Head coach for top England netball outfit Manchester Thunder, Karen Greig once commented that when Malawi’s 24-year-old netballer Joyce Mvula is on her game, she is unstoppable.
It is no wonder that she was named Players’ Player of the Year and Most Improved Player of the Year at the end of season ceremony held in England recently.
Sixth born of eight in her family, Mvula was born on April 15 1994. She was born from a father who was a police officer and her mother, a house wife. She has grown up in different areas across the country due to her father’s constant transfers as a civil servant.
Straight from Blue Eagles Sisters, Mvula was spotted two years ago by the English Super League team Manchester Thunder at the 2014 Commonwealth Games after being swayed by her five-star display.
She joined the English outfit as a replacement for Jamaican Marvadene Anderson to become the second netball export overseas after Mwawi Kumwenda. Mvula was followed by another shooter-cum-defender, Laureen Ngwira.
The queens’ shining star’s interest in netball dates back to her primary school days at Nankhaka, Lilongwe’s Area 30.
“I started playing netball when I was in standard seven. Because of my height, people were constantly courting me to netball but at first I had no interest. I was constantly bullied by my peers for being tall, and to keep away from the bullying, I started going to practise netball.”
She played her first game in the Standard Bank Tournament in which she was named the best shooter. It was there that Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL) Queens spotted her and signed her up.
“MTL gave me a scholarship to study at Joyce Banda Foundation, but my heart was still with Blue Eagles,” she explains.
Her goal-shooting exploits also got her spotted by the Malawi national netball team selectors, and she has been on the team since 2010.
The Queens’ head coach, Griffin Saenda describes her as a very good netball player. He hails her performance even in her UK team, acknowledging that her experience there is proving fruitful, owing mainly to the best coaching she gets over there.
“She has improved a lot and I am glad with her performance because it reflects well on Malawian players. I would like her to continue with the hard work because that way, more doors could open for our girls,” says she coach.
However, Mvula says she still has ties with her club, Blue Eagles, at the Police Headquarters in Lilongwe.
Although she was awarded players’ player of the year and most improved player of the year by her English club, the young woman discloses that her a early days in the United Kingdom were tough. Things are different between netball in Malawi and in that country.
“I had to adjust a lot and fast, to match up to the netball playing standards in the UK. That is probably why I have been given the medal for most improved player of the year. I was pushed to work really hard to prove my worth to the team,” she says.
Commenting on her two clubs awards, the gangly shooter says it was unbelievable because she always felt she was far from making the grade..
“For the [Players Player of the Year] award everyone in the team votes on who they feel deserves it and it is encouraging to learn that my team-mates value my contribution and that they consider me a good player,” says Mvula.
The goal shooter has been an influential player for the Malawi Queens with her amazing style of play, especially accurate shooting skills.
Mvula who is inspired by Mwawi, admits that the journey to success was not easy, but is grateful to the people around her, who always encourage her.
“Sometimes for someone to do well, it depends on how well people around you treat you. I live with the Kachisas’ in the UK who encourage me to work hard, to go to the gym or to go jogging. And even when we sit down to just chat, the talk is often about netball and all these things help me to do better,” she explains.
Apart from the efforts to make herself relevant to her team, she is also motivated to work hard in order to keep the people who look up to her encouraged and proud.
In addition, she says there are people like her three-year-old child, her parents and some relatives who rely on her for assistance in certain areas, and she has to work hard.
After all is said and done, her dream is to play in New Zealand and Australia, whose teams are among the world’s best.
The multi-award winner, who has also been named player of the match twice each by her team and Sky Television, was born at Mzuzu Central Hospital. She comes from David Momba Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Kampingo Sibande in Mzimba.
She calls on girls in the country to go for what they want in life and not to back down on their plans.
“It is important to stay focused on anything that you go for and not to be discouraged by the challenges that you face on the way. I, personally, have risen above a lot of challenges to get where I am; it has not been easy,” says Mvula.
However, she maintains that hard work is what keeps her relevant because sometimes when she is put on the bench, those who play in her place do not perform as well as she does and that is how her coaches always consider her for the games.
“If it wasn’t for my great contribution to the team, I am sure I would be left out in a lot of games,” she says.
In conclusion, she urges parents to encourage their children to concentrate on what they are good at; and, most importantly, to identify those with particular talents.
“Not everyone is cut out to go through the university corridors; others like us have talents that can see us through in life. Some of us could not excel in school, but we are excelling in this area,” she advises.