NAMIBIAN netball continued its revival this year.
Following years of uncertainty in the doldrums, the sport is in a relatively good space judging by the increase in participation in competitions domestically and abroad, where, despite their best efforts, they struggled to keep pace with their rivals. Nonetheless, that experience is priceless and is part of the broader objective, senior national team head coach Manuel Tjivera maintains. Having only made their return to the International Netball Federation rankings last year, Namibia's Desert Jewels ended 2018 placed 38th globally, 10 spots down from their year-high attained in June.
Following their Debmarine Namibia Netball Pent Series triumph on home soil a month prior, the Jewels, who beat Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana to the title, were on a high and keen to test themselves against the continent's top sides at the African Netball Championships held during August in Zambia.
"The tournament [Debmarine Namibia Pent Series] was great exposure as it gave us much-needed action, which will help us in the [INF] world cup qualifiers," Tjivera said. "The players are now aware of the level of competition they face, and also since the tournament, other countries are aware of what we are capable of."
That optimism dissipated somewhat in Lusaka, where Namibia finished third bottom. The Desert Jewels lost five of their six matches at the games, winning only their encounter against debutants Kenya.
The tournament also featured Uganda's fluid She Cranes, who retained their title, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana.
Uganda and Zimbabwe, who finished third, booked their World Cup tickets, joining already qualified Malawi and South Africa on the Liverpool 2019 roster.
Tjivera defended his charges, saying while the results were not satisfactory, the Jewels were on the right track. Their final international competition was the South African Netball Diamond Challenge in November. Again Namibia found the going tough in Polokwane, finishing bottom of the pile after losing all their matches.
Namibia lost 78-28 to eventual champions South Africa on 27 November, and followed that up with a 61-31 defeat to a SA President's team the next day.
On 29 November, Namibia suffered their third defeat, going down 62-43 to Zimbabwe, and the following day they lost 55-48 to Botswana. On Saturday, they lost their final match 68-36 to Zambia.
Again Tjivera went to great lengths to cloak the Desert Jewels, adamant that the exposure would see them shine eventually.
On the home front, the senior nationals, sponsored by Debmarine Namibia, held at Swakopmund saw Khomas region crowned queens again, while Kavango East claimed honours at The Namibian Newspaper Cup where umpires and coaches were trained during the under-20 tournament staged at Katima Mulilo over Easter. Erongo finished second and Otjozondjupa third.