World ranking: 6th
Previous Commonwealth Games results: 1998 (4th in Pool B), 2002 (DNC), 2006 (6th), 2010 (5th), 2014 (5th).
Commonwealth Games win/loss record: 13 wins, 10 losses.
Malawi are bringing arguably one of their strongest ever teams to these 2018 Commonwealth Games, with nine players returning from Glasgow. For five athletes (Joanna Kachilika, Mwai Kumwenda, Caroline Mtukule, Sindi Simtowe, Towera Vinkhumbo), this is their third consecutive Games.
Many eyes will be on 65-test cap spearhead Mwai Kumwenda. Kumwenda’s gradual rise to prominence began at the 2010 Games in Delhi. Since then, she’s competed in the ANZ Championship with the Tactix, won the Player of the Tournament award at the 2015 World Cup and is one of the most exciting players in Suncorp Super Netball. She’s strong, fast and aerial, making it a tough ask for any defender to mark her.
There were cries of “No Mwai, no Malawi”, when Kumwenda was controversially left out of Malawi’s Fast5 team last October, before returning for their tour to England a month later. A lynchpin, Mwai’s form will dictate how well the Queens will fare, though expect to see Joyce Mvula – who missed the England series due to a visa delay – to receive plenty of courtime also.
There has been a shuffling of coaches over the past 12 months, with Whyte Mulilma having taken charge since the start of the year. Former coach Griffin Saenda remains with the team as an assistant.
Perhaps ironically, Malawi face England in their first match of the Games and will be out to redeem themselves following the 3-0 series loss in November. Malawi struggled in the opening two tests, falling behind by 11 and seven goals by quarter time, respectively. They managed to stun England 18-10 in the opening term of the last test, before the Roses clinched the game in the final minutes.
The Queens match against African neighbours Uganda will also be of much interest. Malawi lost three times to the She Cranes in 2017, twice in the lead up to the African Championships (52-39 and 67-34) and then on Day 3 of the event, 66-43. It must be noted that Mwai Kumwenda was absent from the Championships due to commitments with the Melbourne Vixens.
New Zealand outclassed Malawi 75-42 just last week in the Taini Jamison Series. It was a far cry from the eight-goal defeat at the 2015 World Cup and their heartbreaking 50-47 loss in Glasgow. However, with injury clouds and poor form hanging over the Kiwis’ heads, perhaps Malawi have a chance at an almighty upset.
Malawi have been nothing if not consistent over the past decade or so, hovering in the top six for most of that time. Let’s hope there will be more brilliant dancing scenes, like the ones witnessed in Melbourne in 2006, if Malawi are able to knock off one of the higher-ranked sides in Pool B and make the Semi Finals for the first time.
Commonwealth Games team
Jane Chimaliro GA/GC
Martha Dambo WD/GD
Thandie Galeta WA/C
Joanna Kachilika (c) WD/GD/GK
Bridget Kumwenda WA/C
Mwai Kumwenda GS/GA
Takondwa Lwazi C/WA
Caroline Mtukule GD/WD
Joyce Mvula GS/GA
Loreen Ngwira GK/GS
Sindi Simtowe GA/GS
Towera Vinkhumbo GK/GD
Coach: Whyte Mulilma
Last five international results:
Malawi lost to England 60-62 (2017)
Malawi lost to England 53-61 (2017)
Malawi lost to England 60-66 (2017)
Malawi def Botswana 71-39 (2017)
Malawi def Zambia 51-45 (2017)