The 10-day Netball World Cup puts players’ bodies through a gruelling schedule. The structure of the competition sees teams competing from the first day of the competition until the final day with little to no rest.
Teams that get to the final of the competition play up to eight high-intensity matches.
The daily scheduled games provide little time for players to recover before going on to their next match, sometimes the turnaround is less than 24 hours.
Uganda coach, Fred Mugwera feels World Netball should relook at the rule of having the three reserves, who can only be fielded when one of the 12 is injured, become more flexible.
He says the world governing body should make it so that the coaches can use all 15 available players to rotate and refresh their squads.
The She Cranes camp were hit by malaria cases which saw Mugwera have to withdraw one of his players from the competition. Christine Namulumba had to withdraw from the team due to the infection while Margaret Baagala continued playing. However, she was later briefly hospitalised due to the illness caused by some types of mosquitoes.
“There’s one thing that as a coach I would like for World Netball to put into consideration. This is a championship that has many matches and we are told we should come with 15 players, then are told that the 15 have reserves. You only have to make a substitution or replace them if one is injured and you have proof that this person is injured or sick. You have proof that this person is sick or injured,” says Mugwera.
“The case today is that my centre (Baagala) was admitted yesterday night. She could not play and we could not immediately substitute her with another person from the reserve team. I thought that the 15 players would be given a chance. We register 15 players for the tournament and only 12 players for a particular match so that if a player performed badly, you have a chance of not fielding that player in the next game.
“But here when a player performs badly, you have to keep on playing that person because nobody’s injured. I think World Netball should look into that just like any other sport, registration for competition should be different from the registration for the match,” he explains.
“As the team, we missed Margaret because she has been a pillar in the team and she is experienced and a better player than this one (Lillian Achola). But I don’t regret it because she played very well to my expectation,” he says.
A WHOLE NEW FORMAT
Spar Proteas coach Norma Plummer suggests an alternative format for the whole competition, proposing that the tournament be split into two groups. The teams ranked in the top eight compete against each other for the World Cup title while the bottom eight ranked teams would still participate in the global championship but compete for a different cup title with a promotion/relegation system in place.
“I’d like to see the top eight and bottom eight (separate). I’d like to see the bottom eight play for a shield or something because what’s happening, is you get these scores of 110 to 20. Who wants to look at that? Plus, that doesn’t give those teams anything to strive for. If you had the top eight, you play everybody.
“So every game is as close as what you’ve seen there. That, to me, would lift our game up another notch for people to see. But also giving the underpinning teams, the other bottom eight, an opportunity for relegation, and that bottom of the top and the top of the bottom playoff then for relegation so they could move up,” says Plummer.
Mugwera reckons more competition time for African teams would influence how the sides do on the international stage.
“In order for us to maybe be in a World Cup semifinal or whatever, African Netball should make sure that there are a lot of competitions in Africa. You can find that since we played last year in Namibia for the Africa Cup, there are no other tournaments that teams play. You’ll find that at the next tournament there are countries that have not participated in a tournament, they are going to come when the Africa Cup is there.
“You can imagine a country playing only one tournament in a year, how do you expect us to compete with people who have been played in various tournaments? Some countries in Africa don’t have leagues. If Africa maybe they can divide Africa into zones and make us play East Africa, North Africa, West Africa and then, after we come and play as a continent. I think with the many competitions Africa can topple these people and remove these guys who are on top of world netball. We have the talents.
“In Africa we are not united, they look at other countries as enemies when you come to compete instead of helping each other as Africa,” explains Mugwera.