expectations in Queens

National netball team captain Caroline Mtukule-Ngwira has slammed the nation’s perennial expectations that the Queens should break into the world top-four ranking when there is no corresponding investment in preparations.

A lot is expected from Africa number one and world’s fifth best team, the Queens, as they depart this July 29 for the 2015 Netball World Cup scheduled for Australia from this August 6 to 17. But Mtukule-Ngwira was on Tuesday disappointed with the nation’s indifference to the preparations.

The Queens captured during training on Tuesday
The Queens captured during training on Tuesday

“You reap what you sow. When we beat giants, it is as a result of players punching above their weights for the sake of the nation, yet few respond to our training needs. Expectations are always unrealistically high even when our preparations are not up to scratch,” Mtukule said at Blantyre Youth Centre (BYC) on the sidelines of the Queens’ training.

Having participated at the Diamond Netball Series Challenge in South Africa last month, the Queens train for two weeks without additional test matches as is the case with their opponents such as South Africa’s Spar Proteas, who are in the United Kingdom.

“We need to work on endurance and that necessitates specialised training, but with time factor, it is impossible. When we go to the World Cup, we rub shoulders with physically strong opponents and to compete favourably, we need more time in the gym. You cannot build fitness in just two weeks,” Ngwira complained.

Co-captain Grace Mwafulirwa said while she was personally determined to ensure the Queens make it into the top-four, “everything about winning tournaments starts from training and we need more support.”

Due to limited time, coach Peace Chawinga-Kalua says she is ‘overloading’ the training regime for the 18 players in camp; hence, Ngwira’s concern.

Kalua is further worried that the Queens do not have that luxury of test matches. Top-four ranked teams Australia, New Zealand, England and Jamaica’s economies are bigger that they can afford more investments in netball.

“Our target was to make it into the top-four, but with just two weeks, now it is about holding on to our current ranking. The response has been good and we have been focusing on building endurance after noting during the Diamond Challenge that we could play well in first two quarters then lose steam,” the coach explained.

Commenting in general, College of Medicine Sports Complex High Performance Centre general manager Augustine Banda said it takes a minimum of six weeks for athletes low on fitness to get in shape.

“[That is] two weeks of fitness [anaerobic and aerobic], two weeks of technical issues and two weeks in tactical issues; so what we have done in netball is unfair on the coaches and the players,” Banda noted.

Malawi National Council of Sports executive secretary George Jana on Monday insisted that the team only regrouped on Sunday because the council did not appreciate the rationale of a national team camping for over 20 days.

“We felt that was unnecessarily too long for a national team,” Jana said.

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