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Malawi international embraces new challenge with Pulse

Joyce Mvula in her new Pulse kit. Photo: PhotoWellington

In a netball career that has now criss-crossed three countries, the challenge of choice awaits Malawi shooter Joyce Mvula and her arrival at Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse for the ANZ Premiership.

From Malawi to Manchester to Wellington, Mvula, 28, has fashioned an impressive resume in an eventful and productive netball career, the rewards plentiful in fashioning a life that others from her home country can only dream of, but on the flip side, one that is not without enormous personal sacrifice.

Harbouring a dream to play in New Zealand, Mvula has left her base of six years in the UK Super League with defending champions Manchester Thunder, where she was a key performer through her athletic ability and consistently accurate shooting return.

Spreading her wings to venture even further afield in a push to be the best she can be, Mvula follows in the impressive footsteps of Mwai Kumwenda to become the second Malawi international to ply her trade in New Zealand.

Kumwenda, also a shooter, had a sensational impact while in New Zealand, providing a significant rise in Malawi’s fortunes on the international stage while inspiring a new generation, including Mvula.

``I admired her (Kumwenda) a lot and it was like a dream for every girl to have that opportunity and seeing her being able to come here (New Zealand), made you think, `it is possible which way I can go’ and that’s when I started working hard and wanting to be like her,’’ Mvula said.

``Mwai was a model for every girl. Coming to New Zealand was the next step for me, but it’s a big step because it’s something very different. It’s different netball, different training, everything is different, so it’s a big one.

``Everyone is lovely and they have all been very encouraging because they know settling in is hard but with them (Pulse) there are laughs and jokes every day, the love that they show me, I think, it’s helping me settle little by little.’’

Mvula had a slightly delayed arrival to New Zealand for pre-season training, taking time out to get married before heading off on her latest netball odyssey, leaving husband Orton and seven-year-old son Sangwana to hold the fort at home. They have never travelled with her, and a honeymoon was also put on the backburner until post-season, training taking precedence.

``It is a thing you cannot get used to (being apart),’’ she said. ``It’s very hard but we have to manage and at the end of the day it is work, and we need the work for them (family) to be better.

``But it was always an ambition to play in New Zealand and sometimes, I have to ask myself, is this all really happening? It shocks me because it’s a big one that I’ve been planning for. And now that I’m here, that’s the question I ask myself, is this really happening.’’

Mvula, the sixth born in her family, which includes seven girls and one brother, grew up in Lilongwe, the capital and most populated city in Malawi, which afforded her greater opportunities to play netball and be recognised.

``Because I lived near a court (10m from her house) and was in a town, people could see that I could do it and could play netball, so I had the advantage of being nearby to netball people who could see me play,’’ she said.

``That presented opportunities. It has changed my life since I was at school when I got big opportunities for scholarships because of netball.

``Not only that, staying abroad was also an opportunity, a big one. Even my work, because of netball I’ve never needed to have a CV, to ask for a job in my life. It just came like that, so yeah, netball has been very good for me.’’

While still adapting to the nuances of netball in New Zealand, Mvula is enjoying the change in lifestyle, sharing a house with fellow Pulse recruit Fa’amu Ioane and setting her goals for 2023.

``My ambitions for this year are to improve my game and hopefully inspire some people as well,’’ she said.

``I know people can learn something from me and I can also learn something from them. Different stuff, because in netball it’s physical and emotional, and of course, sometimes you have challenges. People can learn from how you overcome the challenges, and how you’re performing for them can change someone’s life. 

``The one thing about myself and why I have come here is that I’m still learning, so this is my time to learn more.’’

The Pulse are gearing up for their first series of pre-season matches when they will come up against the NSW Swifts and Southern Steel on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, in Invercargill.



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