By Duncan Mlanjira
Malawi’s first netball export, Mwawi Kumwenda has been voted 4th as 2020 world’s best netballer from top 17 world players that were judged by a team of 10 netball experts.
The 10 judges were five writers from netballscoop.com (Jaimie Keay, Andrew Kennedy, Katrina Nissen, Jenny Sinclair and Ian Harkin) and the others from the world of media and coaching (Lisa Alexander, Erin Delahunty, Liz Ellis, Tamsin Greenway and Bridget Tunnicliffe).
According to one of the judges, Harkin, each was asked to list their top five netballers in the world based on form throughout 2020 and rank them from one to five.
“In total, 17 players got a mention, with four of them getting at least one top nod from the judges,” says netballscoop.com.
“Incredibly, when the votes were tallied up, the top three players were separated by just two votes. Any one of these three athletes would have been a very worthy winner.
The judges voted that the 2020 Best World Netballer is Ameliaranne Ekenasio from New Zealand with 31 votes followed by Liz Watson (Australia) with 30 votes on second; Jhaniele Fowler (Jamaica) with 29 votes on third and Mwawi on 4th with 13 votes.
Judge Lisa Alexander said: “Mwawi Kumwenda combined her technical prowess with complete understanding of her team and the game plan, culminating in a superb match in the Suncorp Super Netball grand final.”
The resume for Mwawi says the 2020 Super Netball competition began with Mwawi sharing court time with Melbourne Vixens’ other two shooters, Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip.
“Over the course of the season, she lifted her game to such a high level that come finals time, she was an indispensable and integral part of the premiership-winning team at goal shooter.
“Her form peaked at season’s end with a masterful display in the grand final, where she shot 47/50.
“Kumwenda has turned in many fine performances over the course of her netball career. But it’s doubtful any of them were better than the show she put on in the SSN decider.
“Her flexibility, poise and confidence saw her get the better of Australian goal keeper Courtney Bruce and deservedly take out the player of the match award.”
The judges believe that 2021 will bring new challenges since Thwaites and Philip have now retired — and Kumwenda will have to shoulder even more responsibility.
On Ekenasio as the winner, judge Jaimie Keay said: “She had another incredibly strong ANZ Premiership season and led the Silver Ferns with poise, mana and grace. Continuing on from her efforts in 2019. The sky is the limit for hopefully international netball in 2021.”
Katrina Nissen said: “She is so entrancing. Her movement and reading of the game has always been world class. But she has taken her game and leadership to another level this year.
“I have been really impressed with her approach to captaining the Ferns and can’t wait to see what she can do with that role in the years to come.”
While Bridget Tunnicliffe said: “For me, Ameliaranne Ekenasio is the best goal attack in the world and the complete package. She can shoot from anywhere, is high volume for a GA, and works cleverly in tandem with whoever she’s paired with.
“She has to be incredibly fit physically and mentally to put in the work rate that she does and still hold her nerve to complete pressure shots from distance. Another fine season for the Premiership winning Pulse and as the new leader of the Silver Ferns.”
For Liz Watson, judge Erin Delahunty said: “It may seem simplistic, but when selecting the best player in the world in what has been a truly extraordinary season, I landed on the idea of ‘school yard pick’.
“If I was building a team, who would be the first player I picked? And for me, in 2020, that was Liz Watson, despite her injury-interrupted season.
“The Vixens were always going to win or lose that Super Netball grand final based on her fitness/inclusion. She plays, they win. Pure grunt, pure class.”
Liz Ellis said: “She took her game to another level this year. Played the entire year a step ahead of every defender, and changed her game to suit whatever game plan the Vixens were working on at the time.”
Tamsin Greenway said: “Quite simply the Vixens couldn’t win without her, she is crucial in every part of that attacking unit. Her availability, feeding and leadership was incredible this season and to play with 2 completely different styles of shooting circle and still nail it was very impressive.”
On Jhaniele Fowler, judge Andrew Kennedy said the Jamaican is “an absolute powerhouse, ultra-reliable, great timing and choice of holds and split, plus a good natural leader”.
While Jenny Sinclair said: “For me, Fowler continues to cement her place as the world’s best netballer. She’s not only tall, but athletic, incredibly accurate and can haul in the worst of feeds.
“She is close to unstoppable, although many goal keepers have given it a crack.”
Other players that were considered were:
* Mwawi’s teammate at Vixens, Australian Caitlin Thwaites with 8 votes;
* Courtney Bruce (Australia) and Karla Pretorius of South Africa (tying at 7 votes);
* Kate Molone (Australia) and Jane Watson (New Zealand) at 4 votes apiece;
* Sulu Fitzpatrick (New Zealand), Jamie-Lee Price (Australia) and Shamera Sterling (Jamaica) at 3 votes each;
* Laura Langman (New Zealand), Geva Mentor (England) and Jo Weston (Australia) sharing 2 votes;
* Karin Burger and Maia Wilson (both New Zealanders) sharing one vote