The 2018 Fast5 Netball World Series throws off next month in Melbourne, Australia, but Malawi Queens, as usual, are yet to start preparations for the tournament that attracts the world’s top six netball teams.
This is happening at a time Malawi is yet to recover from an embarrassing performance at Africa Netball Championship in Zambia where the Queens struggled against low-ranked but fast-improving teams such as Zambia and Uganda.
At the Fast5 Netball World Series, the Queens come face to face with the world’s top five teams—Australia, Jamaica, England, New Zealand and South Africa.
All these teams have gone in full gear preparing for the competition.
Top-ranked Australia, second-ranked England, third-ranked New Zealand and fifth-positioned South Africa will play in the Netball Quad Series that starts today, according to International Netball Federation (INF) website.
England Netball has also announced that they will play fourth-positioned Jamaica mid next month—prior to the Fast5 World Netball Series—in friendly matches dubbed Sunshine Series.
Further, the top five teams have also already announced their squads and camping dates as they gear up for the Fast5 World Netball Series.
The Queens lost all their matches at the last edition of the Fast5 Netball Series and finished at the bottom.
Former Queens coach Samuel Kanyenda feared that Malawi’s Queens would also fair badly at this year’s tournament due to shoddy preparations.
“We are always poor when it comes to preparations. Sadly, we don’t learn from our past. It will be a difficult tournament for us,” he said.
Kanyenda said NAM should by now have released the squad for the tournament.
“Announcing the squad early prepares the players psychologically. Again, the players engage in self physical training to be extra fit for the games,” he said.
But Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) general secretary Carol Bapu said they will release a programme later this month.
However, she was uncertain on the possibility of the team playing friendly matches.
“We have not secured any friendly matches yet. But there is a chance we might play one when we just arrive in Australia for the Fast5 tournament. But the preparation will hinge much on the camping which we will sanction soon,” she said.
Malawi’s Queens often rely on invitations from other teams for preparations for such competitions, but after losing position five to South Africa, the rivals have become favourites for test matches against the top four teams.
On the team’s weaknesses, Bapu said the technical panel had rectified the shortfalls.
“It was painful to see the team fail to win a single match during the competition last year. But we expect to do better this time around because the coaches have been analysing how best we can improve,” she said.
Coach Griffin Saenda said Malawi did not perform well at last year’s tournament because the players were not fast enough to match with the demands of the competition.
“When we go into camp we will focus much on improving our pace. In addition to this, we will use players that are fast during the tournament,” he said.
The seasoned trainer said for the team to grasp his Fast5 philosophy, there is need for the team to camp for a considerable amount of time.
“This is a tournament which is different from the conventional rules. That is why we need much time to adapt. At least, a month and some weeks in camp would be ideal,” he said.
Malawi National Council of Sports executive secretary George Jana said NAM has submitted a programme proposal for the team’s preparations.
“A proposal of their programme has reached us and they are planning to enter camp soon early next month,” he said.
But Jana was less optimistic about Malawi’s chances of succeeding at the competition.
“Honestly, it is difficult to have confidence that the team will do well if we have not done anything to prepare for the competition,” he said.
Jana said the most effective preparation for the tournament was for NAM to introduce Fast5 modelled tournaments which would help the players to understand the game.
“The solution would not be early camping, but rather for the association to introduce a Fast5 league and tournaments where the athletes will be exhibiting their skills in that format of netball as opposed to selecting them from their prowess in normal netball format play,” he said.
Jana also emphasised the need for the Queens to play friendly matches before the actual competition.
“Test matches could be an added gauge of where the faults are and, therefore, where we need to correct,” he said.
The Queens will likely depend on usual campaigners such as Joyce Mvula, Jane Chimaliro, Jessie Mazengera Sanudi, Bridget Kumwenda, Takondwa Lwazi, Thandie Galeta, Joanna Kachilika, Grace Mwafulirwa and Towera Vinkhumbo, Sindi Simtowe, Beatrice Mpinganjira, Laureen Ngwira, Alinafe Kamwala and Juliet Sambo.