Malawi shooter focused on SSN return

WITH netball on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak we take a look back at our interview with star Malawi goal shooter Mwai Kumwenda which appeared in our 2019 Netball World Cup magazine.

THE 2018 year was a big one for netball, and no less for Malawi Queens’ star goal shooter, Mwai ‘MJ’ Kumwenda who took the netball world by storm with her flair and accuracy to post. The star goaler single handedly tore games apart with her dynamic movement and laid back style making her an integral member in both the Melbourne Vixens and Malawi sides.

Kumwenda’s form in recent years helped Malawi beat the New Zealand Silver Ferns in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, while her performance in the 2015 Netball World Cup saw her awarded ‘Player of the Tournament’, putting her skills on show again and again credit to her accuracy, consistency and phenomenal footwork on court.

“Playing in the World Cup was a good experience for me – that was my second World Cup with Malawi. It was good to play in Australia as I had been playing for Peninsula Waves and the Victorian Fury before being in New Zealand, so it was like playing at home,” she said. “In 2015 I stayed in New Zealand to train and prepare; just like the Commonwealth Games last year, I trained with the Vixens until very close to the tournament.”

“Getting Player of the Tournament was a surprise to me because there were so many good players from all the countries there.”

The humble goal shooter said representing Malawi is a big honour, especially knowing she is a role model for young women.

“I was so excited because I was representing my country and playing with my Malawi girls so to know I tried hard enough for them was good.”

“It means a lot. Most of the young Malawi players look up to us to know that if you train hard, you can do very good things with your netball. I grew up in a village 10 hours drive to where I played netball in Blantyre City so I like to show girls especially from my area that they can do amazing things in life. I am so lucky.”

But while Kumwenda has proved she has the skill and work ethic to be a phenomenal player, a devastating fall in Round 13 of the 2018 Suncorp Super Netball season saw her rupture her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Despite injury and missing out on the World Cup, Kumwenda’s outlook and recovery so far is admirable.

“It’s going well. I’m spending time in the gym every day with the Victorian Institute of Sport and Vixens high-performance team. I am working with Tayla Honey and Rahni Samason every day. I’ve started running again and it feels good,” she said. “I don’t know when I’ll be back on court but I can’t wait!” 

“The support I get from the Vixens players and coaches is amazing. I still feel a part of the team and I’m so proud of how the girls are going in Suncorp Super Netball.”

“With the Vixens, I have been able to talk to physios and strength and conditioning coaches but in Malawi we don’t have that. They have a team doctor who travels but the recovery after each game is up to the individual player.”

Despite not having a role in the Malawi Queens’ 2019 Netball World Cup campaign, Kumwenda is keen for the competition to begin and says the Queens have the talent to get the job done.

“If Malawi train hard, they will be top five of the tournament … They are very talented girls, they are a good team so I think if they train hard, they can do well. I think Joyce Mvula will do very well because she has been outstanding in the English league. She’s a good goal shooter.”

“The best team will win – ha! I think it will be very tough and I’m excited to watch.”

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