Jani rules from the grave

03 Mar, 2024 - 00:03 0 Views
Jani rules from the grave

The Sunday Mail

Veronica Gwaze

Sports Reporter

WHENEVER she stepped onto the netball court, the late ZRP Mambas and former senior netball national team goal shooter Pauline Jani would do everything possible to ensure her team won.

If her team did not win, she often bagged the golden hand award.

The team just had to have something to celebrate. Such was the competitive nature of the late Zimbabwe netball icon.

This probably explains why that burning desire to win remains unmatched up to today.

The then-34-year-old Jani succumbed to an undisclosed ailment in October last year at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals.

She was buried at Zororo Memorial Park.

At the time of her death, she had featured in 14 outings for the police outfit and led in the golden hand race with 796 goals, ahead of Glow Petroleum’s Christine Kadandara, who had 528.

Kadandara went on to bag the Rainbow Netball League (RNL) 2023 golden hand award after netting 1 203 goals.

What makes Jani’s story remarkable is that by the end of the season, the late shooter’s scores still made it into the top 10 shooters of the season. The other nine shooters played 36 games, while the 2019, 2021 and 2022 golden hand winner only featured in 14.

RNL posthumously honoured her for her stellar performances.

“She was a legend in the game, an amazing player whom everyone envied and wished to watch on any day,” said RNL chairperson Melody Garikai.

“For her contribution to netball at large, we felt it was noble to honour her in a special way.

“What amazes me most is that even if she played only 14 games, her scores still made it to the end-of-season charts, amongst other shooters who played the entire season.”

Her shooting prowess, which was punctuated by grit and determination, is still influencing both experienced and budding stars.

Her tale is simply amazing.

At one point in her career (2021), just after a two-year Covid-19-induced break, Jani returned to the court overweight.

She weighed 114 kilogrammes (kg) and most people thought it was the end of the towering star’s career. Completing a 60-minute match had simply become a huge task for her.

And yet, for the love of the game, she put herself on a rigorous weight-loss journey that took her down to 88kg by mid-season.

In one of her interviews with The Sunday Mail, she revealed that she had contemplated quitting the game at some point.

Her head coach Talent Museka had to intervene.

“You could tell that mentally it was weighing her down and I had to have a candid talk with her,” said Museka.

“People knew her as a strong character who bullied herself in and out of any environment, and on the day, I talked to her about the weight gain.

“Trust me, I saw a fragile Pauline,” he recalled. She understood what we talked about and took herself on a self-rediscovery journey that brought her back on the court stronger.

“Having your player being honoured posthumously is something any coach would celebrate; it shows that we had invested correctly. May she rest in peace.”

Jani’s achievements have triggered calls by netball enthusiasts for the RNL golden hand award to be renamed the “Pauline Jani Award”.

One of her former coaches, who refused to be named for personal reasons, said Jani was one of the greatest players of all time, who put Zimbabwe netball on the international map.

“We cannot talk of Zimbabwe’s best 12 of all time without mentioning her.

“She played a crucial role in the grading of the Gems as one of the powerhouses in Africa and also made a name on the global stage,” said the coach.

“Look at the messages that came through her Facebook wall following her death; she was known the world over.

“Despite her retirement from international netball in 2019, she still did wonders locally, creating a history by recording a golden hand award treble and unprecedented league history of collecting weekly golden hand prizes throughout the season.

“Renaming the award would make everyone proud. That is the best way to ever repay her because remember, these girls used to play out of passion and for very little or no remuneration.”

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