Molokwane hopes TNL expansion will unearth more talent

netball11 April 2024 12:36| © SuperSport
By:Busisiwe Mokwena
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© @Netball_SA

Netball South Africa president Cecilia Molokwane says the expansion of the Telkom Netball League is a testament to the vast talent of the sport in the country.

The premium competition, which started with 10 teams when it was established in 2014, will now have 16 teams with the North West Tsukudu being the latest team to be added to the roster. They become the second team in the province joining the North West Flames who have competed from the inception. Gauteng used to be the only province with two teams.

The Free State Sonoblomo and Limpopo Lilies were the additions in the last season. Tsukudu will join these two teams in Division Two of the tournament.

The Ellis Park Arena will be this year’s host venue following an agreement between the City of Johannesburg and Netball SA. The venue is not new to hosting a netball competition, the Arena hosted the 2018 edition of the Quad Series between South Africa, England, New Zealand, and Australia. The tournament will kick off with a power week from 26 April and will run until 5 May.

The competition has been won by only three teams, the Gauteng Jaguars have won it the most number of times, six while the Free State Crinums have been champions three times.

The Gauteng Golden Fireball have only won it once.

Molokwane says the plan has always been to expand the championship to beyond just one team per province. She reckons that the more teams competing in the TNL the easier it is for the selectors to identify players for the various national teams.

“When I went into the meeting with Telkom years ago I told them we need to grow the league. The most important thing was that it would be easy for us to identify players for all the squads, whether it is the Fast5, President’s XII, the Under-21, or the Under-19 because we know that these players can play at a high performance level.

We thought this was the time to add another team from North West because we wanted to grow the sport in all four districts. Most of these players performed well at the Spar Champs last year, we also take note of that. We don’t just take a team but we look at how their districts performed before we do,” says Molokwane.

Tsukudu’s goal shooter, Mmampho Molefe is excited about the introduction of the team. She says she is looking forward to playing in her first edition of the TNL.

“I am over the moon because we have been working hard as a province, wanting to be seen and this is our time. We have been showing our talent to everyone, every girl in the North West has been dreaming about playing in the Telkom League and now that it is happening, it is an amazing feeling. We are ready to show people what we have. I am looking forward to winning and actually finishing in the top four in our division but I am also looking forward to enjoying my time on the court with my team,” says Molefe.

She says the tournament is used for more than just keeping players in top conditions it is also used to identify other positions including umpiring and other technical officials.

“This is the flagship of netball in South Africa, that is where we see the best of the best in the country. This is where our players showcase their talent because there is no time for mistakes. This competition is a do or break for your province, you don’t want your province to be undermined. It’s also a pathway for players and coaches. It’s a great pathway for everybody including technical officials. A lot of technical people that went to the (2023 Netball)World Cup are from the TNL,” she explains.

The former Baobabs coach says she expects this year’s competition to become a lot more explosive than the previous editions.

“We will have the Proteas who are based in the country taking part in the competition. This means the teams will be stronger and we saw the competition being at another level last year this means this season we will see fireworks. I, personally, can’t wait for one game between the (Gauteng) Fireballs and (Free State) Crinums because most of the Proteas players in the country are in those two teams.

I want to see what will happen and to see who will lift the trophy between the two teams. Not to underestimate the Jaguars because they will give us a lot. I have also seen a beautiful Flames team this year, the team is full of the Under-21 players who were playing in the qualifiers for the World Cup. Same as Jaguars. It is going to be a tough and challenging competition but an exciting one,” she says.