Part of the thrilling action
*Sponsorship package raised to K12 million from K7 million
By Victor Singano Jnr, Correspondent
Kukoma Diamonds recorded a sweet revenge over their old rivals First Choice Tigresses after thrashing the league holders 55-34 baskets in 2022 Rainbow Paints Netball League opening match played on Saturday afternoon.
The much-awaited cracker, which attracted hundreds of fans at Blantyre Youth Centre (BYC), provided the real entertainment to the netball enthusiasts who enjoyed the performance from the two sides.
The two teams displayed attacking play in early minutes of the first quarter, which ended 27-17 in favour of Diamonds.
It was this lead that gave Diamonds much energy, which also helped them control possession from the second quarter following a superclass play from Diamonds, which was led by experienced Malawi Queens stars — namely captain Carol Mtukule Ngwira, Jesca Sanudi and Bridget Kumwenda.
Ngwira’s was such unstoppable on the centre court where she outplayed coach Peace Chawinga-Kalua’s side charges with her skillful and outstanding performance and no wonder the 2019 Rainbow Paints winners maintained the lead again.
Diamonds brilliant performance forced Tigresses technical panel to make an early substitution on the centre to add some fire power but there was a little impact from the newly introduced players as Diamonds continued to shine in all departments.
Their shooter, Jesca Sanudi was also Player of the Match who inflicted most of the damage to Tigresses’ defence where Beauty Basiyawo was operating from.
Tigresses in-form shooter was nowhere in sight after facing a tight marking situation from Mtukule Ngwira.
Diamonds head coach, Noel Mussa praised his charges for putting up such a gallant fight, which he said was a mission accomplished because there target was to open the league with a win and revenge their last season’s defeats.
“After losing to our colleagues last season, we sat down as a technical panel trying to find out the main problems that affected us which we started rectifying them and we are still yet to finalize them.
“In today’s match, we also utilized the absence of some of their key players such Grace Mwafulirwa who plays as GD, former Centre, Beatrice Mpinganjira who retired from the team last year,” he said.
His counterpart, Chawinga-Kalua described the defeat as a great lesson to them and that they will go back to the drawing board and correct all the weaknesses.
Kalua also admitted that her absence due to the national team engagements also contributed to the loss as she spent little time with the players and she quickly expressed optimistic that the the team will be back to it’s winning ways.
“We accept the defeat and I must be honest here that Diamonds was too good today because they were able to keep the possession in all there areas unlike our side where we had some problems at the centre, wing defence as well as wing attacker.
“We tried to make changes though but we still failed to match with them,” said Kalua.
During the throw off, sponsors of the Rainbow Paints Limited announced that they have increased the sponsorship package from K7 million to K12 million.
Disclosing the development, the company’s technical and sales marketing executive, Wezzie Chirwa said they have decided to raise the sponsorship as part of celebrating their 10 years partnership of sponsoring the league, as well as helping the league to achieve their goals through a smooth running of the competition during these economic hardships.
Chirwa also added that they want to assist in improving netball talent so that Malawi Queens should continue selecting the cream born from the league.
“As a company, we are proud of the achievements the league is doing because as we speak, the majority of the Malawi national netball team players comes from this league.
“The other notable thing is that the league is producing international players who are now playing in Europe such as Towers Vinkhumbo, Mwai Kumwenda just to mention a few,” she said.
Blantyre District’s Netball Committee general secretary, Annie Hanjahanja said they were so grateful that the sponsorship package has been adjusted, saying it is a timely development considering the financial constraints the country and companies are going through.
Hanjahanja said the increment will help in their administration of the league, which among other things include purchasing equipment which they use to run the league as well as increasing umpires’ allowances.
“We are very thankful to our partners because it is very rare to have companies like Rainbow Paints who are not considering the global economic challenges in supporting the sport,” she said.
“With this increase we are very much hopeful that this year’s league will be exciting and stiff.”
Hanjahanja further said they are expecting the league to be finished by of end November or early December, whose winners league will pocket K2 million and runners-up receiving K1 million.
Results of other opening matches were: Gerald Tasaukadala 25-45 Machinjiri Sisters; Chileka Sisters 8-42 Cobbe Barracks; Prophet Mbewe Sisters 41-39 MUBAS; Shizaella Queens 56-29 Chilomoni Sisters; IMOSYS NC 42-41 Prison Sisters.