Mwamba Ladies enjoyed an improved 2019 season finishing fourth in Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) Women’s Festival at the same time giving an opportunity for new girls to experience the sport.
Mwamba Ladies stellar performance caught the eye of the Kenya Lionesses selectors who invited eight of the girls to the national team provisional squad. The eight were led by indefatigable captain Evelyn Kalemera, hookers Stacy Atieno and Arsenath Oketeh, locks Naomi Kemunto and Stephanie Waithira , winger Agatha Jamari, centre Celestine Masinde and electric fullback Janet Okello.
Five of the eight girls eventually made the cut for final squad that beat Uganda Lady Cranes 44-13 in Kisumu in the first leg of Elgon Cup. Atieno, Jamari, Masinde and Okello started the Test with Kalemera coming off the bench.
Kulabu started the season with fifth place finish at the first leg of KRU Women’s Festival held at Kenyatta University grounds. They then finished second in the second leg held at KCB Sports Club after they shocked pre-match favuorites Nakuru Ladies 5-4 in post-match kicks.
Skipper Kalemera attributes the inconstant performance by the team’s erratic training schedule. “The girls were intermittent through the Women’s Festival but on average they performed just a little above average. This can be attributed to irregular training patterns within the team, but looking forward, we are setting up achievable goals that everyone who is part of the team has to work round on,” she spoke to MwambaRugby.com.
Mwamba Ladies welcomed a number of new players into the team who were being exposed to the game for the first time.The rookies put in a show that belied their inexperience with some eye-catching performance.
The ladies coach Joseph Baabu had full of praise for the new girls. “They have settled down and already showing the might and courage to represent the Black Shirt,” he said.
His sentiments were echoed by Kalemera who believes that with consistency the new kids are the future for the club. “The rookies are getting better each day, consistency in training and determination will help them master the game, and definitely there will be the stars of the team in the near future. It is also interesting to note that one rookie (Naomi Kemunto) made the call up for the Kenya Lionesses 15s provisional squad, and Jepkemboi Baiya , at club level, is rising up to be a formidable forward, the future of rookies who are committed to the game is impressive.”
Esther Chamchui aka Chiwawa was one of the outstanding new players. She juggles rugby and her other sport, hockey. She pays tribute to the Kulabu coaches and teammates for helping her settle and enjoy the sport. “We have very good coaches here and most players are committed a factor that helped me settle down quickly and also made me understand the game better,” she said.
Despite the on field success the ladies have encountered challenges along the way. “There’s still the feeling that women rugby is not given much attention at the club. Secondly, most girls are in college and they can’t afford to consistently attend training sessions due financial difficulties,” Kalemera averred.
Baabu says despite the challenges,the club is firmly on a rebuilding journey and it will be a matter of time before they dominate the local scene. “We are on a rebuilding journey to take us back to glory. We take pride in the quality of players we send to the national team. Main focus is to dominate the local leagues.”
Exco member Eunice Olembo has the same sentiments. “We are proud of the squad and their performance this season. Most girls are starters but nevertheless have impressed in the league. The rebuilding journey is long and tedious but soon we shall seethe fruits. We also acknowledge the work done by Baabu and his team of volunteers at the club. Our main aim is to win trophies and send more girls to the national team. The glory is around the corner,” she said.
The team is currently preparing for Women National Sevens Circuit that will kick off on July 26 with Kabeberi Sevens hosted by Stanbic Mwamba in Meru.