Southern Region clubs’ continued monopoly of the national netball team has triggered claims of selection bias and suggestions of deteriorating netball standards in the other regions.
The South has always been dominating the Queens and the latest case being at the Africa Netball Championship played in South Africa this week.
The South had nine players while Civonets shooter Jane Chimaliro was the only Central Region representative and there was none from the North.
The squad had three foreign-based players in Laureen Ngwira, Joyce Mvula and Takondwa Lwazi.
The others drawn from Southern Region clubs Kukoma Diamonds, First Choice Tigresses and Tropical Queens were Jesca Mazengera-Sanudi, Sindi Simtowe-Msowoya, Beatrice Mpinganjira, Bridget Kumwenda, Towera Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda, Carol Mtukule-Ngwira, Grace Mwafulirwa and Martha Dambo.
Reacting to the trend, Blue Eagles Sisters coach Sam Kanyenda claimed that Southern Region clubs are favoured because most influential Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) officials and the head coach are from the region.
“Head coach is from the South, she sees players from the South most times and she trusts those that she sees,” he said.
Kanyenda observed that there are better players than some of those that were pencilled in the squad that competed at the recent continental tournament.
“There are players such as Civonets attacker Rose Nkanda, Eagles shooter Mary Banya and defender Madalitso Mkandawire that deserve to be in the national team,” he said.
Civonets chairperson Ethel Muphuwa said she has been observing the ‘selection bias’ for a long time.
“It has been there for sometime and I once raised it with the NAM general secretary [Carol Bapu] and the answer I received was that there is tight competition for places,” she said.
Unconvinced with the response, Muphuwa, in an interview, asked the netball governing body to step up its scouting exercise so that other players are also considered.
“The squad we have may not necessarily be the best. NAM must cast its net wider and I am sure they will discover better players in other regions as well,” she said.
Central Region Netball Committee chairperson Fanuel Katengeza also lamented over low intake of the region’s players.
However, he suspected that the Centre and the North could be victims of their failure to organise steady competitions. Both regions have gone years without organising leagues.
“Maybe the coaches think the players here are dormant and cannot be competitive enough at top level. That said, my committee is planning to officially lodge a complaint,” he said.
On her part, national team coach Peace Chawinga-Kaluwa said her technical panel was also concerned with the dominance of the south in the squad.
She, however, attributed it to the country’s failure to have a clear national team programme.
“When you look at our national team preparations, we do it within a short time. This forces us to go for players with international exposure. So, as trends have it, most experienced ones are based in Blantyre,” she said.
To ensure balanced selection, the coach proposed the setting up of strong structures aimed at strengthening youth netball development.
“Through the system, we can establish a buffer of young players that could be in the Under-17 and Under-20 teams. We should also have a Queens B side to act as a feeder for the main team,” she said.
Chawinga-Kaluwa pointed out that lack of tournaments in the other regions has also affected most players’ chances of playing in the national team.
“We are happy that the Central Region has the Mpico tournament. Through it, much talent has been unearthed. It just needs to be nurtured before being part of the Queens. I am hopeful that in future we will have a more inclusive national team,” she said.