The just-ended year was bad for the Malawi Queens with minnows orchestrating much pain to the world’s sixth-ranked netball team.
Uganda, who have tremendously improved and moved six places up on the world rankings to seventh, were the major contributors of this pain that is slowly but surely piling more pressure on the Malawi national netball team ahead of the impending Netball World Cup in Liverpool in July.
When the Queens played second fiddle to hosts and eventual champions She Cranes with a 43-66 defeat at the 2017 Africa Netball Championship, many believed it was just that one-off lucky moment for the Ugandans to taste historic victory over Malawi and put home ground advantage to good use.
However, the Queens’ 46-51 loss to the She Cranes in the 2018 edition of the competition in Lusaka, Zambia was enough proof of the two-time African champions’ hideous intention to displace the Queens from the sixth place on the global rankings and the second place in Africa.
Uganda even made their intention clear at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games by beating Malawi 52-54 in the group stages and settled for a sixth place finish following a 42-53 loss to Africa’s number one team South Africa in fifth-place classification match as the Queens took uninspiring position seven with a 60-52 win over Northern Ireland in a seventh-place classification game.
It became even more difficult for the Queens, who have not won the continental championship since 2011, as they hit their all-time new low with a 54-56 loss to 16th-ranked Zambia at the 2018 championship.
Although the Queens managed to beat the world’s number one team New Zealand 57-53 at the Commonwealth Games, it is the losses to minnows that have the potential to lead them to their fall from grace.
International Netball Federation (INF) rankings’ rules stipulate that a team loses more rating points for losing to a side with lower rating and earn more points by beating a side with a higher rating.
The Queens’ fall started like this on June 28 2013 when South Africa snatchd the continent’s number one status following a narrow a historic 54-52 triumph in the finals of the African Netball Championship, which the country hosted at the Blantyre Youth Centre (BYC).
Before that encounter, Queens were number one in Africa and fifth in the world with 135 rating points, two points ahead of the Spar Proteas. But since that coup, South Africa have maintained their dominance over Malawi.
Of course, the Queens improved their finish at the 2018 Fast5 World Netball Series in Australia following 27-26 and 33-32 victories over England and South Africa, respectively, but the contest has no effect on the INF world rankings, which value results of conventional netball.
It is the Queens’ performance at the forthcoming 16-team Netball World Cup, where fellow Africans South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe will also be on the prowl, that will determine Malawi’s capabilities of getting onto a better recovery path.
Queens coach Griffin Saenda cited inadequate preparations as the major setback on Queens’ performance and he recently called for the fast-tracking of tune-ups. Mostly, the Queens start preparations at least a month before a competition.
“We need to have ample time for training and have at least an international friendly match earlier. The players have not been training together for months and we need to regroup so as to build coordination and improve our tactics ahead of the world cup,” he said.