The Malawi Queens’ preparations for the Africa Netball Championship in Uganda between June 24 and 30 continue to face setbacks as vice-captain Grace Mwafulirwa-Mhango has become the third key player to be ruled out of the continental competition.
The Tigresses defender has joined Australia-based prolific shooter Mwawi Kumwenda and Blue Eagles Sisters’ centre Takondwa Lwazi.
Mwawi is ruled out due to club commitments at Melbourne Vixens’ Suncorp Super Netball title chase while Lwazi is preparing for her wedding on July 1.
Captain Carol Mtukule-Ngwira and Tigresses’ want-away defender Laureen Ngwira are also yet to report for camp training, which started five days ago.
Mwafulirwa-Mhango told The Nation yesterday that she has opted to sacrifice her place in the Queens’ squad for a job opportunity in the National Registration Bureau’s (NRB) national registration project.
She said she is aware that the national team duty would earn her more money than the job.
“The registration project will assist me to add experience on my professional CV. Therefore, it is better for me to concentrate on the exercise, which is a great opportunity,” she said.
Mwafulirwa-Mhango added that she would also like to give a chance to up-and-coming netballers to get a slot in the final squad.
Mtukule-Ngwira, who missed last year’s international engagements due to maternity break, said she has delayed to report for Queens’ camp because she is waiting for a babysitter from Dowa.
Laureen said she has not reported for camp as she is preparing for examinations at the Blantyre International University (BIU).
Queens’ assistant coach Samuel Kanyenda described the developments as a setback.
The Queens are hoping to reclaim wrest the continent’s top position from South Africa, who dethroned the Queens recently.
He said: “Experienced players already have certain qualities and skills. It takes time to instil such techniques in the up-and-coming players.
“Nevertheless, we are confident that the available players will be in good shape by the time we will be leaving for Uganda.”
Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) general secretary Carol Bapu also expressed concern over the setback, but she was quick to say that every player that was called into camp is equally capable of helping the Queens regain the continental pride.
In spite of that, the Queens can still afford a smile as England-based lofty shooter Joyce Mvula, who plays for Manchester Thunder, is scheduled to join the team in Kampala on June 21.
Head coach Griffin ‘Zagalo’ Saenda is also returning home from a China trip, Kanyenda confirmed. n