Back to netball – after 30 years (part 3)

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We had a week off for half-term (good job as I needed the recovery time – yes, honestly), but it was back to work this week. No messing about, no conversation – well not much – just plenty of hard work.

I had to get to the venue via public transport this week and the only stop was about 15 minutes walk away from the sports centre. So I was somewhat hot and bothered by the time I arrived with just two minutes to spare (already warmed up was how I put it, hoping it may cut me some slack, but nothing doing).

A quick jog around the court and it was off we went.

It was all about passing and footwork this week.

Some good passing drills in pairs to start. All well and good. Then getting into thinking about passing. Discs set in outside and inside rings. One of the pair runs to a spot, the one without runs to one and if the player without the ball is on an inside spot the ball is chest-passed short and if they are on an outside spot the ball is over-armed long.

Adding to that, thinking about footwork – jumping and landing on the disc and moving the correct foot. Not so easy.

Then we did a drill specifically designed to help with footwork. The instructor, Val, stood at one end with the ball and we all queued up in single file in front of her. We ran towards her and Val threw the ball. We had to jump – realise what foot we landed on – step back with the moving foot, forward again and pass the ball back to the instructor.

We made several rounds. I felt quite happy with this and was pleased with getting my footwork right – the only time I messed up was when I didn’t jump, therefore didn’t know which foot I’d landed on!  I know I’m never going to get to the point where I can do it without thinking, but it’s a start.  Anyway, everyone got there in the end, and we all cheered and clapped at each successful set of moves.

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We then got into a half-court game again. This time we had to concentrate on getting the right pass and the right footwork.  I know this may sound obvious, but doing it in play is completely different from drilling – who would have thought that knowing what foot you’ve landed on could be so difficult?

I made one really good interception and went to pass the ball away.

“Which foot did you land on?” asked Val

I pointed to my right confidently.

“I think you’ll find it was the other one…”

Grrr. Looks like I can pass or make an interception or get the footwork right, but not all three in the same passage of play….. ho hum. Work to do.

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Finished off with a little warm-down jog and some stretching.

I managed to take a few photos in the first two sessions. Thanks to all for letting me publish them, especially to Jo for the shooting shot and Carol for the hands.

You also may be glad to know that although I worked really hard, I didn’t ache so much on Saturday morning.

Looking forward to next week! There’s still so much more to learn and practice!  I’m loving it!  I know I’m generally sports-obsessed, but this is generally watching and writing about it.  Now I can honestly say if I can do this, anyone can.  Truly #ThisGirlCan.

Thanks to Val and to Just Harborough for the brilliant coaching and introducing the scheme in the first place.

Women’s Sports Column

netball220-26 February

This week’s stories come from tennis, netball, cricket, winter sports, hockey and cycling. Extra bits of early Saturday 27 news as I’m late posting!

Poor fortunes for all of Britain’s top tennis players this week. British number two, Heather Watson, lost in the first round of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco. She was beaten by American Christina McHale 4-6 6-0 7-6.

British number one, Johanna Konta, fared little better, getting to round two before she lost to Croatia’s Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 4-6 6-2 7-5.

And Laura Robson has suffered yet another setback in her quest for fitness. Her wrist injury has forced her to pull out of the Monterrey tour event next week. She had been targeting the French Open in May for her Grand Slam return, but this may now be in doubt.


After losing Sasha Corbin to injury for the season, Loughborough Lightning have suffered another blow with Jade Clarke announcing she is to leave to play for Adelaide Thunderbirds. The Australian season starts in April, which means she will only be able to play three more games for the Lightning, ending with the game at Team Bath on March 4.

In an interview with the Loughborough Sport website, Loughborough’s executive director of sport, John Steele, expressed his opinion at losing a player mid-season,

“We are extremely disappointed with the way Adelaide Thunderbirds have conducted themselves.  Approaching one of our players directly, midway through the season has been very disruptive and has put our player in a difficult position. Our focus now is to ensure we have the best possible support structure in place for our squad as we move forward with our 2016 season.”

Here are the scores from this week’s games:

Team Northumbria         48           44           Yorkshire Jets

Surrey Storm                     62           40           Celtic Dragons

Yorkshire Jets                    38           51           Hertfordshire Mavericks

So, the table stands as follows:




1 Manchester Thunder



2 Hertfordshire Mavericks



3 Surrey Storm



4 Team Bath



5 Loughborough Lightning



6 Team Northumbria



7 Yorkshire Jets



8 Celtic Dragons




Lots of cricket news again this week. England finally triumphed 2-1 against South Africa in their three-match T20 series. After losing the second game poorly, England seemed in a more determined mood from the start. Edwards won the toss and put South Africa in. South Africa posted a decent total of 131/4, but England batted well, with another match-winning innings of 60 runs from Sarah Taylor, saw England win with 27 balls to spare. The only fly in the ointment was the quality of the England fielding which, at times, was abysmal. It will have to improve before the T20 World Cup in March. For a more depth analysis of the series read my article for

On the domestic front, more details of the new summer Superleague were released this week. The six host (the ECB are still allergic to the word “franchise”) names have been released. They are: Lancashire Thunder (playing at Old Trafford), Loughborough Lightning – that’s not confusing is it? (playing at Loughborough University), Southern Vipers (playing at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton), Surrey Stars (playing at the Kia Oval), Western Storm (playing at Bristol and Taunton) and Yorkshire Diamonds (playing at Headingley).

The games will be played between July 30 and August 14 – 15 group matches in 16 days. Finals day will be on Sunday August 21 and will be played at Essex’s county ground in Chelmsford.

News of squads will follow shortly.


The epic hockey series between Great Britain and Australia finally came to an end in the home side’s favour as they beat Britain 3-2 in the final Test to take the six-game series 2-1.

The Hockeyroos took the lead after five minutes thorough a Georgina Morgan penalty corner and the lead was doubled just before half time through a goal from Emily Smith. The game seemed to be beyond GB when Grace Stewart scored a third five minutes into the second half. Great Britain fought back through Sophie Bray and Joie Leigh, but were unable to find the equaliser.

The team were heartened by this performance and by the series as a whole. It stands them in good stead for the build up to the Olympics in Rio later in the year.


What started out as a good week for Lindsey Vonn ended in agony. She won the downhill title in La Thuile, Italy, a record 20th World Cup trophy, as she finished second in the penultimate race to go 173 points ahead of Canadas Larisa Yurkiw, with only 100 points left to win in the last race.

But on Saturday 27, Vonn crashed out in the World Cup super-G event in Soldeu-El Tarter, Andorra, and was taken to hospital. The American team spokeswoman reported that Vonn has hurt her knee, but the extent of her injury is, as yet, unknown. The race was stopped for ten minutes to allow a rescue sled to access the course and take the injured skier away.

In other skiing news, Vanessa-Mae has been awarded damages for defamation from the FIS (International Ski Federation). They had claimed that her qualification for the 2014 Winter Olympics had come through fixed races, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport cleared her of any wrongdoing.  The FIS has apologised and Vanessa-Mae intends to donate her damages to charity. Her four year ban was also overturned. She intends to try to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.

In curling, Eve Muirhead’s rink was named Scottish curling champion this week. It is sixth time that Muirhead’s team has become champion, and will now represent Scotland in the World Women’s Curling Championships in Canada in March.

I didn’t get chance to report on another gold for Great Britain in the Winter Youth Olympics last week. Ashleigh Pittaway won the skeleton bob in one minute 50.23 seconds, 0.96 seconds ahead of Germany’s Hannah Neise. Madi Rowlands had taken Britain’s first gold in the ski halfpipe on Sunday 21 and added a bronze to her tally on Friday, this time in the sky slopestyle.

Cycling road race world champion Lizzie Armitstead has started her season in the best possible way, winning the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Belgium. Her team mate Chantal Blaak took second with Tiffany Cromwell in third.

And finally, last week saw the SJA British Sports Journalist awards. In the 31 categories, there were only six women writers, six photographers and two broadcasters nominated. I could write about men’s sport – I love it – and possibly earn a living, but I choose to write about women’s. This is a whole different matter.  It is still incredibly hard for a woman to make it in the macho world of sports journalism, writing about men’s sport – it’s even harder to build any kind of profile writing about women’s sport. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but there are a lot of people (women and men) doing their very best to promote women’s sport for absolutely no remuneration whatsoever (including me). Rarely will any of these people receive the recognition they are due. It’s not that they don’t need or want to make money, but until women’s sport is seen as worthy of sponsorship, mainstream coverage etc., etc., this situation will continue.






Back to Netball – After 30 Years (part 2)

So, there I was on tenterhooks waiting for the new day and date for the start of the netball sessions, hoping that some arrangement would have been agreed.

I received an email from Emma telling me that the sessions would now be on Fridays at 6.30 and the first one would be Friday 5th February. Hurrah! No, hang on a minute, boo! Typically we had booked a cheeky night away in London on – you guessed it – Friday 5th February. I was gutted. I was going to miss the first proper session.

It seemed as if every time I tried I was thwarted! But I was determined to go the following week.

And I did – and loved it!

There were about seven of us – only one team’s worth, unfortunately, but hoping it will grow. I was much gratified to find that those who had come the previous week had returned – always a good sign! There were also another couple of newbies so I wasn’t the only one.

We started with a light jog round the sports hall and some stretching and then straight into drills. Wow. It was a mixture of remembering things and getting back into the groove and realising how completely and utterly rubbish I was.

I think we all loved the drill that had us in two lines passing the ball to each other and running round – it’s hard to explain in words – here’s a ridiculous attempt at describing it in a diagram:


Much hilarity ensued, especially when we graduated from making our way down the court to round the corner and making our way back the other way. Many instances of people with the ball with no-one to throw to and people waiting for a ball that never came! Still, I think we’d made progress by the end and you could see the look of determination to get it right on every face.

Then we came to my personal low point. At this juncture I probably ought to confess something – I am terribly competitive. Be it Trivial Pursuit, Top Trumps, badminton with my husband, I hate to lose. That’s probably why I’ve always been more interested in defending than attacking. Never wanted the goal shooter glory – just stop the opponent scoring at all costs……

So Val set us up in the following pattern:


The idea was that the defender in the middle had to choose which way to go, which person to mark. The person at the top would stand with their back to play, turn round and shout “now”. The two attackers would run to a spot, the person with the ball would pass it, obviously to the unmarked person. Now I got that. I really did. Then it came to my turn to be the defender and I lost it. I confess, the instructions went out the window.

So I was more like this:


Hmm. Not quite what Val intended – as she told me in no uncertain terms. What did she expect me to do?   When I went with the person who was not getting the ball I was duty bound to switch to the other person to prevent them getting it, wasn’t I? No? Oh. Eventually I got it, but it felt alien, silly and downright wrong…..

Anyway, still smarting from my ignominious telling off we went on to play a tentative half-court game with no positions just pairs of markers. We all had a go at shooting and what was brilliant was that there was already a sense of camaraderie – it took some of us quite a while to score but there was universal cheering and clapping when each goal went in.

We ended with another gentle jog for warm-down with lots of stretching.

I cannot pretend I was not absolutely cream-crackered by the end of it, but loved every minute.

I’ve had a couple of weeks to recover now (half-term in Leicestershire last week) but I’ll be back in action on Friday.

And I’ll be back with more tales of the next session, and hopefully some photos next week.

One dot on the card!!

just one dot












Women’s Sports Column


13-19 February

Welcome to the women’s sports column. It’s a long one this week and features stories from football, cricket, golf, hockey, horse racing, rugby union, netball and winter sports – phew!  

The football transfer window is still in full swing and top signing this week goes to Manchester City women who have signed Republic of Ireland defender Megan Campbell. Campbell has been playing for Florida State University, where she has been studying on a sports scholarship.

On the international front, good news from the BBC this week which has announced it will show all three of England’s matches at the SheBelieves Cup live. The tournament comprises Germany, France, USA and England and begins on 3 March. Mark Sampson will name his 23-player squad on Monday.


England v USA                   4/3/16 00.45 GMT

England v Germany         6/3/16 22.45 GMT

England v France              9/3/16 22.00 GMT

Also England’s next home match, the Women’s Euro 2017 qualifier against Belgium on 8 April will be screened live on BBC 2.


In cricket, England’s women finally took the three-match ODI series 2-1. After South Africa’s momentous win in the second game, England had to make sure they worked hard to secure the series win.

England made two changes, bringing in Kate Cross for the injured Brunt and, most significantly, Georgia Elwiss as an extra bowling option for Lydia Greenway. Edwards put SA in and seemed to be justified when they were 85/6 after 27 overs. But they didn’t reckon on Lizelle Lee and Sune Luus. An excellent innings of 74 from Lee, supported by 20 from Luus, gave them a base to at least post a total that could be defended. In the end this was 196.

England managed to put on 30 before losing a wicket – a big improvement on the previous match, when they were 16/3. Taylor was out cheaply again but Edwards and Knight put on 53 before the captain was out for 29. Then Elwiss came in and hit a massive 61 off 67 balls before she was bowled by Ismail. It was up to Knight and Wyatt to see the game home and England won by 5 wickets with 37 balls to spare. Player of the Match, Heather Knight, ended on 67 not out, with Danni Wyatt on 10 not out. For a more in-depth report see my piece on

The first T20 in a series of three took place on 18 February. This was always destined to be a close series as SA play more T20 cricket than anything else. England were put in on what appeared to be a good wicket. After the openers went relatively cheaply it was down to a rejuvenated Sarah Taylor to take it on. She made an unbeaten 74, but none of her colleagues could stay long enough to build a meaningful partnership. At one point England looked to be about to post 160-170, but subsided to 147 – they only scored that many thanks to Taylor.

South Africa got off to a fine start, albeit quite slow and were 95/0 after 14 overs. The big problem was the run rate, which by this time had risen to 8.83. After Van Niekerk went in the 15th for 52 and Chetty for 46 in the following over, South Africa were way behind. When they tried to accelerate they lost wickets and finished on 132/6, 15 runs short. Sarah Taylor was player of the match for her unbeaten 74.

The second T20 on 19 February was rain-interrupted. Du Preez won the toss again and put England in to bat. Beaumont went early again, and it was up to Edwards and Taylor to build a partnership again. Taylor was imperious form again and together they put on 61 before Edwards was bowled for 34 by SA’s best bowler, Ismail. When Jones went Taylor and Knight batted well to take the score to 133 in the 17th over. However, momentum was lost in the latter overs and England posted 156.

South Africa learned their lessons from Thursday as the opening partnership not only played well but at a good scoring rate. Van Niekerk was impressive for the second day in succession and carried on when Chetty went for 8 to score 63 from 43 balls. The teams went off a couple of times for rain, but it didn’t really affect South Africa. Good batting and uncharacteristically bad bowling and fielding meant South Africa were well ahead on D/L. When the teams went off for a second time the game was abandoned and South Africa won by 17 runs via the D/L method. All to play for in Johannesburg on Sunday 21 February.

England’s squad for the ICC World T20 in March has been announced. Katherine Brunt has been named in the squad – she should be back from injury, but there is no place for Lauren Winfield. The squad in full:

Charlotte Edwards (Cap), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Georgia Elwiss, Natasha Farrant, Lydia Greenway, Rebecca Grundy, Jenny Gunn, Danni Hazell, Amy Jones, Heather Knight (Vice cap), Natalie Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Danni Wyatt.


Had to put this golf snippet in. Lydia Ko won the New Zealand Women’s Open golf championship last week. That’s not the news though – the last round saw an earthquake registering 5.7 cause the Clearwater Resort clubhouse to wobble. The tremor lasted for 10-15 seconds, but the players continued to play without interruption! Ko went on to win the competition by two shots.


In hockey, the Great Britain team have just played the fourth game in a marathon six game series against Australia.

The first game, on 12 February, went to the Hockeyroos 4-3 with the host’s goals coming via two from Kathryn Slattery and one each from Mariah Williams and Ashleigh Nelson. It was a hard-fought game with Britain’s goals from Hannah MacLeod, Ellie Watton and Sophie Bray.

The second match, on 14 February, went to Great Britain, the telling strike from a first half penalty-corner from Susie Gilbert. Needless to say the Aussies fought for it, but couldn’t convert any of their chances to level the match.

So it was 1-1 going into the third on 16 February and both teams were desperate to take the initiative. It was the most exciting game in the series so far and ended with the honours shared on 3-3.   Britain led the game three times, but each time the Australians came back. Britain’s goals came from Crista Cullen, Ellie Watton and Helen Richardson-Walsh. The Aussies’ goals were from Gabrielle Nance, Karri McMahon and Ashleigh Nelson.

Still 1-1 then, going into the fourth match on 18 February. And in this game again the two sides couldn’t be separated as it ended 2-2. Australia took the lead through Georgia Nanscawen but Great Britain equalised through a penalty corner from Giselle Ansley. Ten minutes from the end of the second half Ansley scored her second penalty corner, but the Aussies weren’t done and Emily Smith equalised to make it 2-2.

The last two matches will be on the 20 and 21 February.


Another sport I don’t feature often is horse racing, but I can’t ignore the waves being made by jockey Lizzie Kelly. On Saturday 13 February she rode 16-1 chance Agrapart to victory in Britain’s richest handicap hurdle, the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, winning by an impressive 11 lengths.


The second round of the Six Nations took place last weekend and saw wins for England, France and Wales.

Wales beat Scotland 23-10 at The Gnoll with both teams looking for their first win of this year’s championship. Sioned Harries and Hannah Jones scored tries for Wales in the first half but Scotland were only down by 15-10 at half-time after they scored their own try through Megan Gaffney. The second half, however, was a different story as Wales asserted their superiority in both attack and defence with a try from Alisha Butcher while preventing Scotland from adding to their points tally.

England made no mistake in Italy on Saturday 13 with a 33-24 win. Italy will be heartened from this defeat as they played well and made good progress. England were up 19-12 at the break with tries from Lauren Cattell, Katie Mason and Lotte Clapp. Italy, however, scored two of their own from Maria Grazia Cioffi and Sofia Stefan – the first time they had ever scored more than one try in a match against England. In the second half Elisa Giordano scored their third and their hopes must have been high before England responded with tries from Abbie Scott and Bianca Blackburn. Italy weren’t finished, though, and scored an impressive fourth try through Silvia Folli to reduce the deficit. If points were given for heart, Italy would have won it hands down.

The third victors of the weekend were France, who continued their impressive start with an 18-6 win over Ireland in Perpignan. It was largely a kicking game, with the two tries scored by France, one from Captain Gaelee Mignot and the other a spectacular interception by Caroline Boujard, who ran the length of the field to score, being the difference between the two sides. The French were too strong in both defence and attack and have put an end to Ireland’s chances of a Grand Slam, while reinforcing the chance of their own.


This week’s round of Netball Superleague matches saw the following results:

TeamBath                                           37           62           Manchester Thunder

Loughborough Lightning               58           53           Celtic Dragons

Surrey Storm                                     59           36           Yorkshire Jets

Loughborough Lightning               47           56           Manchester Thunder

I know it seems some teams are playing more than others, but I want to bring the scores as they happen in each week I report.


I’m venturing into winter sports again this week. Usually it’s just Elise Christie (and yes, she’s here again), but there have been several events of note this week that deserve mention.

15-year old Madi Rowlands took gold in the ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games this week. She scored 88.60, with Paula Cooper from the US in second with 79.00 and Austria’s Lara Wolf won bronze with 74.20.

Katie Ormerod, 18, earned her first top-three finish at the World Cup Big Air event in Quebec City in Canada. She finished second behind US Olympic slopestyle champion, Jamie Anderson. Big Air will be a new event at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang in 2018.

Elise Christie won another two gold medals in the final World Cup of the season, taking her tally to four World Cup golds for the season. She won both the 500m and 1,000m in Dordercht in the Netherlands. She will be in buoyant mood for the World Championships, which take place in Seoul in March.


And finally, if you want a reason to get angry, check out the reception broadcaster Lynsey Hipgrave got when she dared to voice an opinion about Lionel Messi’s penalty this week. What can I say?



Five things we’ve learned from the South Africa v England ODI series

Lots of issues raised by the three ODI matches in South Africa and probably more by the T20s at the end of the week.  Here are my thoughts about the ODis courtesy of