There was drama at the Blantyre Youth Centre on Saturday when two National Netball team stars turned the court into a boxing ring.
National team captain Joanna Kachilika and shooter Sindi Simtowe briefly exchanged blows before being separated, during a Rainbow Paints Southern Region Netball League encounter between Tigresses and Thunder Queens which ended 45-41 in favour of Tigresses.
The brawl happened in the fourth and last quarter when Thunder captain, Kachilika elbowed Simtowe in an off the ball incident. Punches were thrown in both directions before the umpire and some players rushed in to restrain the duo.
Play was halted for some 10 minutes, as the umpire tried to resolve the matter with the help of Veteran Queens Coach Griffin Zagallo Sayenda.
The pair was eventually sent off leaving each side with 6 players to finish the match.
While Thunder coach Christina Mkwanda refused to comment on the incident, her Tigresses counterpart Peace Chawinga Kalua faulted the authorities for not taking a hard line on such cases.
“Internationally there are rules that strictly deal with such issues, but here we are too lenient, to the point that players insult the umpire when he/she makes some decisions not in their favour. Those in authority here wait for the umpire to include such scenes in the match report for them to act, but without that, some unfortunate incidents go unpunished,” said Kalua.
The former Queens star and coach added: “This is not the first match this season to witness such a brawl, and it’s a shame to see national team players, who have travelled far and wide and are well conversant with the rules being involved in such incidents. It’s high time those in power reinforced stiffer penalties in the game. The good thing is we have a Netball Association of Malawi President (Khungekile Matiya) who is well knowledgeable in the rules, and I believe this year we will see some changes.”
She also disclosed that the sending off of her shooter, whom she claimed was provoked, somehow affected her game plan.
The game was a tight contest, ending 12-12 in the first quarter, then 22-21 in the second, in favour of Kalua’s wards.
Inspired by Simtowe, who was clinical in front of goal, they again narrowly took the third quarter 35-34 before wrapping up the victory in the final quarter.
Shooter Emily Jere was a marvel to watch for Thunder, sinking the most of the baskets, despite the imposing presence of Tigresses goalkeeper Lauren Ngwira.
Saturday’s win, which came in their final outing of the season, takes Tigresses to second position with 43 points, 8 behind Champions Kukoma Diamonds who have the luxury of a game in hand.
Thunder sit third with 42 points, but are likely to finish second as they have two more matches left to end the season against weaker sides.
Young Professionals are anchoring the table with just a point from a total of 17 fixtures.
The 2017 season winds up this coming weekend.