Welcome to this week’s column. After last week’s monster offering, hopefully this one will be a bit more manageable – but there is so much being contributed by women in the world of sport that I have to get it out there – both my pleasure and my duty!
Stories this week come from tennis, cricket, rugby union, rugby league, speed skating, football, weightlifting and hockey.
Let’s crack on…
Sadly, only one place to start this week and that’s with the sad news of the death of former Wimbledon champion, Jana Novotna at the age of 49.
One of the saddest, but most heartwarming sporting moments I can remember is watching the Duchess of Kent consoling Novotna after she had just the Wimbledon final to Steffi Graf in 1993.
And didn’t we all cheer and cry with her in 1998 when she finally got her Wimbledon win against Nathalie Tauziat?
She was certainly an accomplished tennis player, particularly in doubles, where she won 12 grand slam titles and four mixed doubles titles.
In later years she became a knowledgeable and likeable expert voice in the commentary box.
Rumour has it that Michael Joyce is set to become British number one, Johanna Konta’s next coach. Joyce had previously worked with Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka.
Apologies to all you hockey fans out there as I completely missed the Women’s Hockey World League Finals starting last week in New Zealand. So here’s what happened to England over the course of the tournament.
It was a mixed event for England, but somehow they still managed to get through to the semi-final.
They were drawn in Pool B against Germany, Argentina and China.
They lost their opening match to Germany 2-0. Germany’s goals came from two penalty corners scored by Charlotte Stapenhorst just after the half-hour, with Nike Lorenz grabbing the second. England had a goal from Lily Owsley disallowed for dangerous play.
Things went no better in their second pool match as they slumped to a 1-0 defeat against Argentina. Delfina Merino scored the winning goal in the 56th minute.
But things improved for England in their third pool game as they beat China 4-1. Alex Danson scored the first and Sophie Bray the second to make it 2-0 at half-time. Hannah Martin and Sarah Haycroft were also on the score sheet, while Mengling Zhong scored China’s solitary goal.
Somewhat fortunately this meant that England, in finishing third in their pool, managed to avoid the Netherlands in the quarter-final. Instead they played the USA.
England 2-1 USA
Sophie Bray scored twice to take England through to a meeting with the hosts in the semis.
Alyssa Parker scored in the fourth quarter to give the USA hope, but in the end there was no way back.
England 0-1 New Zealand
New Zealand qualified even after losing all three pool matches. They beat Argentina 2-1 in the quarter-final.
It was a good, end-to end match, with both sides earning chances. Lily Owsley had a second disallowed goal of the tournament, while Sophie Bray hit the bar.
But in the end it was New Zealand who were more clinical. With just five minutes to go Olivia Merry scored from a penalty corner to take the win. They now play Netherlands or South Korea in the final.
Meanwhile England will play-off for bronze on Sunday 26 November against the loser of the other semi-final.
Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division
Meanwhile, back in the domestic league, last weekend’s results were as follows:
Bowdon 0-0 Surbiton
Leicester 1-1 Holcombe
University of Birmingham 2-2 Canterbury
Slough 2-2 Clifton Robinsons
Buckingham 1-3 East Grinstead
It was very nearly draws all round as University of Birmingham went to the top of the league on goals scored with 17 points. Surbiton lie second also on 17, with East Grinstead just one point behind in third. Canterbury are bottom with six points from nine games, with Bowdon and Leicester just above on eight points.
No news from on the pitch this week as it’s the international break with two World Cup qualifiers for England. Tonight (Friday 24) they face Bosnia and Herzegovina at the Banks’ Stadium in Walsall. The game is apparently a sell-out, but if you haven’t got tickets you can watch it live on BBC2 or listen to 5Live Sports Extra at 7pm.
Wales are also in action tonight, playing Kazakhstan at the Cardiff City Stadium. Kick-off is 7pm and you can follow it live on the BBC red button and the BBC website.
Both sides then play again on Tuesday, with Wales facing the trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina, while England are at home again, this time to Kazakhstan.
Champions League Draw
Hot off the press or out of the pot, this is the draw for the quarter-finals of the Champions League. And wow, there is certainly one standout tie – holders Lyon v Barcelona. The draw in full:
Quarter-finals: 21/22 & 28/29 March
Montpellier (FRA) v Chelsea (ENG)
Wolfsburg (GER) v Slavia Praha (CZE)
Manchester City (ENG) v Linköping (SWE)
Lyon (FRA) v Barcelona (ESP)
The semi-final draw was also made:
Semi-finals: 21/22 & 28/29 April
Montpellier/Chelsea v Wolfsburg/Slavia Praha
Manchester City/Linköping v Lyon/Barcelona
England striker Jodie Taylor is to leave Arsenal, firstly to play in the Australian W-League with Melbourne City and then to go on to join Seattle Reign.
She is no stranger to playing abroad, having already had spells in the USA, Australia and Sweden.
It is sad that she seems to be itching to get away. In an interview with the BBC she said,
“After two seasons I was ready to get back abroad.
“I think I’m better suited in a league like America and the lifestyle as well away from football.”
Chelsea are to sign Swedish international defender Jonna Andersson from Linköping.
She will join the West London club when the transfer window opens on 29 December.
Andersson had been with Linköping for nine years, winning three league titles and three Swedish Cups in that time.
UEFA has handed Denmark women’s side a four-year suspended ban from UEFA competition matches “for which it would otherwise qualify” after their refusal to play a World Cup qualifier against Sweden.
Denmark are still in dispute with their governing body.
UEFA also issued a fine of £17,871.
Sweden were awarded the win by a margin of 3-0.
This one isn’t over yet.
England are through to the World Cup semi-final even though they were beaten 22-16 by the Cook Islands in their final group game. Do not ask me to explain the format of this tournament, but I’m sure the game’s governing body is rubbing its hands at the sheer labyrinthine deviousness of it all.
After winning their first match against PNG, they were well beaten by Australia in their second, 38-0. Australia’s points came through tries from Ward (2), Kelly, Davis-Welsh, Baker, Walton, Apps and Moran. Baker (2) and Moran chipped in with the goals.
England suffered a surprise loss to the Cook Islands in their third game. England’s 16 points came through tries from Slowe, Hardcastle and Bulman with two goals from Garner, while the Cook Islands scored four tries through Koiatu, Arona, Strickland and Ngata-Aerengamate, while their three goals came from Schofield.
It was only due to the fact that the Cook Islands suffered heavy defeats at the hands of both Australia and New Zealand, that England went through from Pool A on points difference.
To be honest, as with the men’s, I think we can probably hand the trophy to the Australians now. The Jillaroos are through to the semis undefeated with their last third pool game an 88-0 thrashing of Canada. They face them again in the semi-final!
Semi-final draw Sunday 26 November
Southern Cross Group Stadium, Sydney
New Zealand v England
Australia v Canada
The final is on 2 December in Brisbane as part of double-header with the men’s final.
Off the pitch
Big, big, big news this week from World Rugby. This is the headline on their website:
“Accelerating the global development of women in rugby 2017-25
OUR AMBITION: By 2025, rugby will be a global leader in sport, where women involved in rugby have equity on and off the field, are reflected in all strategy, plans and structures, making highly valued contributions to participation, performance, leadership and investment in the global game of rugby.”
We’ve all heard the words before. And words are usually all they are. Many governing bodies talk a good game when it comes to women’s sport (I may have said this before), but this statement and strategy document is something else entirely.
And it’s not just on the field that the differences will be made. The World Rugby Council will expand its membership from 32 to 49 next year. The 17 new members will be women.
On the pitch they want to see one million women and girls registered to play by 2025. Check this out. I don’t often say this but it’s a game-changer – it’s also concise and to the point (another point in its favour):
Old Mutual Wealth Series
England have comfortably won the Test series against Canada. They lead 2-0 with one match to play. The first was an absolute exhibition by England, with Canada improving in the second.
England 79-5 Canada
Jess Breach scored six tries on her debut as England thrashed Canada in the first Test at Allianz Park.
Other tries came from Rachael Burford, Abigail Dow (2), Amy Cockayne, Marlie Packer, Rocky Clark and Ellie Kildunne. Amber Reed kicked five conversions and Zoe Harrison kicked two.
Canada’s five came from a try by Cindy Nelles in the second-half.
England 49-12 Canada
Although Canada were not able to put a score on the board until the 74th minute, it was a much improved performance from the visitors that saw them score tries through Janna Slevinsky and McKinley Hunt, while Brianna Miller put over one conversion.
England’s try count stood at eight; Heather Kerr, Rachael Burford (2), Ellie Kildunne (2), Danielle Waterman, Hannah Botterman and Jo Brown all went over the whitewash, while Amber Reed kicked two conversions and a penalty and Zoe Harrison one conversion.
Captain Sarah Hunter also won her 100th cap.
There is one game to play in the series on Saturday 25 November
Elise Christie came away from Seoul with a gold medal last week as she took the 500m title, in a time of 43.27 seconds. Choi Min-jeong of South Korea was second with Canada’s Marianne St-Gelais finishing third.
England’s women came back to draw the Ashes series 8-8 in Australia last week. But, in truth, this will not compensate for seeing the trophy remain with Australia. Fine performances in the final two T20s will encourage Mark Robinson and the management team, but on balance, they didn’t do enough to earn the series victory.
England 152/6 (20 overs)
Australia 112 all out (18 overs)
Katherine Brunt finally made a contribution to this Ashes with a player of the match performance, making 32 not out and taking 2/10 from her four overs.
Knight won the toss and decided to bat. Beaumont went cheaply, but Wyatt showed the way with 19 before she was caught by Haynes off the bowling of Schutt.
Taylor was run out for a useful 30 and then Sciver and Brunt took it on. Sciver scored 40 before she was caught by Haynes off Perry. It was then up to Brunt to anchor the innings and England posted a useful total of 152.
The Australian reply started well and they had made 45 before the first wicket fell. Mooney was run out for 17 and Villani soon followed after scoring just one. From then on wickets fell regularly as the home side found it difficult to put together a meaningful partnership.
Jenny Gunn starred again with the ball, taking 4/13 in three overs, but it was Brunt’s all round performance that swung the day as England won by a massive 40 runs.
Australia 178/2 (20 overs)
England 181/6 (19 overs)
England left it until the last game to show the crowd and watching audience what they really can do. But it was up to the batters to do the job.
Australia posted a massive 178/2 with Mooney finishing on 112 not out from 70 balls, scoring 19 fours and a six in the process – the first woman to score a T20 century in Australia, and only the fifth in all. She was supported ably by Healy (19), Villani (16) and Perry (22).
It looked like a winning score and England would have to complete the highest T20 run chase by a women’s team to win. They got off to a stuttering start with Beaumont and Taylor dismissed early on. But Wyatt has been a revelation in these T20s and she took on the challenge with a vengeance.
She scored 100 from 57 balls, including 13 fours and two sixes – the second century of the match. She was backed by Knight, who scored 51. By the time Wyatt was dismissed England needed only eight runs to win off 11 balls. They lost a couple of quick wickets, which kept us all on the edge of our seats, but Fran Wilson hit the winning runs with a cheeky four scooped over Healy behind the stumps.
Brave, bold and exciting stuff from England, but all too late to save the Ashes.
A quick note of an important piece of news pertaining to women’s weightlifting.
As we know, barriers to women’s sport in the Muslim world are more stringent and profound than most, but recently women’s sport has begun to make great strides. The latest of these is in weightlifting.
From next year, Iran and Saudi Arabia will allow their women to compete internationally for the first time.
Women have competed at the World Championships since 1987. Several Islamic countries have never taken part including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Somalia and Libya.
What the first competition featuring Saudi women will be is unclear, but the first for Iranian women, may be a friendly tournament against the United States in February or March 2018.
There will be no column next week as I’m out and about, but I’ll be back the following week with more news and views.