Welcome to this week’s column. Back to myself, just about so how about starting with a rant? Honestly, I don’t know what to say about Phil Neville. Perfectly amiable chap I would imagine, but the best candidate to manage the Lionesses? I think not. Yet again, the FA, in its inestimable wisdom, treats the women’s game with contempt. Anyway, enough ranting for now – yes, more is promised later.
This week’s stories come from netball, cricket, football, rugby union and winter sports.
Let’s crack on.
Football – off the Pitch
No doubt as to the biggest story of the week. I mentioned it last week, in the hope that it was a giant hoax – let’s face it, if April Fools’ Day had been impending we’d have thought it was a none-too-subtle effort on the part of the FA. But apparently it’s not. If the mainstream media is to be believed, Phil Neville is about to be revealed as the Lionesses’ new Head Coach.
“I have the opportunity to go to a World Cup and be successful with a group of driven and professional players, and as coach it’s the best job I could ask for.” (my italics)
Is this a slightly disingenuous statement from Neville? “the best job I could ask for”? You’re not wrong, sir. Whether it’s the best job you deserve is another matter.
The rumours are that Casey Stoney is going to be trained up to be his assistant, which has got to be a good move. But it doesn’t deflect from the main event.
“I’m excited to see how discussions turn out,” says Neville. I’m not sure “excited” is how I feel right now; more like angry and betrayed. Not new emotions when I consider the FA.
I am more than ready to be proved wrong. What I want is what is best for the England women’s team, both now and in the future. If this is Phil Neville, then so be it. But in my view it’s a big gamble and at this stage the Lionesses should be pushing on, not going backwards. Let’s see.
Transfers and other news
- Bristol City have signed England under-21 forward Millie Farrow from Chelsea. She had previously been on loan at City in 2016, but a knee injury cut the spell short.
- Brighton & Hove Albion have signed Swedish full-back Amanda Nilden until the end of the season. She is set to make her debut on 28 January against Doncaster Rovers Belles.
- England left-back Demi Stokes has signed a new three-year contract with Manchester City.
- Birmingham City goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger is already back in training after her operation to treat thyroid cancer. Amazing, considering she was only diagnosed in November.
Football – on the pitch
14 January – WSL1
Birmingham City Ladies 2-0 Bristol City Women
Mannion (54) pen
14 January – Continental Cup semi-finals
Chelsea 0-1 Manchester City
An eighteenth minute goal from Danish international Nadia Nadim was enough to see the league champions through to the final. There were plenty of chances for Chelsea to equalise, but they couldn’t take one. Nikita Parris had a couple of chances to double the away side’s lead, but in the end one goal sealed the tie.
Reading Women 2-3 Arsenal
Manchester City will face Arsenal in the final as the Gunners left it late to defeat Reading at Wycombe. The away side took the lead through Beth Mead in just the fifth minute. But two minutes later Reading were level as Brooke Chaplen hit a fierce shot to beat Arsenal goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal. The sides went in level at half-time. As the game opened up in the second-half there were plenty of chances, but the third goal did not come until the 70th minute when Lauren Bruton hit home from the edge of the area. But Arsenal were not done. Seven minutes later Viviana Meidema drew the Gunners level and on 82 Jordan Nobbs won it for Arsenal.
Last weekend’s Tyrell’s 15 Premiership scores were as follows:
Wasps Ladies 31-10 DMP Sharks
Saracens Women 105-0 Worcester Valkyries
Harlequins Ladies 17-10 Loughborough Lightning
Bristol Ladies 57-7 Firwood Waterloo
Richmond Women 15-37 Gloucester-Hartpury Women
So that’s eight from eight for Saracens, and in some style against beleaguered Worcester. They lead the table by five points on 59, with Harlequins second on 54. Third are Wasps, but way back on 43. Worcester are bottom with just two points. Second from bottom are Firwood Waterloo on 7 with Richmond just above them on 14.
This weekend’s fixtures:
Worcester Valkyries v Richmond Women (2pm, Sixways Stadium)
DMP Sharks v Harlequins Ladies (2pm, Darlington RFC)
Wasps Ladies v Saracens Women (2.30pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Gloucester-Hartpury Women v Bristol Ladies (2.30pm, venue tbc)
Firwood Waterloo Ladies v Loughborough Lightning (4.45pm, Firwood Waterloo RFC)
The launch event for the Netball World Cup 2019 took place this week in the host city, Liverpool. The event featured an exhibition game in the Great Hall of St George’s Hall and countries from across the netball-playing world were represented.
The “branding” of the tournament, the flag under which it is being played (a better term, I think) is “This is Netball” and comprises four ‘pillars’; *Elite Sport*, *Empowering Women and Girls*, *One Incredible Destination* and *Welcoming the World*.
It’s going to be a fantastic event and I would encourage as many of you as possible to make the effort to attend. You can keep up to date with the build-up to next year’s event via the World Cup 2019 website: https://www.nwc2019.co.uk/
This weekend sees all of the home nations in action as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland take on each other at the European qualifying tournament for the World Cup in Perth, Scotland. Two teams will qualify.
Coverage of the qualifiers is on the BBC website:
Friday, 19 January
19:30-21:00: Wales v Scotland, Connected TVs & online
Saturday, 20 January
15:00-16:30: Northern Ireland v Wales, Connected TVs & online
Sunday, 21 January
12:00-13:30: Scotland v Northern Ireland, Connected TVs & online
England, who have already qualified will be taking on New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in the Quad Series. It will be played over six test matches at the Copper Box in London and in Johannesburg. Please be aware that if you haven’t already booked your tickets, several of the games are already sold out. Check the venue for details.
Full coverage on Sky Sports plus one random game on the BBC – Eng v NZ 17:45-20:00, coverage on the BBC Red Button, Connected TVs & online
20 January (Copper Box)
South Africa v Australia
England v New Zealand
22 January (Copper Box)
England v Australia
25 January (Johannesburg)
South Africa v New Zealand
28 January (Johannesburg)
Australia v New Zealand
South Africa v England
Tennis – off the court
Shenzhen has been awarded a 10-year contract to host the WTA Finals. It beat off competition from Manchester, Prague, St Petersburg and Singapore.
Tennis – on the court
Not much to shout about for British women’s tennis this week. Naomi Broady fell in the last round of qualifying for the Australian Open. She was beaten by Bibiane Weijers of the Netherlands 7-6 6-2.
So, just two through to the first round proper. Heather Watson bit the dust in quick time, losing to Yulia Putintseva 7-5 7-6, while British number one, Jo Konta, lasted into the second, suffering a shock defeat to world number 123 Bernarda Pera of USA, 6-4 7-5.
As you know, I’ve stopped reading the comments on the BBC sports pages when it comes to women’s sport. I had to make a conscious effort to stay away from these – Konta usually receives a ridiculous and shameful amount of vitriolic comment even when she’s winning. I’m glad I did. There’s no escaping the bad results for both of the British players, but they are both human and no-one should suggest they weren’t trying their best. They’re both talented individuals who had off-days. End of story.
They weren’t the only ones. Casualties in the first round included Aussie favourite Sam Stosur, 25th seed Peng Shuai, Americans Jennifer Brady, Coco Vandeweghe, Alison Riske and Venus Williams, 24th seed Dominika Cibulkova and 31st seed Ekaterina Makarova.
The second round saw the surprise exit of third seed Garbine Muguruza, beaten 7-6 6-4 by world number 88 Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan.
There are still some big names progressing, though, so looking forward to updating you all next week.
Winter Sports – ice hockey
Intriguing news before the start of the Olympics as it was revealed this week that North Korea and South Korea are to field a combined women’s ice hockey team in Pyeongchang.
In a spirit of détente the team will combine and the two countries will also march under the same flag.
But the move has not gone down well in Seoul. The move essentially means that half of the South Korean team will have to be left out to make way for those from the North.
“I think there is damage to our players,” Sarah Murray, the coach of the South Korean team, said.
“It’s hard because the players have earned their spots, and they think they deserve to go to the Olympics. Then you have people being added later. It definitely affects our players.”
There have been online petitions and protests against the idea, but it seems the politics will win out.
Cricket – WBBL
Perth Scorchers 87/9 (16 overs)
Adelaide Strikers 88/4 (15.5 overs)
Strikers won by 6 wickets
Heather Graham top-scored with 19 as the Scorchers were nearly bowled out for an obviously under-par score. Tahlia McGrath took 3/17 from her three overs, with all the other bowlers contributing.
In response, Suzie Bates led the way with 49 not out. Tammy Beaumont was out for a duck, lbw to Katherine Brunt, but the Strikers took their time and claimed the win with one ball to spare.
Sydney Sixers 113 all out (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 114/6 (19 overs)
Thunder won by four wickets
After Alyssa Healy went cheaply, Ellyse Perry took on the scoring, making 25 from 25 balls. Samantha Bates took 3/21 off four overs and the Sixers lost wickets regularly as they posted a middling score of 113.
Thunder lost Rachel Priest and Alex Blackwell without scoring, but Rachael Haynes with 17, Harmanpreet Kaur with 27 and Naomi Stalenberg with 48 took them to the brink of victory. It was down to Stafanie Taylor (9 not out) and Rene Farrell (5 not out) to see it home.
Brisbane Heat 93/8 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 94/4 (17.2 overs)
Stars won by six wickets
Another low scoring match saw the Heat muster just 93. Jess Jonassen top-scored with 46. Erin Osborne was pick of the bowlers, taking 4/20 off four overs.
The Stars chased it down with over two overs to spare. They lost Lizelle Lee early on but Katie Mack’s 20 and Mignon du Preez with 36 not out broke the back of the total, with du Preez hitting the winning runs with a boundary.
Hobart Hurricanes 100 all out (18.5 overs)
Melbourne Renegades 102/0
Renegades won by 10 wickets
Hurricanes started well with opening stand of 62 between Hayley Matthews and Stefanie Daffara. But once they were gone there was little contribution from the others and they were all out in 18.5 overs. There were three wickets for Maitlan Brown in 3.5 overs with two each for Lea Tahuhu and Amy Satterthwaite.
It was not enough though. A fine batting display from openers Sophie Molineux (53 not out) and Emma Inglis (42 not out) saw the Renegades home by 10 wickets.
Adelaide Strikers 107/7 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 76 all out
Strikers won by 31 runs
A second poor batting performance in a row saw the Scorchers slump to a 31 run loss at Alice Springs. Tahlia McGrath scored 34 off 28 balls as the Strikers posted a low-ish score of 107.
But the Scorchers had another off-day in the batting. Nicole Bolton scored 30 but no-one else made much of a contribution. The wickets were shared pretty evenly – Suzie Bates was player of the match with her 2/6 off three overs and 27 with the bat.
Hobart Hurricanes 120/9 (20 overs)
Melbourne Renegades 116/6 (20 overs)
Hurricanes won by 4 runs
A solid start saw the first four wickets put on 97. After that things tailed off but 120 was always going to be competitive.
Amy Satterthwaite scored 65 for the Renegades, but they fell just short in the chase.
Sydney Sixers 160/5 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 151 all out (20 overs)
Sixers won by 9 runs
Alyssa Healy scored a fine 70 off 43 balls opening for the Sixers. Ellyse Perry chipped in with 25 and Dane van Niekerk 44 not out as the Sixers posted a competitive score.
The Heat started well in response with Beth Mooney and Kirby Short putting on a first wicket partnership of 94. Deandra Dottin scored 18, but then things fall apart for the Heat and they could not reach the Sixers’ total. Sarah Aley took 3/31 from four overs and Dane van Niekerk 2/28 off her four.
Sydney Sixers 144/7 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 126/4 (20 overs)
Sixers won by 18 runs
Two wins in two days for the Sixers. Healy went for duck this time, but 54 not out from Erin Burns was the standout batting performance as the Sixers scored a good 144. Delissa Kimmince took 3/23 off four.
The Heat fell short of their chase. Beth Mooney went for a duck. Everyone else contributed well with Jess Jonassen finishing on 55 not out, but they just could not overtake the Sixers’ total.
It’s all Sydney at the top of the table. Sixers head it with 14 points from 11 games. Thunder are second on the same points from just nine games but on an inferior net run rate. The Strikers are third, again on 14, this time from 10 matches and again with an inferior net run rate. The Hurricanes prop up the table with just two points from 10 games. Second to bottom are the Stars with six points from 10.
I’m sure you all follow Jacqui Oatley on social media, and if you do you’ll probably know what I’m going to say. But if you don’t I would encourage you to seek out just what has been happening this week as regards the Sheffield Star newspaper and a man named Ken. Google it – sexist bites off more than he can chew when taking on women’s sports reporters (God bless ‘em).