They promised to break into the top-four dominated by Jamaica, England, New Zealand and Australia, but this proved a bridge too far for the Queens who have now settled for the seventh position at the ongoing Commonwealth Games after beating Northern Ireland 60-52.
After surrendering the sixth position to Uganda, who lost to fifth-placed South Africa, the Queens were playing for pride as they faced 10th-ranked Northern Ireland in the seventh position play-offs.
In the last two tournaments, Malawi finished fifth, just missing out on the bronze.
But not this time as the Queens will be coming home having won four games and lost two.
They lost to England (49-74) and fast-improving Uganda (52-54).
Their biggest moment was when they beat New Zealand (53-57) for the first time ever.
They also beat 12th-ranked Scotland (50-51) with just a basket difference before wrapping up the group stages with a win against Wales (53-68).
However, coach Whyte Mulilima said he was happy with the team’s overall performance, especially the victory over New Zealand.
“New Zealand are the number two team in the world. Beating the champions means we are good. We are better. Our ranking should go up two [places] just by beating New Zealand,” he said.
But analyst Thoko Wesley Namasala said the team’s performance is food for thought for the Netball Association of Malawi (NAM).
He said: “Any winning team has a lifespan. Wear and tear takes its toll along the way. It is therefore, strategic to invest in youth teams for sustainability. The bulk of the Queens team today is a product of the 2009 Under-21 which participated at a world tournament in Cook Islands. Since then, there hasn’t been any participation of our junior teams at world stage.
“The silence has been so loud. Most of the senior players have gone through the under-21 hierarchy and participated in big tournaments before. It is a wake-up call for us. Uganda is on our neck. We cannot just be relying on the same team without proper transition structures. Once it is gone, everything is gone.”
The Queens had the most experienced squad, with nine out of the 12 players returning to the Games.
Assistant coach Griffin Saenda Jnr. observed that poor preparations contributed to the team’s failure to break into the top-four.
“We need continuity with our training programme to identify new talent and expose it to international competitions. Some players also struggled with fitness because of lack of enough training time. The timeframe was too little,” he said.
Australia face New Zealand in the semi-final while England will take on Jamaica tomorrow. n