With only two weeks to go to the start of theNetball World Cup in Sydney, the countdown to the opening ceremony has begun, with teams stepping up their preparations and fine tuning their line ups to give themselves the best possible chance of being on the medals podium. Malawi, which has yet to publicly announce itsfull squad, has confirmed a friendly fixture against Trinidad and Tobago in Sydney on 4 August, four days before the start of their World Cupcampaign.
Although all the Malawian names are yet to be released to the public, the country’s most high profilestar, Tactix shooter Mwayi Kumwenda has returned to training this week in Blantyre and will suit up for the Queens in Sydney.
This comes after a series of disagreementswith the Netball Association of Malawi, which threatened to keep the shooter, one of the world’s most talented stars, out of the international competition.
Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls leave the island on 30 July to travel to Australia, and will face Samoa in its opening match on 7 August. The squad was presented with its competition uniforms at a glittering ceremony hosted by key sponsor Best Dressed Chicken this week, as well as a cheque for $J5 million (approx. $US42,600) towards expenses incurred during the World Cup campaign.
The new look New Zealand team is taking the opportunity to test combinations and playing tactics in three warm up matches against Fiji and South Africa. In the first of these games, against Fiji, coach Waimarama Taumaunu took the opportunity to give several different line ups court time and awarded a first international cap to shooter Malia Paseka who returned figures of 14 from 17 attempts in the final quarter as the Ferns cruised to a 91-31 win. The matches against South Africa, which take place in Hamilton on 26 July and Auckland on 28 July, are expected to be more closely contested, and will provide the first real test of new Proteas coach Norma Plummer’s stewardship of the South African side.
A high profile omission from the New Zealand squad, Cathrine Latu has this week confirmed she will return to the SkyCityMystics line up in 2016. Latu, who was the most accurate goal shooter (93.8%) in the ANZ Championship during the 2015 season, is the only player to have been with the Auckland-based side since the league started in 2008. Best New Talent in the league for 2015, Serena Guthrie, and squad members Temalisi Fakahokotau,Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick and Nadia Loveday have also been confirmed for theMystics in 2016.
In other ANZ player news, defender and Australian squad member Clare McMeniman has re-signed for champions the Queensland Firebirds, while Melbourne Vixens have secured the services of MadiRobinson for the next two years. Robinson, who will miss the Netball World Cup after a knee injurysustained during the Vixens ANZ Championships campaign, has returned to runningas part of her rehabilitation, and expects to be back to full fitness in timefor pre-season work.
However the Mystics will be looking for a newmidcourter this year, after 26 year old Camilla Lees announced she is quitting netball for good, having reached a point in her medical career where she says it is no longer possible to combine her work with the demands of playing the game at the top level. Lees, who narrowly missed selection for the World Cup team having achieved 14 international caps, will head to the UK at the end of August and, once her registration is completed, hopes to work in London as a house surgeon. She has said she does not see herself returning to the sport and will not seek out playing opportunities in the UK’s Netball Superleague.