IN-DEPTH: Australia-based Zimbabwe gem sets sights on World Cup
ZIMBABWE made its Netball World Cup debut at Liverpool in July 2019, quickly becoming a fan favourite as one of the tournament’s underdogs.
While the Australian Diamonds opened the tournament on court one, the Gems began walking out on court two.
It took little time for those at home to realise who the fans inside Liverpool Arena were cheering for.
The Gems kicked off their international campaign with a bang, prizing wins over Sri Lanka and Northern Ireland. It was truly a tournament to remember knowing Zimbabwe was a nation to watch in the future.
Tadiwa Kahonde was sitting in front of the TV watching the World Cup unfold, proud to be from Zimbabwe. It made her dream of representing her country on the big stage seem more achievable.
“That’s where my drive sprung from, watching them for the first time on TV. They’re just like me,” Kahonde told Rookie Me Central.
The dream became more of a reality one year later when Kahonde travelled back to Zimbabwe and met up with some of the Gem managers.
“We were having conversations and I was like, ‘one of my dreams is to come back and play for my home country’,” she said.
“I’ve always been that type of girl to say ‘when I grow up, I want to go back and play for my country, even if I’m living (in Australia)’.
“It would just be so nice to represent people that look like me and people from my culture too.”
For now, Kahonde will be developing her skills with Hawks Netball in the Victorian Netball League (VNL) Championship division. The young defender crossed over from the Southern Saints to break through barriers and thrive in a challenge.
Kahonde felt she had hit a roadblock in her game development. She wasn’t being pushed enough on the court, and she didn’t know what to do.
“I’ve needed a different set of eyes and ears to see what my game style is like and how I can better it,” she said.
“(The Saints) were happy with the way I played, so I feel like I wasn’t getting the booster to be better… they expected this from me every week, but I want to be better than this.
“If I get another set of ears or another set of coaching voices, that could be the change to help me better the way I play my style.”
Kahonde was born in Zimbabwe and lived in New Zealand from eight months to 10-years-old, then moved to her familiar home of Australia in 2012.
She first stepped out on court at six-years-old filling in for her sister’s team.
“I remember going on the netball court and then from there I just fell in love with the sport and it has been part of my life since then,” Kahonde said.
“When I was younger, I was a quiet person and I feel like netball just brought my anxiety, my fear out and I could have fun.
“I loved the community aspect and then that drove me to keep trialling for teams and keep wanting more. Now it’s just competitive and scary, but exciting.”
From there, Kahonde played for Red Angels Netball Club for six years and got asked to play at the representative level for Kingston District Netball Association (KDNA). She began at bottom-age Under 13s, progressing to top-age Under 15s.
She then got scouted to be a member of the Zone Academy, formerly known as Talent Academy. To pursue her career even further, Kahonde moved to Bayside Representative Netball Club and played for Henderson in the state titles, winning gold at Under 17s.
Kahonde racked up some awards through her junior netball career including several coaches awards and MVPs for KDNA and Rising Star in her last year at Bayside.
There were several eyes on Kahonde at Bayside, and some were coaches from the Saints. She trialled for them where she was then signed into their development side where she was for two years, then elevated into their Under 19s program.
After her debut season as a contracted player with the Saints, Kahonde was asked back the following year and named co-captain. The side finished the 2021 season fourth on the ladder, but the season came to an unfortunate finish having been cancelled due to a snap lockdown.
The jump from Under 19s to Championship blindsided Kahonde as the whole environment and game style changed to fit the physical challenge.
“You’re not prepared for it till you actually step on the court, and you’re like, ‘wow, these girls are bigger than me and faster than me’,” she said.
“It was a challenge, but it was a good challenge.”
The now 21-year-old had spent the last five years at the Saints progressing through their development Angel’s side to the Under 19s then Championship. She made her Championship debut in Round One of 2022 against the Ariels.
Kahonde’s promotion came after being named MVP of the Under 19 division in 2021. She acknowledges the award as her biggest highlight, especially winning it during the COVID riddled year.
Due to the season awards being cancelled, the players were kept up to date via social media.
“I think it was posted on Instagram or Facebook, and I literally just wanted to cry,” Kahonde said.
All the hard work paid off, pleasing young Tadiwa who climbed the Netball Victoria ranks from her school team.
Now, she looks to take her career into midwifery, more specifically the neonatal sector after just graduating from La Trobe University with a Bachelor of Nursing.
In the meantime, she aims to make it into the Vixens Academy then a member of the highly successful Vic Fury side. If she becomes a consistent performer at the Hawks, the name Tadiwa Kahonde will quickly be named part of the elite group.
“Once you get that foot out of the door, then people will start looking at you, start seeing the way you play and hopefully it’ll just be easier to just get into the big league.”