Mokaila looking forward to unearth new stars

netball14 January 2024 11:20| © SuperSport
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Shiko Mokaila © Twitter

Former Puma Proteas captain, Shiko Mokaila wanted to bow out the netball while he was still on top of his game. Even an injury was not going to deter him from going out on his terms. The mid-court player announced his retirement from the game at the end of 2023.

Leading the national men’s side to the gold medal at the2023 Africa Netball Cup in Botswana is the best way for Mokaila to bow out of the game after dedicating himself to the sport for 21 years, having donned the green and gold for the first time in 2008. South Africa won all their games leading to their top of the podium finish.

The former skipper says he wasn’t going to allow an injury to deprive him of getting back on the court and playing the sport he loves.

“Four years back I got an injury, a meniscal tear, it was something like 80 per cent. So I was advised to go for surgery and I didn’t do that. My other option was strengthening my knees, so the cushion could come back. I opted for the strengthening because I always allow the body to heal itself, on its own. I am not a big believer in operations because I have seen some athletes going on operations and not being the same when they come back. Or have long term problems. But psychologically it (injury) was taking a toll on me because I would see myself deteriorating, the things I used to do, I couldn’t do anymore.

I was slow even though the skill and experience were there but unfortunately, my craft on court began to be slower. Then two years back I realised that it was time. This has been two years coming but I pushed myself because it was hard to say I don’t want to do this anymore. The choice was right and the timing of it was amazing because I am still at the top of my game. The right time to retire especially when you can still do what you can and be remembered for all that you have done,” he says.

Dukies, as he is affectionately known, has made a name for himself on the continent and he was also part of the team that represented South Africa outside of the continent at the 2022 Americas Netball Men's Championship where he was named the player of the tournament. He notes the highlight of his career from the 2021 Males International Netball Tournament final where South Africa beat Uganda 59-34.

Mokaila had been a player-coach for Brothers Netball for a few years but his retirement allows him to focus solely on being a coach for the West Rand-based side.

“I have been coaching ever since I established myself as a player. We are currently at the top in the country, although there are no rankings but we are among the top clubs in the country, even the whole of Africa. We have produced about 50 per cent of the national team and right now our contribution to the sport is being able to contribute players while we’re still playing, imagine what more when I focus on just coaching. I have started now and it’s still a bit unorthodox for me but I have started focusing on making sure the athlete becomes the core of everything that I have been doing. I have a fulltime job but I would love to venture into coaching on a fulltime basis and see where this takes me. The next level would be taking on the reins in the national team or surely one of the teams in the TNL,” he says.

Although he has retired from the game, Mokaila hopes for more competitions for the men’s game on the global stage. He reckons a push from the world netball governing body can persuade the International Olympic Committee to add netball as an Olympic sport.

“I am excited about the (2026) Commonwealth Games that are coming, the new regulations say that all the teams that are going to participate need to bring two teams, both genders. So when our Spar Proteas are going, the Proteas Pumas also need to go for us to have a shot at the Olympics. World Netball wants to be at the Olympics and right now we need to change the narrative and I always say it starts at the top. If World Netball would just be able to afford the guys to have equal opportunities and Netball South Africa has been doing that. When we started this journey, the NSA president (Cecilia Molokwane) was clear that she needed to see men come through. I am now one of the people raising their hand and I also want to get my hands into that and make sure that in South Africa transformation does happen. And it’s not something that is on paper only. We are seeing young boys playing at school level, we are seeing men coming out recreationally and playing with females, the only problem is a high performance,” he explains.