Welcome to the last Women’s Sports Column of 2018. It’s been an invigorating, strange, frustrating, air-punching year, punctuated by big highs and fairly rotten lows. On the whole, I’d say women’s sport (with some exceptions) is on the up. The respect for female athletes is improving and attendances and viewing figures are improving.
But it only takes me a minute to cast my eye over some of my “And finally” sections this year to realise that there is still work to do, attitudes to change and sexism to rigorously call out.
Anyway, for the final time this year, here are stories from football, cricket, darts, rugby union, taekwondo, SPOTY, sailing and cycling.
Let’s crack on…
Sports Personality of the Year
I’ve honestly never seen so much hot air in my life as that generated by the SPOTY shortlist/winners/event. Really folks if you are so outraged about this as a subject, you must have had a very easy life not noticing the things in the real world that are going on around you.
Is it disappointing that Georgia Hall was not shortlisted? Yes. Is it disappointing that neither of the two women shortlisted made it into the top three? Yes. Is it the end of life as we know it because Harry Kane didn’t win? No.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all so subjective that it’s not worth worrying about. The contenders’ accomplishments are facts, but when it comes to voting, if you don’t like athletics or cycling or perhaps, women, then you’re not going to vote for them. Football supporters are particularly one-eyed, as we all know.
The shortlist: Harry Kane, Geraint Thomas, Lewis Hamilton, Dina Asher-Smith, Lizzy Yarnold, James Anderson.
The top three:
I have my own preferences, as I’m sure you all do. I would have liked to have seen Dina Asher- Smith win it, but it was always, I’m afraid, unlikely.
But the women did well elsewhere. Two awards for the England Roses; Greatest Sporting Moment of the Year for their Commonwealth Games win against Australia and Team of the Year. It’s a pity that Tracey Neville didn’t win Coach of the Year, but that was always going to be Gareth Southgate (perfectly nice man and nothing against him) for winning nothing and wearing a waistcoat.
The Unsung Hero award went to 28-year old Kirsty Ewen, swimming coach with Inverness ASC. Kirsty had issues with her mental health since her teenage years and was reluctant to become a volunteer. Now she says, “volunteering in sport saved my life” and although she still experiences difficult patches, her swimming coaching lessens the effects and gives her joy and the chance to inspire others. There’s a great short film about her on the BBC website. Check it out here.
The Lifetime Achievement award went to Billie Jean King. As you will all know, King no only had an outstanding tennis career (35 singles and doubles Grand Slam titles, including 20 Wimbledon titles), but has spent her whole life fighting for equality in sports for women. She founded the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and was its first president. She and then husband Larry King also founded the Women’s Sports Foundation, specifically aimed at ensuring that all girls and women have access to sport.
She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987 and was awarded the highest US civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Obama in 2009.
Continental Cup Draw
The quarter-final draw was made this week:
Manchester United v West Ham United
Chelsea v Reading
Manchester City v Brighton & Hove Albion
Arsenal v Birmingham City
Ties will take place 9-10 January 2019
British Yachting Awards
I am most happy to say that Dee Caffari duly won the Pro Sailor of the Year award at the British Yachting Awards last week. It was a good night all round for female sailors:
Maria Stanley was awarded Amateur Sailor of the Year, Emily Mueller was Youth Sailor of the Year, while the Outstanding Achievement Award went to Tracy Edwards MBE.
There was excellent news from Cricket Ireland this week as it announced it is to offer professional contracts to some women players in 2019. The number has not been specified and the contracts will be part-time, but it is a veritable step forward for Irish cricket.
Cricket Ireland chief executive, Warren Deutrom, said,
“We are delighted to become one of a very select number of sports in Ireland to offer professional contracts to women players. It has been an ambition of ours for a number of years, and we now find ourselves in the position to push ahead with this much-needed improvement to our sport.
“The professionalism shown by our senior women’s team during preparation, qualification and performance at the recent ICC T20 World Cup was a demonstration that this side of our sport is ready to progress and grow.
“Like we did with the men’s side a number of years ago, we will now bring a measured approach to player contracts. A small number of part-time contracts will be offered in early 2019, with the plan to expand this programme over subsequent years.”
Hobart Hurricanes 133/5 (20 overs)
Sydney Sixers 155/3 (14.4 /15 overs – target 152)
Sixers won by 7 wickets (DLS)
The Hurricanes had reached 112/4 off 14 when the rain came, causing the match to be reduced to 15 overs. England captain Heather Knight scored 51 not out off 35 balls. The target was revised to 152 via DLS.
The Sixers openers for once went cheaply, Alyssa Healy for 8 and Ellyse Perry for 10. But Ash Gardner powered her way to 79 not out from 50 balls, supported ably by Erin Burns with 43 from just 20 balls. When Burns was out, Sara McGlashan came in and she and Gardner squeaked home with two balls remaining, McGlashan hitting a four to win it.
Adelaide Strikers 132 all out (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 134/4 (17.3 overs)
Thunder won by six wickets
If it hadn’t been for captain Suzie Bates, this might have been much, much worse for the Strikers. Opening the innings with Tahlia McGrath, she anchored the innings, scoring 79 not out from 60 balls.
But the support was not there. The only other Strikers player to reach double figures was Alex Price, coming in at number 10. Rene Farrell took 3/12 from four overs, Stafanie Taylor 3/36 from her four and Maisy Gibson 3/23 from four.
The chase was measured and untroubled. Rachel Priest opening scored 58 not out and although Taylor was run out for a duck, Stalenberg (19) and Kaur (33) broke the back of the target and it was left to Nicola Carey to score the winning runs, ending the game with a boundary.
Melbourne Stars 124/9 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 125/2 (19 overs)
Scorchers won by 8 wickets
Stars lost wickets disappointingly regularly in this innings and their top-scorer was Georgia Elwiss with just 26. The wickets were shared across seven bowlers.
The Scorchers took their time with the chase, anchored by captain Elyse Villani, who scored 52 not out from 49 balls. Amy Jones went for just five, but Nicole Bolton (23) and Heather Graham (39 not out) steered it home with one over remaining.
Brisbane Heat 174/8 (20 overs)
Melbourne Renegades 153/7 (20 overs)
Heat won by 21 runs
Sammy-Jo Johnson top-scored for the Heat with 31 and there were other solid contributions from Beth Mooney (25), Jess Jonassen (26) and Laura Harris (29) as they posted a good 174. Molly Strano was pick of the bowlers for the Renegades, taking 4/21 off her four overs.
The Renegades’ response began well with an opening stand between Danni Wyatt and Amy Satterthwaite of 75. But after those two were out, Satterthwaite first for 38 and Wyatt for 32, only one other batter made double figures. They fell behind the run-rate and fell 21 short of their target.
Sydney Sixers 158/3 (20 overs)
Hobart Hurricanes 141 all out (19.1 overs)
Sixers won by 17 runs
Ellyse Perry was at it again on Saturday as she scored 72 not out to lead the Sixers to another win. Alyssa Healy contributed 30 and Erin Burns 44 as they posted 158.
In response, Fazackerley went for just four and the Hurricanes found it hard to build partnerships, regularly losing wickets. Georgia Redmayne provided the only stiff resistance for the Hurricanes, scoring 47 not out from 36 balls. But they were always going to be short. Marizanne Kapp took 4/27 off her four overs and Alex Hartley was the last wicket to fall, run out without facing a ball as the Hurricanes finished well short.
Adelaide Strikers 145/4 (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 146/5 (18.2 overs)
Thunder won by five wickets
Bridget Patterson top-scored for the Strikers with 36 from 40 balls as they posted a decent 145. The Thunder used seven bowlers, the pick of whom was Stafanie Taylor, who took 2/33 from her four overs.
Rachel Priest went for a first ball duck with Stalenberg following for just one in the second over, but Stafanie Taylor provided the anchor, scoring 55 from 42 balls before she was run out in the fifteenth over. Harmanpreet Kaur took it on further down the order and was 52 not out from 34 balls at the end. She hit two fours off the first two balls of the penultimate over, bowled by Devine, but the winning run came from a wide and the Thunder had won with 10 balls to spare.
Perth Scorchers 90/7 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 91/6 (15.3 overs)
Stars won by 4 wickets
The Scorchers had a nightmare against the Stars, scoring a paltry 90 from their 20 overs and although the Stars lost wickets in the chase, they still won with 27 balls to spare.
Nicole Bolton made 36, but took 44 balls in doing it. The only other player to get into double figures was Hayley Jensen who scored 12 from 15 balls. All of the bowling figures looked impressive with Kristen Beams taking 3/13 from three overs and Georgia Elwiss 2/10 from three.
Stars never looked in any trouble in their chase. Opener Lizelle Lee scored 26 from 19 and Katie Mack 33 from 31. Nicola Hancock hit the winning run in the sixteenth over.
Hobart Hurricanes 173/7 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 173/6 (20 overs)
Match tied – Scorchers won in the Super Over
Hobart got off to a good start, with a partnership of 59 between Smriti Mandhana and Erin Fazackerley, before Mandhana fell to Heather Graham for 38. She was top scorer, Fazackerley made 36 and Stefanie Daffara 31 as they posted a decent total for the Scorchers to chase.
Amy Jones and Elyse Villani also got off to a good start. Jones was the first to go for 21. Heather Graham top-scored with 44 and Villani made 41. The two sides couldn’t be separated over 20 overs and so the game went to a Super Over.
The Hurricanes recorded 10/2 in the Super Over, but the Scorchers made 16/0 and took the two points.
Melbourne Stars 132/7 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 138/0 (10.5 overs)
Heat won by 10 wickets
Move over Ellyse Perry, there’s a new kid in town. Grace Harris stole the show in Brisbane as she smashed a 42-ball 100 as the home side chased down their target with more than nine overs to spare. With her team needing one to win and with Harris on 95, she hit her sixth six of the innings to win the match and to take her to her century.
The Stars started badly with Lizelle Lee out for just one in the second over. The rest of the middle order got a start but no-one could put together the big innings needed. Angela Reakes top scored for the Stars with 30 as they posted 132/7 off their 20 overs.
Enter the Heat openers. No-one else got a look-in as Harris and Mooney took it on and cruised to victory. Mooney played the steady back-up, scoring 28 from 25 balls, but it was Harris and her stunning 101, containing 13 fours and six sixes who will remain in the memory.
Hobart Hurricanes 153/9 (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 156/4 (17.2 overs)
Thunder won 6 wickets
Hurricanes again got off to a good start with an opening stand of 43. Fazackerley was out for 35 and was top-scorer. The top five batters all got into double figures, but none was able to push on to a big score. None of the next five batters scored over seven and so although the score was competitive, it did tail away towards the end. Stafanie Taylor was pick of the bowlers for the Thunder, taking 3/24 from her four overs.
By contrast, the Thunder got off to a poor start in their chase with Rachael Haynes perishing in the first over for five. But Rachel Priest (40) and Naomi Stalenberg (55) with Kaur, Blackwell and Taylor all contributing as they reached their target with 16 balls to spare.
Adelaide Strikers 144/7 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 145/6 (19.3 overs)
Stars won by four wickets
Two batters stood out for the Strikers. Opener Sophie Devine hit 46 from 36 balls and towards the end of the innings Tegan McPharlin 41from 34. In between there were a lot of single-figure scores. Erin Osborne took 2/16 from her four overs.
The Stars went well in response until they lost two wickets in the tenth over as Dani Hazell got Du Preez went for 17 and Mack for a duck. It was a tight finish, but the Stars got home with three balls to spare. Erin Osborne top-scored for the Stars with 54 not out from 45 balls.
As it stands, Sydney Thunder are top with 10 points from six matches. Sydney Sixers are second with eight from five and Melbourne Stars are third with eight from seven matches and an inferior net run-rate. At the bottom, Hobart Hurricanes have only one win from seven games and have two points. Melbourne Renegades are just above them on three, but from only four matches.
In the UK, there is coverage of some WBBL matches on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra and BT Sport.
Last weekend’s Premier 15s results were as follows:
Loughborough Lightning 29-10 Gloucester-Hartpury
Firwood Waterloo 0-65 Harlequins
Saracens 48-0 Richmond
DMP Sharks 7-5 Bristol Bears
Worcester Valkyries 5-48 Wasps
After 12 games, Saracens are top with 55 points. Harlequins are second on 51 and Loughborough Lightning are third with 49. At the bottom, the Worcester Valkyries have just four points, DMP Sharks are just above them on 13 and Firwood Waterloo are one point ahead of them and third from bottom.
This weekend’s fixtures, the last of 2018, are:
Harlequins v Worcester Valkyries (1.30pm, Surrey Sport Park)
Gloucester-Hartpury v Firwood Waterloo (2pm,)
Wasps v Saracens (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Richmond v DMP Sharks (5pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)
Bristol Bears v Loughborough Lightning (5.30pm, Shaftesbury Park)
There were just two games in the Women’s Super League last weekend:
TeamBU Wessex 2-3 Tendring VC Ladies (25-23, 25-23, 17-25, 13-25, 12-25)
Birmingham Volleyball Club1 0-3 London Orcas (15-25, 12-25, 16-25)
All nine teams have now played eight games. Durham Palatinates are top with 23 points, Tendring VC Ladies are second with 19 and London Orcas are third on 17. At the bottom, Polonia SideOut London and Birmingham VC1 have three points each.
Track Cycling World Cup IV – London
Team GB’s women riders claimed two golds at the fourth event in the Track Cycling World Cup in London at the weekend.
Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald won gold in the madison and they were also part of the team, along with Neah Evans and Ellie Dickinson, that took gold in the team pursuit.
Sprint: Stephanie Morton (Aus) beat Emma Hinze (Ger) in the final. Laurine van Riessen (Ned) took bronze.
Keirin: Stephanie Morton (Aus) took gold, Daria Shmeleva (Rus) silver and Urszula Los (Pol), bronze. Katy Marchant finished fourth.
Omnium: Kirsten Wild (NED) won gold, Jennifer Valente (USA) silver and Allison Beveridge (CAN), bronze. Elinor Barker was fifth.
Team sprint: China won gold, Germany the silver and Netherlands the bronze.
Team Pursuit: Great Britain took gold, USA silver and Italy the bronze.
Madison: Great Britain (Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald) won gold, Australia (Amy Cure and Annette Edmondson took silver and, Belgium (Julien D’Hoore and Lotte Kopecky) took bronze.
It was two out of three golds for Great Britain’s female finalists at the World Taekwondo Grand Slam finals in China.
Bianca Walkden defeated Madelynn Gorman-Shore of the United States to win the +67kg category.
Lauren Williams overcame Nur Tatar Askari of Turkey to win the -67kg category.
Jade Jones took a silver, losing out in the final to Lijun Zhou of China in the -57kg class, while Rebecca McGowan just missed out on bronze in the +67kg category.
Each winner took home over £54,000, the largest prize even given in the sport.
The second female qualifier for the PDC World Darts Championship, Anastasia Dobromyslova, lost in straight sets in the first round to Ryan Joyce of England.
I hope you have enjoyed the column this year. I have enjoyed writing it! I love getting the stories together, to see just how much women all over the world are contributing to the sporting landscape, very often for little but personal satisfaction in return.
2019 promises to be a storming year with the football World Cup in France, netball World Cup in Liverpool and the Ashes during the English summer to look forward to.
Hopefully I’ll be about to bring it all to you (hopefully I’ll get to see some of it in person!).
But until then, I would like to wish you all a happy sport-filled Christmas and New year and I look forward to writing for you and interacting with you all again in 2019.