Women’s Sports Column End-of-Year Review

loveWelcome to this, the last column of 2017.  And what a year it’s been!  Instead of the usual news this week, I thought I’d review the year – in terms of heroes and villains!  Everyone loves a listicle, particularly at Christmas, so here’s mine.  I’m sure the majority of my choices will come as no surprise to regular readers of the column.

So, for the final time this year, let’s crack on.

Heroes

1) Women’s Cricket World Cup Final

No prizes for guessing my number one in the heroes department this year.  The Cricket World Cup was a fabulous event from start to finish and I’m privileged to say I was at the final at Lord’s in July.  The media coverage was pretty good, the organisation at the group games was excellent and, of course, the standard of cricket was generally superb.  But the actual day was something else.  Twenty-eight thousand cricket lovers (MCC members not included) packed into Lord’s to experience the game, the occasion and the atmosphere.  And the game had everything; great batting, bowling, fielding (and that drop from Jenny Gunn), the threat of rain, competition down to nearly the last ball…..

It was a brilliant game between two well-matched teams, which leads me on to number two:

2) Indian Women’s Cricket Team

They’ve made fans and friends wherever they go.  They’re on a massive upward trajectory and are set to get even better. Captain Mithali Raj is rightfully considered one of India’s outstanding sports personalities.  One of the moments of the World Cup was when it was reported that a little girl in a Nike store asked for her Indian cricket shirt to have the name “Mandhana” (as in opener Sriti Mandhana) on the back.  And if that isn’t progress, I don’t know what is.

India will be out for revenge in the New Year when they face England again in the Women’s Tri Series.

3) Rugby union – heroes and villains

Rugby union is on the up.  And while it is, I’m reluctant to stick it in both the heroes and villains categories so, on balance, it’s in the heroes.  The Rugby World Cup was a fantastic tournament rounded off by a spectacular final.  Laurel wreaths all round to New Zealand and England for such an outstanding display, with the Black Ferns worthy winners.

But it’s not all plaudits for the administrators and organisers.  Before the tournament started we had the announcement that the RFU was not going to re-issue contracts for the 15s, but instead would concentrate on the Sevens squad ahead of next year’s World Cup.  Then the tournament itself threw up some strange scheduling that meant people missed out on seeing matches they wanted to see.  And this was followed by the announcement from the Irish Rugby Football Union that its new women’s head coach would be employed only on a part-time contract – it hosts a World Cup, then cuts its commitment to women’s rugby?  How does that work?

World Rugby has since redeemed rugby’s hero status with its new World Rugby Women’s Plan 2017-25.

So, as I say, some hits, some misses in the rugby department, but, on the whole, it’s heading the right way.

 4) Mica McNeill and Mica Moore

When British bobsleighers Mica McNeill and Mica Moore had their funding withdrawn, their Winter Olympic dream could have been over.  But they were not going to give up that easily.  McNeill launched a Crowdfunding page to raise the £30k needed to field a team.  They did it with time to spare and will now be in Pyeongchang in February.

5) Advocates, volunteers and campaigners for women’s sport

Last, but by no means least, I’d like to celebrate the legions of people out there working tirelessly (and sometimes it’s the original thankless task) to promote women’s sport.  I’m going to name a few, but I know I will have missed a lot so apologies as there’s not enough room to mention you all.  If we could only become “mainstream”, how amazing that would be.  So here we go, in no particular order, three cheers for: Women in Sport, Women in Football, Suzy Wrack, WiSP, Scrumqueens, Women’s Elite Rugby website, England Netball, FAWSL website, CricketHer, Martin Whiteley, Martin Woodward, Tracey Neville, Shelley Alexander, Kieran Theivam, 4TLOS, Jen O’Neill and She Kicks, Girls on the Ball, Eleanor Oldroyd, The Magenta Project, Darren Gilham, Sarah Williams (Tough Girl), Female Coaching Network, Coach Annie Zaidi, The Offside Rule, Natalie Germanos, Jane Martinson and so it goes on…

Apologies to those I missed out.

I’ve not included the links to the individuals and organisations above, but if anyone would like any more information, just message me.

villainsVillains

1) The FA

As we all know, some sports governing bodies are better than others.  But the nadir of the governing body world has to the Football Association (FA).  It easily makes it to the top of my villainous tree this year.  First we had the scandal surrounding Mark Sampson and his behaviour towards Eni Aluko and Drew Spence in particular.  Its attempts to sweep the “problem” under the carpet backfired spectacularly and when asked to account for its actions by a House of Commons Select Committee, was unable to come up with the faintest useful answer.  So much for the organisation’s duty of care, vetting process and grievance procedures.

If that wasn’t enough it then decides to restructure the women’s elite game once again.  Just when we were getting used to the current structure the FA, in its wisdom, decides that WSL1 has to be organised to a “stronger commercial model” to “improve the performance of the women’s game on and off the pitch.”  In doing so it immediately put immense pressure on some of the less well-equipped teams, who are currently in their position on merit, to come up with £350k, amongst other things, in order to be able to apply for a licence.  Unfortunately, this has meant that Sunderland and Watford (with probably more to come) have taken the chance not to press forward with their investment in the women’s game, but to scale it back.  Yes, the teams may have been looking for an “out”, or as they euphemistically put it “becoming more community-focussed”, but the FA needn’t have handed it to them on a plate need they?

2) Neanderthal Man

As ever, ‘Neanderthal man’ is pretty much at the top of my list too.  These are the knuckle-draggers who think their views on absolutely everything are required reading – particularly their views on women’s sport.  The “Women’s sport will never be as popular”, “women aren’t as fast/strong/good/add your own adjective, as men”, the “the only way women would get equality would be to compete against men”, the “she looks like a man, anyway”, the “get back to the kitchen” comments, even “they’re all lesbians” is still doing the rounds after all these years.  I have reported a few in my “and finally” section this year and, I’m afraid it doesn’t look as if I’m going to run out of examples any time soon.

Get over it chaps!  Katie Taylor doesn’t have to fight Amir Khan to be a good boxer, Sarah Taylor doesn’t have to keep wicket to the bowling of Jimmy Anderson to be a good cricketer and Nikita Parris doesn’t have score for Manchester City’s men’s side to be a good footballer.

3) The ECB

The ECB was due to be in my “heroes” section, but I’m afraid the news of the last couple of days means that it also makes it into my “Villains” list too.

It appears that the Kia Super League will be no more after 2019.  It looks like it will be rebranded in line with the new city-based men’s competition.  So no more Western Storm, Loughborough Lightning et al…  Each of the current franchises (yes, I have deigned to utter the word) has tried so hard to develop its USP, expand its fan-base and facilities.  The tournament is still in its infancy, but the teams are already recognisable and have their own following.  It did have a good sponsor and commitment to TV and radio coverage.  But we have to start again.

So, yet again, a governing body has seen fit to “fix it” when it hasn’t been “broke”.  We’re yet to see the details of what’s to come, but I haven’t yet got past “why?”

4) BBC Sports Personality of the Year

Now, don’t get me wrong – I think the event is a good thing.  I find the whole evening a bit cringe-worthy, but the idea is a sound one.  But it was beyond disappointing this year that the four women nominated came in the last four places after the public vote.  Obviously there has been a lot of mansplaining on this issue – the women weren’t “good” enough, it’s a public vote so people vote for who they want to, some of the women are from minority sports, etc.

But they’re missing the point.

Women’s sport still consistently flies under the radar.

The popularity and media profile of Women’s cricket is at an all-time high, and yet this was not enough for Anya Shrubsole to finish higher than eighth from twelve nominees in the individual category.  How do we know these women are so good if we rarely see their achievements celebrated in the media?  And if their achievements are denigrated by the “usual” sport-watching public so much, how are we to know that taking six wickets in a Women’s World Cup final is worth rewarding?

How do these women ever raise their profile sufficiently to make a dent in the minds of the general public?   I’m afraid to say that at the moment they still don’t.  They are coming from such a low level of coverage, investment, support and recognition that it’s still a mountain to climb, all of which leads me on to my fifth villain:

5) Anyone who says it’s been a “watershed year” for women’s sport

Sorry to throw such a dampener on things, but while there’s been so much to celebrate this year (see heroes!), there is still so much work to do that I really don’t think it has been a “watershed” year.  There have been countless fantastic achievements, tournaments, records, performances, but in the eyes of the general public it counts for nothing until the “mindset” (ugh horrid word) of the sport-loving public is changed beyond recognition.  So while there has been undoubted progress and I personally have loved every minute of it this year, it’s not a “watershed year”.

But let’s not end on a negative note.  No, I’m not going to “look for the positives” (ugh again), but there has been so much to celebrate this year and we should ensure that 2018 builds on this.  As well as the usual annual tournaments, we have the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast, Rugby World Cup Sevens, the Hockey World Cup at Surrey Sports Park, two teams still in the Champions League, and so it goes on.  And we sports-lovers will be there to see it all.  So let’s make every week of 2018 Women’s Sports Week and let’s cheer every extra televised fixture, every column inch and every interview.

Thank you for reading the column this year.  I’ve loved writing it, which I hope comes out in every word.  I’m having a couple of weeks off now, but will back in the New Year with more news, features, reports and interviews and I hope you’ll join me. 

I’d also like to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a lovely sport-filled New Year. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 9-15 December 2017

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  There’s still plenty going on and this week’s stories come from football, tennis, horse racing, boxing, para-athletics, rugby union, golf and cricket.  There are a couple of rather good “first” stories, unfortunately balanced out by another example of the “does this still happen” school of misogyny in this week’s “And finally”.

So let’s crack on.  

Horse Racing

After I reported that jockey Hayley Turner had been suspended pending an inquiry into alleged illegal betting.  As a result of the inquiry Turner has been banned from racing for three months.

Although Turner retired in 2015, she kept up her licence, which is why she has found herself in hot water.

In an interview with the BBC, Turner said,

“It is a bitter pill to swallow…I accept there had to be some sort of punishment, I was in the wrong, but three months is quite harsh.”

She is banned until 13 March 2018, but is allowed to be at racecourses and working in the media.

Tennis

Victoria Azarenka has been handed a wildcard to the Australian Open.

She has already won the tournament twice, but has recently been struggling to compete due to an ongoing custody battle with her ex-partner.

The Australian Open begins on 15 January.

Rugby Union

Tyrell’s Premier 15s

The weather claimed just one victim in the Premier 15s last weekend.  The scores were:

9 December
Harlequins 27-8 Wasps
Saracens 45-6 Firwood Waterloo
Gloucester-Hartpury 24-38 DMP Sharks

10 December
Worcester Valkyries P-P Loughborough Lightning
Richmond 5-32 Bristol

It’s ten from ten for Saracens and they top the table with 49 points.  Harlequins lie second on 45, with Wasps third, way back on 33.  Worcester Valkyries are bottom on just two points, Firwood Waterloo are second from bottom on seven, with Richmond above them on 14.

This weekend’s fixtures, weather permitting, are as follows:

Loughborough Lightning v Saracens (12pm)
Wasps v Gloucester-Hartpury (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Firwood Waterloo v Harlequins (2.30pm)
DMO Sharks v Richmond (4pm, Northern Echo Arena)
Bristol v Worcester Valkyries (7pm, Portway Rugby Development Centre)

Australia

Rugby Australia has announced its new chief executive will be Raelene Castle, the first woman to hold the position – and indeed the first woman to hold such a post across the whole of world rugby.

At the press conference announcing her appointment Castle was keen to play down the “first” tag,

 “The reality is sport has gender equity in it. There’s people from both really delivering, particularly at grassroots level… so I don’t think it’s an enormous step to have a female chief executive, I’m excited about the opportunity.”

She brings a wealth of sports administration experience to the job, including previous chief executive roles at Netball New Zealand and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.

Castle has been appointed on her capabilities and on merit, which is as it should be, and I really look forward to the time when such an appointment doesn’t create shockwaves.  But currently this is not the situation, so let’s celebrate it for the breakthrough it is – let’s shout it from the rooftops, not only to congratulate Castle, but to encourage others to recognise their talents and put themselves forward for the big jobs.

Football – Off the pitch

WSL Licences

The big news, domestically this week is the announcement of the first tranche of WSL licences.  As we know, no Watford, no Sunderland.  The only team not currently with a WSL1 licence that has been granted a provisional Tier 1 licence is Hope Powell’s Brighton & Hove Albion, who clearly mean business.

Tier 1

Arsenal Women
Birmingham City Ladies
Brighton & Hove Albion Women
Bristol City Women
Chelsea Ladies
Everton Ladies
Liverpool Ladies
Manchester City Women
Reading Women
Yeovil Town Ladies

Tier 2

Aston Villa Ladies
Doncaster Rovers Belles
Durham Women
London Bees
Millwall Lionesses
Sheffield FC Ladies
Tottenham Hotspur Ladies

There will now be a second phase of applications, an “open” phase when clubs that are currently outside the FAWSL can apply for both Tier 1 and Tier 2 licences.

There are a minimum of two Tier 1 licences available and a minimum of five in Tier 2.  Closing date for applications is March 2018.

Decisions will not be announced until after the end of the FAWPL season and Championship Play-off.

As you can imagine, I read plenty about the state of women’s football in England and there is a huge amount of disquiet about these plans.  Women’s football needs a period of stability and consolidation, not another reorganisation that requires, if you’ll excuse the expression, moving the goalposts yet again.  I know I bang on about this (a lot) but it is clear that the FA has no long-term plan for women’s football and it is subject to the whims of whoever is the latest person to be in charge.   The women’s game deserves better, and it’s clear that as it stands this governing body is not going to deliver.

Hope Solo

Hope Solo has announced she is to run for president of the US Soccer Federation.  On her Facebook page she said,

“I know exactly what US Soccer needs to do, I know exactly how to do it, and I possess the fortitude to get it done.

“I have always been willing to sacrifice for what I believe in and I believe there is no greater sacrifice then fighting for equal opportunity, integrity and honesty, especially in an organisation like the USSF that could give so much more to our communities across the nation.”

There are now nine names in the hat.  There are two women in the running; Solo and Kathy Carter, marketing president of Soccer United.

Football – on the pitch

WSL1 & 2

The weather hit both divisions pretty hard at the weekend.

Saturday 9 December

WSL2

London Bees 2-1 Oxford United

Sunday 10 December

WSL1

Yeovil Town p-p Reading

Arsenal p-p Liverpool
Birmingham City p-p Bristol City
Everton 5-1 Sunderland
Chelsea p-p Manchester City

WSL2

Durham p-p Aston Villa
Brighton & Hove Albion p-p Watford
Doncaster Rovers Belles 3-2 Sheffield FC
Millwall Lionesses p-p Tottenham Hotspur

After this weekend’s Continental Cup games, there is a short winter break with the league resuming on 6 January 2018.  The quarter-finals are:

Saturday 16 December

Everton v Reading (6pm, Select Security Stadium)

Sunday 17 December

Arsenal v Sunderland (2pm, Boreham Wood FC)
Bristol City v Manchester City (2pm, Oaklands Park Stadium)
Chelsea v Liverpool (2pm, Kingsmeadow Stadium)

Nike international Tournament, Florida

England’s Under-20s have been competing in Florida in a tournament of friendly matches.  You may not have seen anything at all about it in the media, but I am pleased to report that the young Lionesses won the tournament, winning two games and drawing one.

7 December

USA 3-3 England

England came from 3-2 to snatch a last minute draw with the hosts.  Sophia Smith scored two, her second in the 87th minute, for the USA with their third coming from an own goal from Grace Fisk.  But England were not to be outdone.

Ellie Brazil scored England’s first and Anna Patten the second, before Alessia Russo sealed a share of the points with her last minute goal.

9 December

England 1-0 Brazil

Alessia Russo was on the scoresheet again as England squeezed past Brazil in their second game of the tournament.

Brazil had plenty of possession in the first-half, but couldn’t convert.

The only goal of the game came on 50 minutes as Charlie Wellings put Russo through and she kept her nerve to put it past the ’keeper.

11 December

England 6-0 Finland

The young Lionesses completed a convincing victory over Finland on Monday, thereby taking the tournament title.

Goals came from Kess Elmore 7, Zoe Cross 18, Rianna Dean 38, 55, Georgia Allen 79 and Ellie Brazil 89.

England finished top with seven points from their three games.  Brazil came second with six and USA third with four.  Finland failed to win a point.

Cricket

The WBBL is in full swing and there have already been some monster scores.  The standout batting contribution so far has come from Ash Gardner, who scored 114 off 57 balls for the Sydney Sixers against the Melbourne Stars.  The innings included nine fours and 10 sixes, including one to take her to her century.

9 December

Sydney Thunder 200/6 (20 overs)
Melbourne Renegades 189/6 (20 overs)
Thunder won by 11 runs

Top scorer: Jess Cameron 81 (Renegades)
Best bowling: Stafanie Taylor 2/30 off four overs (Thunder)

Adelaide Strikers 183/3 (20 overs)
Hobart Hurricanes 138/9 (20 overs)
Strikers won by 45 runs

Top Scorer: Sophie Devine 46 not out (Strikers)
Best bowling: Tahlia McGrath 2/15 off three overs (Strikers)

Sydney Sixers 242/4 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 156/7 (20 overs)
Sixers won by 86 runs

Top Scorer: Ash Gardner 114 (Sixers)
Best bowling: Sarah Aley 2/30 off four overs (Sixers)

10 December

Perth Scorchers 188/6 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 170/9 (20 overs)
Scorchers won by 18 runs

Top Scorer: Delissa Kimmince 87 (Heat), honourable mention Nat Sciver 84 (Scorchers)
Best bowling: Katherine Brunt 3/23 off four overs (Scorchers)

Adelaide Strikers 176/6 (20 overs)
Hobart Hurricanes 93 all out (18.5 overs)
Strikers won by 83 runs

Top Scorer: Suzie Bates 102 (Strikers)
Best bowling: Amanda-Jade Wellington 3/9 off four overs (Strikers)

Sydney Thunder 142/6 (20 overs)
Sydney Sixers 146/4 (18.4 overs)
Sixers won by six wickets

Top Scorer: Alex Blackwell 58 (Thunder)
Best bowling: Ellyse Perry 2/15 off four overs (Sixers)

12 December

Sydney Sixers 122/8 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 123/1 (18.2 overs)
Scorchers won by nine wickets

Top Scorer: Elyse Villani 74 (Scorchers)
Best Bowling: Katherine Brunt and Emma King 2/19 off four overs (both Scorchers)

Melbourne Stars 114/8 (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 115/2 (14.3 overs)
Thunder won by eight wickets

Top Scorer: Rachael Haynes 54 (Thunder)
Best Bowling: Harmanpreet Kaur 3/18 off four overs (Thunder)

15 December

Perth Scorchers 112/7 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 116/4 (18.5 overs)
Heat won by six wickets

Top Scorer: Kirby Short 50 not out (Heat)
Best Bowling: Katherine Brunt 2/17 (Scorchers), Delissa Kimmince 2/17 (Heat)

Golf

Another first this week came in golf, where Sarah McDonald was appointed as Kent County Golf Union’s first female county secretary.  Her appointment is just part of a shake-up of the county’s organisation with the job also changing to reflect the changing needs of the 85 clubs the Union represents.

Kent county chairman Peter Long said,

“It’s going to be quite different. We are trying to get away from the old style approach and the view that golf is just a male led club – it isn’t.”

This may be quite a parochial story, but actually golf is one of those hide-bound sports that has always been reluctant to change and to recognise that there may be anyone other than white males over 40 who want to play at club level.  If Kent is starting to realise that if the game is going to survive, its membership base has to diversify, then there is hope that others will follow suit.  It’s a sport that inspires such passion in people; it would be a shame if others missed out because they didn’t feel there was a place for them to play.

Para-athletics

 After undergoing a re-classification from T37 to T38 in the run-up to the Rio Olympics, Paralympian Kadeena Cox is facing yet another re-examination next year.

All athletes in the T31-38 categories will be reassessed.  These are the categories that include conditions that cause involuntary muscle contractions and affect co-ordination, such as strokes, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and brain injury.

In an interview with the BBC, Cox said,

“It’s not a nice process – it’s exhausting and a very draining thing to go through,

“But they want to make it as fair as possible.”

The reassessment will also affect Sophie Hahn, Georgie Hermitage and Hannah Cockroft.

Boxing

Katie Taylor beat American Jessica McCaskill on points on Wednesday to defend her WBA world lightweight title.

She took the bout unanimously, 97-92 97-92 98-91.

In an interview with Sky Sports she said,

“It was probably the toughest fight of my career….I had to be at my very best.  I knew she was tough and I was prepared for that.”

SPOTY

A quick reminder that it’s the BBC Sports Personality of the Year on Sunday.  Don’t forget to vote for Anya Shrubsole.  Er, I mean, don’t forget to vote, obviously for whomsoever you wish…. (as long as it’s Anya Shrubsole).

And finally,

Just when you thought it was safe (well no, I never feel it’s that safe), this week Ebony Rainford-Brent was trolled on Twitter by a ridiculous man who thought it was his right, after she had made a point about Alastair Cook – and a point quite a few (men) have already made – to say “I can never take a woman’s view on cricket seriously”.  Well, I’ve got news for you, Neanderthal man is dead and, guess what, women have opinions on just about everything.  You name it, we’re going to speak about it!  Unfortunately, he didn’t quit while he was way behind, either, decrying women’s cricket in general and saying “I’ve no idea who you are” to Ebz.  He’s supposed to be an ex sports journalist.  Very ex, I would imagine, with his 47 followers to her 15k.  Lots of support (men and women) for Ebz on Twitter – hopefully he’s regretting starting this now.

Women’s Sports Column 2-8 December 2017

DSCN2151Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get through again this week in a short, but perfectly formed story of the week.  It’s the time of year when we see one awards ceremony after another, but the two biggies have to be BT Action Woman of the Year (women are winning that one!) and, of course, BBC Sports Personality of the Year (somewhat less of a chance of a woman winning that one).  The BT awards have been and gone – news below, but the opportunity to vote for your BBC SPOTY is still to come. I cover the runners and riders, so to speak, in this week’s “and finally”.  Other news comes from cycling, tennis, cricket, rugby union, rugby league, horse racing, taekwondo, curling and football.

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s results in the Premier 15s were:

2 December

Loughborough Lightning 43-33 Gloucester-Hartpury Women

DMP Sharks 3-26 Bristol Ladies

Firwood Waterloo Ladies 12-12 Worcester Valkyries

3 December

Richmond Women 0-44 Wasps Ladies

Harlequins Ladies 19-28 Saracens Women

After nine games, Saracens are top with 44 points, winning all of their games and missing out on just one bonus point.  Harlequins are second with 40, with Wasps seven points further back on 33.  At the bottom, Worcester Valkyries are marooned on two points.  Second from bottom are Firwood Waterloo on seven, with DMP Sharks one place above them on 13.

This weekend’s fixtures sees second placed Quins take on Wasps at Surrey Sports Park, while Saracens are at home to struggling Firwood Waterloo.  Here are the fixtures in full:

9 December

Harlequins Ladies v Wasps: Surrey Sports Park 1pm

Saracens Women v Firwood Waterloo Ladies: Allianz Park 2pm

Worcester Valkyries v Loughborough Lightning: Sixways Stadium 2pm

Gloucester-Hartpury Women v DMP Sharks: TBC 4pm

10 December

Richmond Women v Bristol Ladies: Richmond Athletic Ground 2.30pm

Rugby union coverage

Meanwhile, there have been a couple of good news stories regarding the TV coverage of women’s rugby this week.  Firstly, Sky showed their first Tyrell’s 15 Premiership match last weekend.  Secondly came the news that England Roses’ Six Nations games will also be shown on Sky.  At last, some recognition for the progress the women’s game has made, particularly with the excellent staging and standard of the World Cup this summer.

Women’s Six Nations

Saturday 4 February

19:35: England v France – Twickenham (Sky Sports Mix)

Saturday 11 February

11:30: Wales v England– Cardiff Arms Park (Sky Sports 3)

Saturday 25 February

13:00: England v Italy – The Twickenham Stoop (Sky Sports 2)

Saturday 11 March

20:00: England v Scotland – The Twickenham Stoop (Sky Sports 2, delayed coverage, KO 13:00)

Friday 17 March

20:00: Ireland v England – Donnybrook, Dublin (Sky Sports Mix)

Taekwondo

There was double success for Britain’s women at the Taekwondo Grand Prix Final in Ivory Coast this week.

Bianca Walkden won her fifth major title of the year when she took the +67kg category, beating Da- Bin Lee of South Korea in the final 16-9.  She won all four Grand Prix events in this calendar year as well as taking gold in the World Championships in June – the first fighter to do so.

Then Britain’s Jade Jones also took gold in the -57kg category.   She beat Marta Calvo-Gomez of Spain 26-7 in the final and ends the year as world number one in the -57kg category.

They now go on to compete for Britain the inaugural Taekwondo Grand Slam in China.

BT Action Woman

England footballer Jodie Taylor was named BT Action Woman of 2017 this week.  She beat off competition from Tammy Beaumont, Elise Christie, Hannah Cockcroft, Mallory Franklin, Johanna Konta, Katy McLean and Anya Shrubsole to take the award in a public vote.

Franklin was second, with Konta third.

Unsurprisingly the England Cricket Team took the team of the year award, while Judy Murray was given a Lifetime Achievement award for her contribution to tennis.

Rugby League World Cup

Semi-finals

England 4-52 New Zealand

England were well beaten by New Zealand at the Southern Cross Group Stadium in Sydney.

In truth, they were never really in it as the Kiwi Ferns took the lead in the second minute with a try from Maitua Feterika.  Shontelle Woodman and Krystal Murray added further scores before England could reply with a try of their own from Tara-Jane Stanley in the 21st minute.

England were only 14-4 down at half-time and would have been hoping for better in the second period, but it was not to be as New Zealand put on the afterburners and England had no response.

They scored seven tries in the second-half, Honey Hireme ending with a hat-trick and Krystal Murray with two.

Australia 58-6 Canada

Australia were dominant over Canada from the off.  They scored 42 unanswered points in the first-half.

The second period was more even as Australia eased through.  Natasha Smith scored Canada’s only try, while Ali Brigginshaw, Steph Hancock, Isabelle Kelly and Karina Brown all scored two tries, while Talesha Quinn, Ruan Sims and Nakia Davis-Welsh bagged one each.

Final – 2 December

Australia 23-17 New Zealand

It was an altogether tighter, and exciting, affair.  Australia took the lead on eight minutes with a try from Isabelle Kelly, with the extra points kicked by Caitlin Moran.  Four minutes later, New Zealand were level through Honey Hireme, extra points kicked by Kimiora Nati.

Hireme got her second on 20 minutes to send the Ferns into the lead.  But the Jillaroos were not to be outdone and on 36 minutes Moran scored a brilliant solo effort under the posts, converting it to give them a half-time lead of 12-10.

The second-half belonged to Australia.  Kelly scored her second try on 53, while just four minutes later Elianna Walton went over to take the game away from the Kiwi Ferns; 22-10 with just 20 minutes left.

New Zealand made a fight of it with Raecene McGregor going over in the 69th minute to take them back within a converted score of the lead.

But the Jillaroos were to have the last word.  Moran kicked a field goal in the final minute and Australia had won their second successive World Cup.

Cricket

The WBBL starts this weekend with many of the cricketing world’s biggest stars on show. Representing England are Tammy Beaumont (Adelaide Strikers) with Charlotte Edwards coaching, Georgia Elwiss (Melbourne Stars), Lauren Winfield (Hobart Hurricanes).

Coverage is on BT Sport at unholy times.  Check your TV listings for details.

Cycling

There was plenty of success for Britain’s women at the Track Cycling Cup in Milton, Canada, last week.

Katie Archibald won gold in the points race, winning the first four sprints and gaining a lap to take the title.  Jasmin Duehring of Canada finished second, nine points behind, with Jarmila Machacova of the Czech Republic, third.

Archibald and Eleanor Dickinson also then took gold in the madison with 29 points.  France came second on 24 and New Zealand third on 15.

Katy Marchant took silver in the keirin.  Kristina Vogel of Germany took gold, with Shanne Braspennincx of the Netherlands finishing in bronze position.

Curling

Scotland’s women’s Team, led by Eve Muirhead won the European Curling Championship in St Gallen, Switzerland, this week.  They beat Sweden, unbeaten up to this point, 6-3, on Saturday.

The team, Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams and Lauren Gray went behind early on, and were 2-1 down after the third end.  They took a double in the sixth end and one in each of the last three to take the match and the title.

Tennis

Serena Williams has entered the Australian Open in January.  She has returned to training after giving birth to a daughter in September and, if she takes part, this will be her first tournament back. There is no doubt that she’s still looking to equal (and break) Margaret Court’s Grand Slam singles titles record of 24.  At the moment she has 23.  Who can bet against it?  Whatever happens, it will be great to see her in action again.

Horse Racing

Jockey Hayley Turner is to face a British Horseracing Authority inquiry after she was charged with a breach of betting rules.

The hearing will be on 14 December.

Football

Continental Cup

The final round of group matches took place this week:

Saturday 2 December

Bristol City Women 3-0 Brighton & Hove Albion

Chelsea Ladies 8-0 Yeovil Town Ladies

Sunday 3 December

Manchester City Women 2-0 Birmingham City Ladies

Aston Villa Ladies 3-2 Durham Women

London Bees 1-1 Watford Ladies

Millwall Lionesses 0-5 Reading FC Women

Oxford United Women 1-5 Doncaster Rovers Belles

Tuesday 5 December

Sunderland AFC Ladies 1-0 Liverpool Ladies

Wednesday 6 December

Chelsea Ladies 4-1 Tottenham Hotspur Ladies

Doncaster Rovers Belles 2-3 Manchester City Women

The quarter-final draw was made on 7 December:

Bristol City v Manchester City

Chelsea v Liverpool

Arsenal v Sunderland

Everton v Reading

Ties will be played over the weekend of 16/17 December.

And finally,

It’s that time again – the time when we look at the SPOTY shortlist and go, “seriously?  How many women?”  And this year is no exception.  In this year’s field of 12 twelve shortlisted, we have four women.  In the year of the Cricket World Cup, the Women’s Euros, the Rugby World Cup etc, etc, the BBC, in its wisdom, has managed to come up with four names.  Hey ho.  ‘Twas ever thus.  So the women to vote for (I’m not going to curse you if you vote for one of the men) are Elise Christie, Jo Konta, Anya Shrubsole and Bianca Walkden.

Voting has already closed in the Overseas SPOTY category.  The women shortlisted are Katie Ledecky (swimming), Tatyana McFadden (Para-athletics) and Sally Pearson (athletics).

No prizes for guessing who I’ll be voting for in the main event.  I’ve already said as much on social media – Anya Shrubsole gets my vote.  She made my summer and my year with her performance in the World Cup final.  I’m hoping the England team is nailed on for the Team of the Year award, but it would really be something special if Anya was at least close to winning it.

The programme is on Sunday 17 December and you will be able to vote by telephone on the night.