Women’s Sports Column 13-19 January 2018

CAYFS5MZWelcome 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

 Lionesses

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
Wellings (61)

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.

Rugby Union

 Last weekend’s Tyrell’s 15 Premiership scores were as follows:

13 January
Wasps Ladies 31-10 DMP Sharks
Saracens Women 105-0 Worcester Valkyries
Harlequins Ladies 17-10 Loughborough Lightning
Bristol Ladies 57-7 Firwood Waterloo

14 January
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:

20 January
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)

Netball
World Cup

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

13 January
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.

14 January
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.

15 January
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.

18 January
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.

19 January
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.

And finally,

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).

 

Advertisements

Women’s Sports Column 6-12 January 2018

soccer ballWelcome to this week’s column.  Apologies for the brevity of this week’s offering, but a bout of sickness has meant I’ve been a bit pushed for time.  Hopefully there’s enough here to keep you entertained.  Stories this week come from tennis, hockey, boxing, rugby union, cricket, football and sports politics.

So here we go.

Tennis

Australian Open

The draw for the first round of the Australian Open has been made and Jo Konta, fit again after pulling out of the Brisbane International, has a tough draw.  She faces American Madison Brengle, 92 in the world.

Heather Watson’s first opponent is Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan who, at 50, is ranked 24 places higher than Watson.

Naomi Broady is through the first round of qualifying, beating Kathinka von Deichmann of Liechtenstein 7-6 5-7 6-3.  She plays Bibiane Schoofs of the Netherlands in the next round and needs to win three to get through to the first round proper.

The tournament begins on Monday 15 January.

Hobart International

Heather Watson seems to be getting into her stride before the start of the first Grand Slam of the year.  She made it to the semi-finals of the Hobart International, losing to the 2017 champion and second seed Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-4 1-6 6-2.

Mertens will play Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine of Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania in the final.

Boxing

Irish boxing star, Katie Taylor, will fight her first professional Dublin bout on 14 April.  It will be her second defence of her WBA World Lightweight title.

The venue is yet to be decided.

Football – off the pitch

Eni Aluko

The big news this week is that Eni Aluko is in discussion with Paris St-Germain over a possible transfer.  Aluko, 30, has five months left on her Chelsea contract.  PSG lie currently in the French division one behind Lyon.

Lionesses

Drew Spence has been recalled to the England squad for their 10-day training camp in Spain; it will be the first time she has been involved since the debacle with Mark Sampson last year.  The squad is preparing for the SheBelieves Cup in the US in March.  The full squad is as follows:

Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), Mary Earps (Reading), Carly Telford (Chelsea).

Defenders: Gemma Bonner (Liverpool), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Jess Carter (Birmingham City), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Gilly Flaherty (Chelsea), Gabby George (Everton), Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Demi Stokes (Manchester City).

Midfielders: Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jo Potter (Reading), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Drew Spence (Chelsea), Keira Walsh (Manchester City), Fara Williams (Reading), Leah Williamson (Arsenal).

Forwards: Karen Carney (Chelsea), Danielle Carter (Arsenal), Toni Duggan (Barcelona), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Melissa Lawley (Manchester City), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Melbourne City), Ellen White (Birmingham City).

Meanwhile, although we are assured by the FA that the search for the new England Head Coach is well underway, some of the best candidates are slipping through their fingers.  John Herdman, the Canadian women’s coach has just left his post, but has gone directly to take over the Canadian men’s team.   One name that is, apparently, in the hat, is that of Phil Neville.  As the current parlance would have it, I’ll just leave that here.

Football – on the pitch

FA Cup Fourth Round

After the excitement of last week’s third round, the fourth round draw has been made and this is where the WSL sides make their first appearance.  Ties will be played on Sunday 4 February.  There is one outstanding tie from the third round this Sunday (14 January) when Derby County take on Brighouse Town fourth round fixture away to Sunderland AFC.

The New Saints v Chichester City
Durham v Sheffield
Aston Villa v Middlesborough
Sunderland AFC v Derby County/Brighouse Town
Keynsham Town v Lewes
Tottenham Hotspur v Doncaster Rovers Belles
Liverpool v Watford
Cardiff City v Oxford United
Reading v Birmingham City
Plymouth Argyle v Leicester City
Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester City
Blackburn Rovers v Charlton Athletic
Yeovil Town v Arsenal
London Bees v Chelsea
Everton v Bristol City
Millwall Lionesses v Coventry United

For fixture times and venues please see the FA Website.

Rugby Union – off the pitch

Rugby Australia

Good news from Australia this week as it was announced that a deal between Rugby Australia and the Rugby Union Players’ Association means that its men’s and women’s sevens sides will be paid the same (at entry level), at least until 2020.

The fifteens team, the Walleroos, will be covered by the new deal and will receive payments for Tests for the first time.

There will be a new Pregnancy Policy to ensure players have the security to return to their contracts if they have children.

Rugby Union – on the pitch

There was one game in the Premier 15s last weekend:

Worcester Valkyries 7-38 Loughborough Lightning

We’re all-guns-blazing again this weekend with a full programme of fixtures:

Saturday 13 January

Wasps v DMP Sharks (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Saracens v Worcester Valkyries (2pm, Allianz Park)
Harlequins v Loughborough Lightning (2pm, Surrey Sports Park)

Sunday 14 January

Richmond v Gloucester-Hartpury (2.30pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)

Cricket

WBBL latest scores:

6 January
Melbourne Renegades 142/6 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 145/3 (19 overs)
Stars won by 7 wickets

Jess Duffin top-scored for the Stars with 40, ably supported by Claire Koski, who finished 33 not out.  Erin Osborne took 2/14 from her four overs.  In response Georgia Elwiss scored 58 not out and Mignon du Preez 45 from 35 balls as the Stars took the game with an over to spare.

7 January
Hobart Hurricanes 111/4 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 114/2 (14.2 overs)
Heat won by 8 wickets

The Hurricanes’ total never looked like being enough.  Jess Jonassen took 2/17 off her four overs.  Beth Mooney scored an unbeaten 62 from 43 balls as the Heat got home easily.

Sydney Thunder 145/6 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 144/6 (20 overs)
Thunder won by 1 run

Scorchers needed three runs off the last ball, but as Mathilda Carmichael came back for the second, ‘keeper Rachel Priest took the ball and broke the bails, denying the second run and super over and claiming the win for the Thunder.  Earlier Priest had also top-scored with the bat with 42 from 32 balls.

But it was Rene Farrell who took the player of the match award for her dismissal of the two Scorchers openers.  She also effected the run out of Perth’s English batter Nat Sciver.

8 January
Brisbane Heat 168/4 (20 overs)
Hobart Hurricanes 126 all out (18.5 overs)
Heat won by 42 runs

Kirby Short starred for the Heat with 79 of 55 balls as they posted an excellent total.  In response the Hurricanes lost Hayley Matthews for just eight and after the top four had been dismissed, no-one else got into double figures.  All of the Heat’s seven bowlers, excepting bizarrely, Deandra Dottin, all picked up wickets to contribute to the win.

Sydney Thunder 134/4 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 136/2 (18.1 overs)
Scorchers won by 8 wickets

The Scorchers were back to winning ways on Monday as they beat the Thunder with nearly two overs to spare.  Alex Blackwell starred for the Thunder, scoring 81 off 58 balls, as their openers faltered with Priest bowled for a duck by the in-form Katherine Brunt.  Stafanie Taylor also contributed with 31.

Elyse Villani was run out early on for just nine for the Scorchers, but Nicole Bolton scored 28 and then England pair Nat Sciver and Brunt took it on, scoring 61 and 17 not out respectively to ensure the win.

9 January
Melbourne Stars 132/5 (20 overs)
Adelaide Strikers 134/9 (20 overs)
Strikers won by 1 wicket

Lizelle Lee top-scored for the Stars with 52 with Katie Mack backing up well with 42 from 32 balls

Although the Strikers all got starts, none went on to make a big score and with the Stars taking regular wickets it looked as if they had the game sewn up.

When the ninth wicket went on 129 with just two balls to go it was down to last recognised bat Tabitha Saville to score the winning runs.  Beams bowled a dot for the fifth ball but then committed the cardinal sin of bowling a no-ball on the sixth; one run for the no-ball and a free hit.  Saville tonked the free hit for four and the Strikers had won the game.

12 January
Melbourne Stars 133/3 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 134/5 (18.1 overs)
Heat won by 5 wickets

Beth Mooney is in fearsome form, as the Stars found to their cost on Friday.

Katie Mack put in her second big score of the week with 57 off 48 for the Stars with Mignon du Preez backing her up with 30.  Deandra Dottin took 2/13 off three overs for the Heat.

But there was no stopping Mooney.  She hit seven fours in an innings of 57 off just 38 balls.  She was ably supported by Jess Jonassen who scored 23 not out from 21 balls as the Heat won with nearly two overs to spare.

As it stands

Thunder are top with 12 points from 8 matches.  The Heat are second with the same number of points, but from nine matches.  They are followed by the Sixers and then the Strikers.  Hobart Hurricanes are still to get off the mark and are bottom with no points from eight games.

Hockey

Jaffa Super 6s Finals

The four qualifiers for Finals Day at the Copperbox Arena have been decided.  The men’s and women’s tournament will be played on Sunday 28 January and the semi-final line-up is as follows:

10.45 am – East Grinstead v Leicester
12 noon – Bowdon Hightown v Holcombe

The women’s final will be at 15.45pm.

Saudi Arabia

It’s finally happening.  Today women will watch a football match from inside the stadium – legally.

From now on, there will be areas for women fans in the grounds at Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.  There is a large female fanbase for men’s football in Saudi Arabia, but until now they have had to follow games on the television only.

The three grounds expect a big turnout at their first inclusive matches and also expect crowds to build over time.  Make no mistake, this is a significant step for sports-loving women in the country, and while we realise it’s a drop in the ocean compared to many indignities women have to suffer, it is, however, a very definite drop.

And finally,

Well done and commiserations to Ipswich Town Ladies in their third round FA Cup defeat to Charlton Athletic.  The Blues took the lead through Cassie Craddock in the second-half, but Charlton equalised and then took the lead.  Craddock was in again late on to take the game into extra time.  Charlton, top of the league above Ipswich, took their chances, scoring three during extra time to take the game 5-2.

 

Women’s Sports Column 30 December 2017 – 5 January 2018

new tennisWelcome to the first Women’s Sports Column of the New Year and let me wish you all a happy, sport-filled 2018.

It’s the relative calm before the storm at the moment, but there is plenty to come this year.  Stories this week come from taekwondo, tennis, a shocking story from cycling, New Year’s Honours, cricket, football and winter sports.

I’m also happy to say this week’s TWO “And Finally(s)” are positive ones.

Let’s crack on and start with taekwondo (don’t get to say that very often, but it’s a big (and a great) story.

Taekwondo

Bianca Walkden may have missed out on any kind of recognition from the Great British Public at SPOTY, but she completed her stellar year by annihilating all-comers last week to win the inaugural World Taekwondo Grand Slam Series title for the +67kg category.

She beat An Saebom of South Korea 14-1 in the quarter-finals and then recorded an 11-0 golden point victory over Nafia Kus of Turkey in the semi-final.

In the final she faced Jackie Galloway of USA, defeating her 10-2 to take the title and £52,000 prize money.

In 2017 she defended her world title and won all four Grand Prix events.

Next to compete in the Grand Slam Series will be Wales’ Lauren Williams, who fights in the -67kg category.  Charlie Maddock is next on 13 January in the -49kg category and Jade Jones competes on 20 January in her -57kg division.

Tennis

The world’s best tennis players are currently gearing up for the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open, which begins on Monday 15 January.

There are several warm-up events going on, the main ones being in Brisbane and Shenzhen, China.

Brisbane International

Heather Watson bowed out early on.  She won her first match, against Danielle Lao of the USA 7-5 6-3.  She won her second versus Misaki Doi of China 6-2 6-4, but succumbed in the third to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-4 6-1.  She still advanced to the round of 32, though, to Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-0 6-3.

British number one, Jo Konta, began well.  She was seeded five at Brisbane and in the round of 32 she defeated American Madison Keys 4-6 6-4 6-3.  In the round of 16 she beat wildcard Ajila Tomljanovic of Croatia 4-6 6-1 6-4.  These have been two gruelling three-set matches.  And this told on Konta as she withdrew with injury on Thursday as she played third seed Elina Svitolina.

Konta had been playing well up to that point, taking the first set 6-1 against the third seed.  The second went to Svitolina on the tie-break and she was 3-2 up in the third when Konta pulled out.

Konta had treatment on her right hip on the court and the injury is thought to be in the right hip/groin area.  There is no news yet as to whether she will compete in the Sydney International, the next warm-up tournament, which takes place next week and which she won in 2017.  .

The other quarter-finals were:

Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic) beat Kaia Kanepi (Estonia) 3-6 7-5 6-2
Anastasija Sevastova  (Latvia)beat Aleksandra Krunic (Serbia) 6-2 6-4
Aliaksandra Sasnovich(Belarus) beat Alizé Cornet (France) 3-6 6-2 6-3

In the semi-finals:

Sasnovich beat Sevastova 7-6 6-4
Svitolina beat Pliskova 7-5 7-5

The final is on Saturday 6 January.

Petra Kvitova had to withdraw before the start of the tournament with a virus and Wimbledon champion, Garbine Muguruza, withdrew during her second-round match after suffering a bout of cramp.  It’s pretty worrying that some of the big players (both men and women) have already pulled out of the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.

Shenzhen Open

No British interest here, but the quarter-final line-up was as follows:

Irina-Camelia Begu (Romania) beat Timea Babos (Hungary) 7-5 7-5
Simona Halep (Romania) beat Aryna Sabalenka (Belarus) 6-2 6-2
Maria Sharapova (Russia) beat Zarina Diyas (Kazakhstan) 6-3 6-3
Katerina Siniakova (Czech Republic) beat Kristyna Pliskova (Czech Republic) 6-2 6-2

The semi-finals finished:

Siniakova beat Sharapova 6-2 3-6 6-3
Halep beat Begu 6-1 6-4

The final is on Saturday 6 January

Serena Williams

Meanwhile there was a disappointing announcement today as Serena Williams withdrew from the Australian Open, as she doesn’t feel quite ready yet:

“Although I am super close, I’m not where I want to be,” she said.

It will be the first Australian Open she has missed since 2011.

Football – Off the pitch

No live football to report on at the moment, but plenty of transfer news.

Natasha Harding

The biggest news so far is that Natasha Harding has turned down a new contract with Liverpool, in favour of a move to Reading.

Harding is currently vice-captain of the Wales national side and has won 50 caps for her country.

Birmingham City

Chloe Peplow, currently on loan at Doncaster Rovers Belles was out of contract at the end of December and not going to renew, while German international striker Isabelle Linden, also out of contract at the end of 2017 is to leave as well.

On the other hand Marisa Ewers and Andrine Hegerberg have both extended their contracts with the club.

Doncaster Rovers Belles

Belles have pulled off somewhat of a coup with the news that former Rotherham and Leeds United manager, Neil Redfearn is to be the club’s new manager.

On the Pitch

Meanwhile the on the pitch action starts again this weekend with the following fixtures:

Saturday 6 January

FAWSL 1
Bristol City v Everton (17.30, Stoke Gifford Stadium)
Liverpool v Yeovil Town (17.30, Select Security Stadium)
Sunderland v Birmingham City (18.00, Mariners Park)

Sunday 7 January

FAWSL1
Chelsea v Arsenal (13.30, Kingsmeadow Stadium)
Reading v Man City (16.00, Wycombe Wanderers FC)

FAWSL2
Oxford United v Durham (12.00, Oxford City FC)
Aston Villa v London Bees (14.00, Tamworth FC)
Millwall v Sheffield FC (14.00. St Paul’s Sports Ground)
Tottenham Hotspur v Brighton & Hove Albion (14.00, Cheshunt FC)
Watford v Doncaster Rovers Belles (15.00, Kings Langley FC)

Cycling

Caroline Buchanan, Australian cyclist and two-time Olympian, is in hospital after suffering serious injuries in a car crash in New South Wales.

She suffered a broken nose, broken sternum and collapsed lung in the accident.

The 27-year old has three BMX world titles to her name, as well as five mountain bike world titles.

Needless to say, she will be out of action for some time.

 Cricket – WBBL

We’re about half-way in this year’s tournament.  Top of the pile lie Sydney Thunder with five wins from six with the Sixers in second with five wins from eight.  Hobart Hurricanes are yet to get off the mark with no points from six games.  Second from bottom with one win from six.

Most recent matches:

30 December 2017

Sydney Sixers 138 all out (19.5 overs)
Perth Scorchers 139/4 (18.5 overs)

Alyssa Healey was out for a first ball duck, but Ellyse Perry scored 45 and Dane van Niekerk 29 as the Sixers posted 138.  But it was not enough.  Elyse Villani scored 63 off 43 and Nicole Bolton 42 off 49 as the Scorchers eased home.

Hobart Hurricanes 112/8 (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 116/3 (17 overs)

Stafanie Taylor took 4/15 off her four overs as the Hurricanes slumped to 112 off their 20.  Rachael Haynes then took on the Hurricanes’ bowlers, scoring 64 off 49 balls as the thunder won with three overs to spare.

31 December

Hobart Hurricanes 97 all out (19.4 overs)
Sydney Thunder 99/2

The Hurricanes were comprehensively beaten by the Thunder on Sunday.  Samantha Bates took 3/12 four and Stafanie Taylor 2/13 off 2.4 as the Hurricanes could only manage 97 off 19.4 overs.  The Thunder took no time in knocking off the runs, scoring 99 in 15 overs.  Alex Blackwell top-scored on 43 not out.

Adelaide Strikers 119/7 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 122/2 (16.2 overs)

The Strikers could only post 119 and it never looked enough.  Most of their top names got a start but no-one could kick on as Bridget Patterson top-scored with 37.  It seemed as if Beth Mooney wanted to do it all on her own in reply as the scored 81 not out off 48 balls.  She was supported well by Kirby Short, who scored 27.

2 January

Sydney Sixers 128/7 (20 overs)
Melbourne Renegades 92 all out (19 overs)

Ellyse Perry top scored with 64 of 56 balls as the Sixers posted an average total against the Renegades.  But their opponents never got started in response with van Niekerk taking 4/13 off her four overs with Kapp and Aley taking two each as the Renegades subsided to 92 all out.

3 January

Bizarre and miraculous goings-on at Geelong as the Renegades v Sixers game went to a super over, but it would not have even got there if it hadn’t been for some smart work on the part of the Sixers.

Melbourne Renegades 120/7 (20 overs)
Sydney Sixers 120/7 (20 overs)

It had looked as if the Sixers had it in the bag until Perry was out and Chamari Attapatu had taken 2/6 in two overs.  It went down to the last ball – the Sixers needing three to win.

Sarah Aley went for the single and the game looked to be over, but Renegades keeper Emma inglis was too intent on celebrating and didn’t break the wickets to end the game.  Aley spotted the error and ran the second to tie the scores and send the game into a super over.

Sydney Sixers 8/2 (1 over)
Melbourne Renegades 9/0 (1 over)

Alyssa Healey perished for a first ball duck and Perry four, but the Sixers still posted a decent eight runs off their super over.

But the Renegades kept their cool with Jess Duffin hitting a single off Marizanne Kapp’s last ball to take the match.

5 January

Adelaide Strikers 144/5 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 122//9 (20 overs)

Tammy Beaumont top-scored for the Strikers with 46 from 48 balls as they posted a competitive total.  The Stars fell well short despite Lizelle Lee’s 44 of 42 balls.  Three ducks in a row down the order (King, Kearney, Faltum) put paid to any chance the Stars had of reaching the Strikers’ score.

Winter Sports

The Winter Olympics and Paralympics are fast approaching, so between then and now I’m going to try to get as many winter sports snippets into the column as I can.

 Alpine Skiing

Russian bans

Eleven Russian winter sports athletes have been banned for life from the Olympics after they were found to have committed doping offences at Sochi in 2014.  Out of the eleven, four are women:

Tatyana Ivanova (luge) – won silver in Sochi
Natalia Matveeva (cross-country skiing)
Liudmila Udobkina (bobsleigh)
Tatiana Burina and Anna Shchukina (ice hockey)

Mikaela Shiffrin

She’s odd-on to retain her Olympic slalom title, and Mikaela Shiffrin is already in fine form as she warms up for the big one.  Although she was upset in the giant slalom in Lienz, Austria , last week, she already has a 371 point lead in the World Cup standings with 881.  Viktoria Rebensberg lies second.

Skeleton

Meanwhile, in skeleton, the latest World Cup event, in Altenberg, Germany, the home nation made it a clean sweep with Jacquelline Loelling taking the title in 1:57.54 for the two runs.  Tina Hermann came second 0.13 seconds behind with Anna Fernstaedt in third 0.43 behind the winner.

For Great Britain, Laura Deas finished eighth, 1.35 seconds behind Loelling and Lizzie Yarnold nineteenth, a massive 3.22 seconds back.

Paralympics

There is no place in the GB Paralympic squad for Sochi skiing gold medallist Kelly Gallagher.

GB has two places available for visually impaired skiiers – these have gone to world champion Millie Knight and newcomer Menna Fitzpatrick.

There may still be a place for Gallagher, though, as other teams may not take up their full allocation and will be re-allocated elsewhere.

The Winter Paralympics begin on 9 March. Top of Form

Queen’s New Year Honours

Several sportswomen were honoured by the Queen:

Cricket
Heather Knight (OBE)
Tammy Beaumont, Anya Shrubsole (MBE)
Mark Robinson (women’s coach) (OBE)
Clare Connor (CBE) – tweet about Geoff Boycott notwithstanding, for services to cricket.

Paralympic Athletics
Stef Reid (MBE)

Other
Sarah Lewis (OBE) International Ski Federation secretary, for services to sport.
Joyce Cook (OBE) for services to sport and accessibility.
Sue Anstiss (MBE) for services to grassroots and women’s sport.
Christine Bower (MBE) British Olympic Association athletes services co-ordinator, for services to British Olympic sport.
Helen Phillips (MBE) for services to Welsh gymnastics and the Commonwealth Games Council for Wales.
Patricia Reid (MBE) Dunfermline Tennis Club secretary, for services to tennis and lacrosse in Scotland.

And Finally,

And finally, the Women’s Sport Trust has just issued its calendar of women’s sport for 2018.  So, if you missed it here’s the link: www.themixedzone.co.uk.  And if you don’t already subscribe to The Mixed Zone, a fantastic resource of articles by both professional athletes and writers, I suggest you do!

And and finally,

I don’t usually do endorsements, but in this case I’ll make an exception.  My friend Joanne is not just an ace yoga teacher, but also nutritionist par excellence.  She’s just started a new venture called “The Ravenous Athlete” with advice and help on what to eat and when if you’re serious about your sport.  If you need any help with your nutrition – given in a non-patronising, non-jargon way, please check her out: www.healthandhart.com.

 

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.

Women’s Sports Column 18-24 November 2017

CAYFS5MZWelcome 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…

Tennis

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.

Johanna Konta

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.

Hockey

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.

Quarter-final
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.

Semi-final
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.

Football

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

Jodie Taylor

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.”

 Jonna Andersson

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.  

Denmark Women

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.

Rugby League

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.

Rugby Union

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):

https://www.worldrugby.org/womens-rugby/development-plan

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.

First Test
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.

Second Test
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

Speed Skating

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.

Cricket

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.

Second T20
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.

Third T20
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.

Weightlifting

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.

Women’s Sports Column 11-17 November 2017

heartWelcome to this week’s column.  Only one top story this week and it’s not the one I was hoping for.  England were comprehensively outplayed by Australia in the first of their three T20s and Australia have, as a result, retained The Ashes with two games to spare.  Details to follow.  Hopefully this week’s offering will be a bit less controversial than last week’s, but there are still things to be said!

Stories this week come from cricket, football, rugby league, rugby union, hockey, winter sports and cycling.

Let’s crack on…

Cricket

The joy of the summer’s World Cup win is officially over and we England cricket fans are now in mourning once again as Australia retained the Ashes this week.

Test Match

The Test at the North Sydney Oval ended in a draw.  No space here to discuss the pros and cons of it, but suffice it to say, the surface was not conducive to producing a result, which was not fair to the excellent crowd present and viewing/listening.  Thus there then proceeded a raft of discussion about the merits (or otherwise) of Test match cricket in the women’s game.  “No appetite for it”, “Not going to be a major feature any time soon”, etc, etc, yelled the governing bodies.  Rubbish.  The players want it, the viewers want it, the crowds want it.  The only ones who don’t want it are the administrators.  They can’t be bothered to schedule it in.  And, crucially, they can’t be bothered to spend the money to host it.  I could go on – and I will at another time, but here are the match details:

England 280 all out
And 206/2

Australia 448/9 declared

Ellyse Perry was the standout superstar of this game.  She scored 213 not out in Australia’s first innings total of 448.  But the pitch did no-one any favours and it was always going to be hard for Australia to get 10 wickets in a day and an hour.  The England openers managed to see off a tricky night session to remain unbeaten going into day four.  Winfield (34) and Beaumont (37) built a platform that Knight and Elwiss took on, finishing undefeated on 79 and 41 respectively.

Points shared.

First T20 17 November
England 132/9 (20 overs)
Australia 134/4 (15.5 overs)

It was never enough.  England rallied late on but a score of 132 was never going to be enough to worry the Aussies. A disastrous opening saw England slump to 16/4.  Knight lasted two balls before she was caught behind by Healy.  Taylor was then given out to a ridiculous lbw decision – too high and possibly down leg side – apart from that it had everything going for it (!).  Brunt was culpable, though, a first ball slash and another catch for the excellent Healy.  Wyatt showed some resistance, building a partnership with Sciver.  But when she was run out on 50, it all went to pot again.  The Aussies also dropped five catches – things could have been much worse.

The batting was poor, not confident enough, not enough push and the Southern Stars would have been rubbing their hands and desperate to get out there to knock the total off.

And they did.  A fine 86 from Beth Mooney was enough to see them home.  The ball crashed to the boundary with monotonous regularity.  The bowlers huffed and puffed, but to no avail.  Brunt was off-key all day and suffered badly, conceding 33 in three overs.

Well done to Australia.  They outplayed England from the beginning of the game, and indeed, the beginning of the series.

The two remaining T20s are:

Sunday 19 November, Manuka Oval Canberra – 03.35 (GMT)

Tuesday 21 November, Manuka Oval Canberra – 8.10 (GMT)

Possibly as a distraction manoeuvre, the ECB released England’s fixtures for 2018 this week, so let’s look ahead to the summer:

Royal London ODIs v South Africa 

9 June: First ODI, New Road, Worcester (11am)
12 June: Second ODI, The 1st Central County Ground, Hove (D/N) (1pm)
15 June: Third ODI, Canterbury (D/N) (2pm)

IT20 Tri-Series – England, South Africa and New Zealand

20 June: The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton, South Africa v New Zealand, 1pm; England v South Africa, 5:40pm
23 June: The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton, England v South Africa, 1pm; England v New Zealand, 5:40pm
28 June: The Brightside Ground, Bristol, South Africa v New Zealand, 1pm; England v New Zealand, 5:40pm
1 July: Final, The Cloud FM County Ground, Chelmsford (3pm)

Royal London ODIs v New Zealand 

7 July: First ODI, Emerald Headingley (11am)
10 July: Second ODI, The 3aaa County Ground, Derby (D/N) (1pm)
13 July: Third ODI, The Fischer County Ground, Grace Road (D/N) (2pm)

Tickets on sale from 12 December

Rugby League

England’s women began their World Cup campaign with a fine win over the PNG Orchids.

England 36-18 PNG Orchids

Tries from Hoyle, Hardcastle, Stanley, Booth (2), Bound, Sutcliffe and goals from: Stanley (4) saw England home in their first match.  PNG’s scores came from tries from Kaupa and Oiufa.

In the other opening games Australia defeated Cook Islands 58-4 and New Zealand beat Canada 50-4.

England’s next game is against Australia on Sunday 19 November.

Football

On the Pitch

It was back to league action last weekend with a full programme of WSL1 and WSL2 matches.  Here are the scores:

Saturday 11 November

WSL1
Yeovil Town 0-2 Everton Ladies
Liverpool Ladies 1-0 Birmingham City Ladies

Sunday 12 November

WSL1
Reading Women 2-2 Chelsea Ladies
Arsenal 3-0 Sunderland Ladies
Manchester City Women 4-0 Bristol City Women

WSL2
Durham Women 0-0 London Bees
Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 Sheffield FC
Aston Villa Ladies 4-0 Watford Ladies
Millwall Lionesses 1-0 Oxford United Women
Tottenham Hotspur Ladies 1-4 Doncaster Rovers Belles

So in WSL1 Chelsea drop their first points of the season at Reading.  They are replaced at the top of the table by unbeaten Manchester City with 15 points from five games.  Chelsea are second with 13 and Arsenal third on 10.  At the bottom Yeovil are still yet to claim a point.  One up from them are Everton with three, after taking their first points of the season in beating the bottom side on Saturday.

In WSL2 Doncaster Rovers Belles lead the way with 11 points from five games.  Durham, Millwall and Brighton are just behind on 10.  At the bottom beleaguered Watford have just one point from five as do London Bees.  Aston Villa took their first points of the season against Watford.

Champions League

Manchester City and Chelsea eased into the Champions League quarter-finals this week.  And not to denigrate the earlier rounds, but here they cannot avoid meeting the big teams.

The round of 16 second leg results this week were:

15 November

Wolfsburg 3-3 Fiorentina
Wolfsburg through 7-3 on aggregate

Rosengård 0-1 Chelsea
Chelsea through 4-0 on aggregate

No score at half-time but in the 53rd minute Crystal Dunn put Ji So-Yun through to score for Chelsea and confirm their passage into the quarter-finals.

Lyon 9 (nine)-0 BIIK Kazygurt
Lyon through 16-0 on aggregate

Linköping 3-0 Sparta Praha
Linköping through 4-0 on aggregate

Barcelona 3-0 Gintra
Barcelona through 9-0

Montpellier 6-0 Brescia
Montpellier through 9-2 on aggregate

16 November

Slavia Praha 0-0 Stjarnan
Slavia Praha through 2-1 on aggregate

Manchester City 2-1 LSK Kvinner
Manchester City through 7-1 on aggregate

LSK took the lead in the second leg through Marie Berget, but the comeback really was never on.  A minute into the second-half Izzy Christiansen and Nikita Parris scored the second for City to take the win and a place in the quarter-finals.  Defender Megan Campbell (she of the long throw) was stretchered off for City, which will be of some concern.

The quarter-final draw is on 24 November.  News next week.

Continental Cup

We’re coming to the business end of the Conti Cup with the quarter-finalists almost decided.  The teams already qualified are Sunderland, Arsenal, Reading and Liverpool.

This week the scores were:

15 November
Liverpool Ladies 5-1 Aston Villa Ladies
Reading Women 4-0 London Bees
Yeovil Town Ladies 0-2 Bristol City Women

16 November
Sheffield FC Ladies 1-1 Sunderland AFC Ladies
Everton Ladies 4-0 Oxford United Women
Watford Ladies 0-6 Arsenal

Special mention to Reading this week as their game, marketed brilliantly and played at the Madejski Stadium drew a crowd of 2,110.  Fabulous for a mid-week Conti Cup match.  Well done to all at Reading.

Off the Pitch

WSL Applications

After the doom and gloom of last week, it’s good to bring you details this week of some clubs who are going to apply for a WSL licence.

London Bees announced this week that it is to apply.   A club statement said,

“London Bees has strategic planning to achieve growth, sustainability, increased financial investment and the exponential support for its players and staff. Our approach will promote effective use of the Grade A facilities here at The Hive London with new and exciting developments to the infrastructure, including a brand new Medical Centre.

“London Bees are delighted that new developments to our match day experience has led to increased attendances thanks to direct links with our community projects which reach across the county. We are proud to continue working with our existing partners and FA sister clubs as well as sponsors Canons High School for the coming seasons as we push the club to the next level.”

And after it looked as if it was not going to happen, Yeovil Town Ladies are also putting in a bid,

“After a lengthy and very detailed process of collaborative thinking and working with a number of interested parties, Yeovil Town Ladies FC has today submitted what it considers to be a very strong submission for a Tier One application for the 2018/19 season, to continue to play football at the elite level of the women’s game.

“The collaborative approach will not only see full-time players training 19.25 hours per week (rising to 20.25 in the 2020 season), but it also has a strong mission and vision, for the new academy programme.

“With an already strong and established partnership with Bridgwater and Taunton College, this will see the education partners not only become an essential part for the clubs future elite players, whereby players aged sixteen plus can study and play, but it also becomes the clubs full time training ground, with access to grass pitches, 3G, gym, performance lab, medical room, classrooms, analysis suite, plus more.

“Furthermore, the club has devised a strategic plan, which will focus on building its links even more in the community, with plans to engage with 20,000 children in the 2018/19 season.

“The application relies solely on developing and growing its own financial resources and is based on long term self sustainability which the Club has always placed at the heart of its ethos. It is not reliant in any way on any investment from Yeovil Town Football Club, which is named as the parent Club in the application.”

England

Next week sees the first of two World Cup qualifiers for England.  They play Bosnia & Herzegovina at the Banks’s Stadium, Walsall on Friday 24 November.  Kick-off is 7.05pm.

On Tuesday 28 they play Kazakhstan at the Weston Homes Community Stadium in Colchester.  Kick- off is also 7.05pm.

Mo Marley has already named her squad:

Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), Mary Earps (Reading), Carly Telford (Chelsea)

Defenders: Gemma Bonner (Liverpool), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Jess Carter (Birmingham City), Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Casey Stoney (Liverpool)

Midfielders: Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jo Potter (Reading), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Keira Walsh (Manchester City), Fara Williams (Reading), Leah Williamson (Arsenal)

Forwards: Karen Carney (Chelsea), Danielle Carter (Arsenal), Toni Duggan (Barcelona), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Melissa Lawley (Manchester City), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Arsenal).

Keira Walsh and Leah Williamson have been handed their first senior call-ups.

Tickets are still available for both games.  See here for details.

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s Tyrell’s Premier 15s results were as follows:

Richmond Women 5-43 Harlequins Ladies
Saracens Women 44-19 DMP Sharks
Worcester Valkyries 5-51Wasps Ladies
Gloucester-Hartpury Women 29-22 Firwood Waterloo Ladies
Bristol Ladies 8-12 Loughborough Lightning

England

England’s women will receive a match fee for the first time this autumn.  They have come to an agreement with the RFU and Rugby Players’ Association.

The figures have not been released but will apply to the three match series against Canada, which begins this Friday at Allianz Park.

Let’s face it, it won’t make up for the scrapping of contracts for the 15-a-side players, but it is a start.

The Old Mutual Wealth Series fixtures:

Game 1:  17 November, Aliianz Park 19.30
Game 2: 21 November, Twickenham Stoop 19.45
Game 3: 25 November, Twickenham 17.40 (after the men’s game against Samoa)

Coverage is via the England Rugby website, and allegedly, although it took me a long, long time to find it, the BBC will have radio coverage via their website.

Barbarians

Munster 0-19 Barbarians

Players from eight countries took part in the Barbarians’ first match in Limerick.  In the first-half the visitors took the lead through a penalty try as Munster stood up in the scrum and then prevented Kelly Russell from playing the ball.

In the second-half Irish prop Ailis Egan went over after a sustained drive.  It was converted by Player of the Match, Megan Goddard.

The Barbarians’ third came from the best move of the match.  The Baa-baas turned the ball over on their own 22, Nora Stapleton and Christelle LeDuff working the ball down the left wing to put England’s Georgina Roberts away to score.

Cycling

Track Cycling World Cup

Great Britain’s women won two golds and a silver at this, the second of five World Cup events, in Manchester last weekend.

Elinor Barker and Katie Archibald started the ball rolling on Saturday with a win in the madison.  The beat current world champions, Belgium, by two points with Italy third.  They then teamed up with  Emily Nelson and Neah Evans to take gold in the team pursuit, beating the Italian team in the final by almost five seconds.

Archibald also took silver in the omnium with American Jennifer Valente taking gold.

In other events Katy Marchant and Sophie Capewell reached the semi-final of the women’s team sprint, but lost to Germany.

Emily Kay was seventh in the scratch race, which was won by Rachele Barbieri of Italy.  Eleanor Dickinson finished eleventh and Hayley Jones of Wales twelfth.

Round three takes place in Milton, Canada from 1-3 December.

Winter Sports

Snowboarding

Katie Ormerod won silver at the first Big Air World Cup event of the season in Milan last weekend.

She had let going into the final round, but Anna Gasser of Austria snatched victory from her, pushing her into second.

Bobsleigh

But bad news from bobsleigh this week as Donna Creighton has announced her retirement from the sport.

Creighton was the pilot of the second team that was trying to raise £30,000 to compete at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in February 2018.  Unfortunately, while Mica McNeill and Mica Moore succeeded in their bid, Creighton’s bid raised only £12,000 by the deadline.

With the failure of the crowdfunding bid, Creighton has taken the difficult and distressing decision to call it a day.

Speed Skating

Elise Christie and Charlotte Gilmartin are both through to the semi-finals of the 1500m at the World Cup event in Seoul this weekend.  They are drawn in separate heats in the semis which take place on Friday 17 November.

Christie is also through to the quarter-final of the 500m and both are through to the quarter-final of the 100m where they are both drawn in heat two.

News of how they got on next week.

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Last weekend’s results were as follows:

11 November
University of Birmingham 4-1 Leicester
Surbiton 1-2 Buckingham

12 November
Canterbury 1-0 Bowdon
Clifton Robinsons 3-4 East Grinstead
Holcombe 3-0 Slough

After eight games Surbiton and University of Birmingham are joint top on 16 points.  They cannot even be separated on goal difference or goals scored!  Buckingham lie third, just a point behind.  Canterbury are at the bottom on five points from eight games, with Bowdon and Leicester above them on seven, with Leicester two better on goal difference.

And finally,

You will all know by now, that to me cricket is more dear to me than life, so I make no apologies for this: come on England (men), you have to beat those Aussies.  This is even more poignant now that the women have so horribly failed in their attempt to regain the women’s version.  So, Root, Cook, Anderson, et al, I am relying on you for this winter not to be a complete disaster.

Women’s Sports Column 4-10 November 2017

laura 1Welcome to this week’s column.  I’m back!  I hope you’ve all managed to satisfy your women’s sports craving somehow while I was away. I can’t begin to cover all that’s happened in those two weeks, but this week has been full to bursting with news; some good, some bad and some just downright baffling.

This week’s stories come from football, rugby, golf, hockey, winter sports, athletics and cricket.  My “And finally” comes from tennis – yep you can probably guess the one.

So let’s crack on.

Football

Off the Pitch

What on earth is happening to football?  Is the FA determined to scupper its progress?  And there has, undoubtedly, been progress.  I know this is a well-worn hobby horse of mine, but it seems that every time I look away, when I turn back another nail has been bashed into the women’s football coffin.

The 99th restructuring of the women’s game is the story of the week making the headlines and dividing lovers of women’s football throughout the country.

Firstly this week we heard that Watford, who play in WSL2, will not reapply for as WSL licence when their current one expires at the end of the 2017-18 season.

I think it’s worth reproducing the club’s statement in full:

“Watford FC will be seeking to re-energise a more community-focused approach to its ladies’ football offering at all ages, once its FA Women’s Super League licence expires at the end of the current 2017/18 campaign.

Over recent months, the Hornets have carefully considered all available options with regards to how it shapes a fully sustainable future provision of ladies football.

The club will continue to fund all aspects of the operational infrastructure at existing levels and is pleased to have already begun the research and planning phase.

This involves creating a clear pathway towards adult football provision, which will include an offering for 16-18 year-old players who are currently all-too-often lost to the sport through lack of realistic opportunities in the senior game.

This move will include an application to The Football Association for election of the senior team into the regional Women’s Premier League structure.

Watford FC will continue to work closely with its Community Sports & Education Trust to ensure all possible routes into football for enthusiastic local players are both maintained and enhanced.

There will also be the chance for both affiliated and independently-run organisations to partner with Watford FC with a view to extending the reach and breadth of the positive impact of this approach.

The stability the current Watford FC Ladies operation enjoys means that supporters can expect a vibrant and active community-led offering from summer 2018 onwards.”

This statement has sparked furious debate – on one side some say it is the club being pragmatic, still showing commitment to the game but realising its limitations at this time.  On the other side (and, you will probably not be surprised to read that I adhere to this) there are those who see it as a complete abdication of responsibility and a shocking lack of ambition.  If, as the statement says, “The club will continue to fund all aspects of the operational infrastructure at existing levels”, why are they not going to apply for a licence?  The infrastructure is in place for WSL2, so there is no extra input needed?  What exactly does “community-led” mean?  Is it a euphemism for “run by volunteers”?  Obviously all sport relies on the strength of its volunteers, very often even to make it viable, but you cannot run a club in the second tier of football with volunteers.

Wales international striker, Helen Ward, was a high profile signing for the Hornets.  She obviously saw the ambition in the club when she signed.  On 7 November she tweeted, “280 characters still isn’t enough to say what I want to say right now…so it’s best I don’t say anything at all.”

In a similar vein, yesterday Sunderland AFC also issued a statement:

“Sunderland AFC has today confirmed that the club will not be applying for an FA Women’s Super League (FA WSL) Licence in the first wave of applications. Instead, the club will focus on a joint bid for a Tier One licence in March.

Applications are currently open to existing FA WSL clubs, but due to the collaborative nature of Sunderland’s intended bid it would not be appropriate for the club to apply at this stage.

A club spokesperson said: ‘Sunderland AFC are committed to supporting women’s football and a joint approach, with combined resources, makes for a better and more sustainable model.

‘We have been working with our partners to ensure that we continue to provide the opportunity for elite female footballers in the North East to compete at the top level.’”

So that’s one WSL1 and one WSL2 effectively saying they’re not buying into the restructure.

And then you have Yeovil, desperate to be involved with the WSL but destined to be denied because they can’t raise the arbitrary £350k figure needed to qualify to apply for a licence.  But is it really because they’re not “fashionable”, or that they’re not affiliated to a men’s club (and we all know how well that worked for Notts County, don’t we)?   I ask you to read the Yeovil Chairman’s view: http://www.yeoviltownladies.com/news/views_from_our_chairman.html#IumCMSUCX7IFsW48.97

If you have any love for the women’s game I would also urge you to check out the Facebook Group, “FAWSL Fans United”

Something’s got to give here – let’s hope it’s not the whole future of women’s football in this country.

Right, now I’ve thoroughly depressed everyone, let’s carry on with what else has been happening in football this week.

Laura Harvey

Seattle Reign head coach, Laura Harvey, has resigned, re-igniting speculation that she is to take over as England Manager.

Harvey, who comes from Nuneaton in Warwickshire, has not indicated what her next move will be saying she will “take a little bit of time to reflect”.

She was boss at Seattle for five years, winning two NWSL Shields.  Her successor will be Vlatko Andonovski and Harvey will stay on for a period to see him settle in.

Joe Montemurro

Australian coach Joe Montemurro has been named as new Arsenal manager, after Pedro Martinez resigned in October.

He was manager at Melbourne City Women, winning two titles during his time there.

Manchester City

Nikita Parris has signed a new contract with Manchester City which runs until the end of the 2018-19 season.

They have also signed Swedish international forward, Julia Spetsmark, from KIF Örebro DFF.  She will be available to play in January 2018.

Jade Moore

Reading midfielder Jade Moore suffered a serious ankle injury during her side’s 5-0 win at Bristol City on Saturday.

She could be out for four months and requires surgery.

On the Pitch

Continental Cup Results:

4 November
Bristol City Women 1-2 Chelsea Ladies

5 November
Durham Women 0-0 Liverpool Ladies
Arsenal 1-2 Reading Women
Aston Villa Ladies 2-2 Sheffield FC Ladies
Birmingham City Ladies 3-2 Doncaster Rovers Belles
London Bees 3-4 Millwall Lionesses
Tottenham Hotspur Ladies 1-4 Brighton & Hove Albion
Manchester City Women 2-1 Everton Ladies

Champions League

This week saw the first leg ties of the last 16.  There were big wins for some of the tournament favourites, effectively sealing the ties before the second leg is played.  Both English teams had fine wins and the second legs are next week.  The scores were as follows:

8 November
BIIK-Kazygurt 0-7 Lyon
Gintra 0-6 Barcelona
Fiorentina 0-4 Wolfsburg
Brescia 2-3 Montpellier
Sparta Praha 1-1 Linköping

Chelsea 3-0 Rosengård

Chelsea’s excellent home form continued on Wednesday.  They dominated a useful Rosengård side and now should be through to the quarter-finals.  Fran Kirby scored the only goal of the first half.  In the second, Ramona Bachmann scored the second and Gilly Flaherty pounced on an error by former England international Anita Asante, to put away the third.

9 November
LSK 0-5 Manchester City

Manchester City are effectively into the quarter-finals with a good away win at LSK of Norway.  If I tell you City had 22 attempts at goal, to the home side’s three, you’ll probably understand the course of the match.

City took the lead on 26 minutes through Demi Stokes.  They doubled their lead just before half-time when Jane Ross was brought down in the box and Izzy Christiansen converted from the spot.

There was more of the same in the second period.  Claire Emslie scored City’s third on 69, while Jane Ross bagged a brace in the space of five minutes to complete the rout.

Stjarnan 1-2 Slavia Praha

Cricket

It’s pretty much make or break time for England’s cricketers as they take on Australia in the sole Test match of the Women’s Ashes.  After the three ODIs Australia lead 4-2.  With four points riding on the result of this Test match England really need to win.

After two days at the North Sydney Oval it’s fairly even.  Heather Knight won the toss and elected to bat.

England 280 all out

Tammy Beaumont top-scored with 70, while captain Heather Knight chipped in with 62.  Plenty of others got starts – Elwiss 27, Taylor 29 and Shrubsole 20, but no-one could make the bit score that could take a big total to an excellent one.

Australia 177/5 (stumps day 2)

In response Australia started well with Nicole Bolton and Beth Mooney falling in the twenties.  But it’s the best all-rounder in the world, Ellyse Perry, who is holding England up and is currently on 70 not out.  England will have to get her out, and quickly, on the third morning.

Golf

Park Sung-hyun of Korea has become the first LPGA Tour rookie to go to number one in the world rankings.

Park won two titles in the summer – the US Women’s Open in July and the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

She has finished in the top-10 nine times this year and has not missed a cut in 29 tournaments.

Athletics

Kenyan marathon runner, Jemima Sumgong has been banned for four years after having tested positive for EPO.

The Olympic marathon winner claimed she had been given the drug in hospital after suffering an ectopic pregnancy.  The claim was rejected by a Kenyan court who said that the paperwork offered in her defence has been supplied by “an imposter” and that her claim was “not authentic”.

Sumgong had admitted her “unfortunate offence and unintended mistake” when she was initially suspended in April, but the court found her uncooperative during the investigation.

There is still some mystery surrounding the exact circumstances of the administering of the substance, but the ban means she will unable to compete in Tokyo in 2020.

New York Marathon

Shalane Flanagan won the New York Marathon at the weekend – the first American woman to do so for 40 years.

She won in a time of two hours 26 minutes 53 seconds.

Mary Keitany of Kenya was second, 61 seconds behind the winner.

Manuela Schar of Switzerland won the women’s wheelchair race, beating five-time champion Tatyana McFadden into second.  She finished in a time of one hour 48 minutes nine seconds, almost three minutes ahead of McFadden.

Cycling

Jess Varnish will sue both UK Sport and British Cycling over the sex discrimination, victimisation and unfair dismissal she allegedly suffered at their hands in 2016.

Apparently UK Sport had applied to have her case dismissed, but on Monday a judge rejected the application and now Varnish can go to an employment tribunal.

A preliminary hearing will begin in April.  Expect this one to run and run.

Winter Sports

The Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Cup is underway in Lake Placid, USA.

Lizzy Yarnold won a bronze medal in the first race of the new Skeleton season.  She moved from fifth after the first run, to third after the second.  The winner was Janine Flock of Austria.

Fellow Briton Laura Deas finished fifth.

In the bobsleigh, Mica McNeill and Mica Moore, who you will remember had their funding cut and started a crowdfunding campaign to fund their bid to race at the Olympics in 2018, finished eighth in both of their runs to finish eighth overall.  Kaillie Humphries and Melissa Lotholz of Canada took gold.

Rugby Union

Joy Neville will become the first woman to referee a European men’s professional club fixture in December.

She takes charge of the Bordeaux-Begles v Enisei-STM match in the Challenge Cup on Friday 15 December.

She has been making marked progression in the game and refereed the Women’s World Cup final in August.

Last weekend’s Women’s Premier 15s scores were as follows:

4 November
Saracens Women 29-12 Bristol Ladies
Loughborough Lightning 27-15 Richmond Women
Wasps Ladies 31-3 Firwood Waterloo Ladies
DMP Sharks 39-5 Worcester Valkyries
Harlequins Ladies 39-12 Gloucester-Hartpury Women

After seven matches Harlequins are now top with 35 points, that’s seven bonus point wins.  Saracens are a point behind.  Wasps lie third, but the gap to second is 11 point.  At the bottom Worcester Valkyries are yet to claim a point, Firwood Waterloo are second from bottom on four points with the Sharks just above them on 13.

The eighth round is this weekend.  Get y ourselves out there to see some live action if you can.  It’s such a competitive league:

11 November
Richmond Women v Harlequins Ladies (2pm Richmond Athletic Ground)
Saracens Women v DMP Sharks (2pm Allianz Park)
Worcester Valkyries v Wasps Ladies (TBC Sixways Stadium)
Gloucester-Hartpury Women v Firwood Waterloo Ladies (TBC)
Bristol Ladies v Loughborough Lightning (7pm Portway Rugby Development Centre)

Hockey
Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

The results from last weekend were as follows:

4 November
Canterbury 1-1 Holcombe
Leicester 1-2 Bowdon
East Grinstead 0-2 Surbiton
Slough 0-1 University of Birmingham
Buckingham 3-2 Clifton Robinsons

After seven games Surbiton are still top with 16 points.  University of Birmingham are second with 13 with Buckingham third on 12.  Canterbury are bottom with just two points with Bowdon just above them on 7.

And finally,

It’s tennis in 2017 – is it?  Really?

Not technically a women’s sport story, but one that resonates with us all.  At the Next Gen ATP Finals draw in Milan, female models revealed the letters of the groups under their clothing, had to hang on the arm of the participants and other generally degrading stuff under the guise of “entertainment”.

When it was pointed out to the organisers that it probably wasn’t in the best of taste, they first suggested that they were just trying to refer to Milan’s place in the fashion world, but on further consideration (and a lot of bad press) a joint statement from sponsors Red Bull and the ATP said “Our execution was in poor taste and unacceptable.”

D’ya think?

Women’s Sports Column 14-20 October 2017

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  After last week’s epic, this column should be more within usual parameters!  But there’s still plenty of news; stories this week come from football, cricket, Aussie Rules Football, cycling, rugby, netball, taekwondo, hockey and boxing.

I was about to crack on, then I realised that the top three women’s sports stories are the debacle at the FA, the Danish women’s football team on strike and the fact that the IRB have advertised their women’s national side’s head coach job as a six-month part-time post.  Ho hum.  Don’t think I need to add anything there do I?

Let’s crack on.

Football

No doubt about the top story this week.  Really, if the FA were a soap opera you’d say it was too far-fetched.

I’m not going to go into the ins and outs as I will assume everyone is keeping up with it.  Blame has two lie at two doors – and while we’re blaming the first, let’s not forget about the second, shall we?

Firstly, the Football Association, which has mismanaged the whole situation right from the start.  No, this is not a “witch hunt” as the apologists might have it, but, let’s face it, something has been very wrong at the FA for some time.

Now it appears they ignored the facts before them, initiated a thoroughly useless investigation, came up with totally spurious results and then tried to bribe the complainant into telling the world that it wasn’t “institutionally racist”.  What could possibly be amiss?

The second investigation and subsequent grilling by MPs didn’t take long to show up the FA’s incompetence.

The FA has now apologised both the Eni Aluko and Drew Spence after Mark Sampson was indeed found to have made comments that were “discriminatory on the grounds of race”.

The inquiry also found that it did not believe Sampson to be racist but to have made “ill-judged attempts at humour” and also that Aluko’s bullying claim was not proven.

All through this ordeal Aluko has carried herself with dignity, sticking to her story and not bending, even when attempts were made to offer her “hush money.”

It is my view (neither original, nor unpopular) that the FA is an outdated, outmoded institution that needs to be looked at from the ground up.  Yes, there are black players and women on its satellite boards (see later for news of Dan Carter) but it still remains, at heart, a stale, pale, male, boys’ club.

Football is supposed to be the game of the people – and yet what does this tell us?  Who are the people, in the FA’s case?  Middle-aged (and older), white men.  As a consumer and lover of both women’s and men’s football, I can certainly say they don’t speak for me.

I listened to the debate on 5 Live on the subject this week.  It was really sad to hear Ian Wright, a great player, a role model for black teenagers (boys and girls), and an intelligent man, say he couldn’t work with the FA as it stands.  Mark Chapman was trying to get him to say he’d like to be involved, but obviously, looking at his conscience he said he wouldn’t be able to, even if approached.

And who can blame him?  I would like to think the top brass, Martin Glenn and Greg Clarke, are living on borrowed time.  But who knows?  Who can oust them?  And, more importantly, who would they be replaced by?

Going back to the second guilty party in this – let’s not forget Mark Sampson.  He has seemingly ruined his career over a spectacular inability to know his boundaries.  I don’t think he’s racist, he’s just another product of the “banter” culture, where people think it’s ok to say anything they want if they parade it under the label of “banter”.  Well it’s not.  The England set-up is a workplace, just like any other.  Such comment would not be acceptable in any other workplace, so it’s not acceptable here.  Anyone in such a position should have had courses in boundaries – and, equally importantly – should have known instinctively that he was crossing a line.

It’s not over yet, folks.  Let’s see what happens next.

Champions League Draw

The round of 16 draw was made on Monday.  Chelsea were not seeded, but managed to avoid the big guns of Lyon, Wolfsburg and Barcelona, but they still face a tough two legs against Rosenborg of Sweden.  Manchester City were seeded and will be happy with their draw against LSK Kinner of Norway.

First leg ties will be played on 8/9 November, with the return legs the following week.

Full draw:

Sparta Praha (CZE) v Linköping (SWE)
Gintra Universitetas (LTU) v Barcelona (ESP)
Chelsea (ENG) v Rosengård (SWE)
LSK Kvinner (NOR) v Manchester City (ENG)
Brescia (ITA) v Montpellier (FRA)
BIIK-Kazygurt (KAZ) v Lyon (FRA, holders)
Fiorentina (ITA) v Wolfsburg (GER)
Stjarnan (ISL) v Slavia Praha (CZE)

More from The FA

England and Arsenal striker Danielle Carter has been appointed to the FA Council.  Carter has graduated from the “On the Board” scheme, which works to promote diversity within football.  She also sits on Hertfordshire FA’s disciplinary panel.

Denmark National Team

In an unprecedented move, Denmark’s women’s team will miss their World Cup qualifier against Sweden on Friday as their disagreement with their governing body, the Danish Football Association (DBU) goes on.

The team is still on strike after the two proposals put forward by the players were rejected by the governing body.  The men’s team was to give £60,000 to the women’s team and the women to have the same basic rights as the men do.  There is also still an issue as to who employs the women’s team.  The Danish FA has put forward a deal which means that the women’s team would no longer be employed by the FA.  The team has rejected this.   It doesn’t look as if this is going to be solved any time soon, so expect more updates.

Scotland – World Cup Qualifying

19 October
Belarus1-2 Scotland

Scotland registered a win in their first World Cup qualifier in Minsk on Thursday.  Scotland had chances to score early on through Caroline Weir and Jane Ross, but on 25 minutes it was Belarus who put the ball in the net first, Anastasia Kharlanova lobbing the keeper from six yards.

Three minutes later Scotland were level when Ross poked in from a Weir corner.

In the second-half the visitor had several chances, but spurned them all, until on 62 minutes the pressure told when Ross got through the defence, crossed and the ball was turned into her own net by Anna Kozyupa.

After just one match in group B Scotland lie third with three points.  Switzerland top the table with two wins from two.

Scotland’s next match is against Albania at The Paisley Stadium on Tuesday 24 October.

England

Friday 20 October sees England play France in a friendly at the Stade du Hainaut.  Kick-off is at 8pm BST.  Coverage is via the BBC red button and online.  Apparently 18,500 tickets have already been sold.  It will be Mo Marley’s first test as interim England manager, and in terms of European opposition, doesn’t get much tougher.

Cycling
La Course

It was announced this week that the 2018 La Course will be a one-day only event.  This year’s was over two days, with an added mountain stage.

It was generally agreed that the two-day format didn’t really work, but the riders are certainly in favour of a stiffer, and longer, test.  By reverting to the one-day format, the Tour de France organisers are shirking their commitments to women’s cycling.  Like many women’s sports, women’s cycling has to fight for any recognition at all.  It’s hard to see that calling one cut-down stage of the men’s race is showing it any respect or commitment.

European Track Championships

The British team pursuit foursome has won silver at the European Track Championships in Berlin.

The four; Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker, Manon Lloyd and Emily Kay were beaten by Italy in the final.

This is Team GB’s first medal at the Championships.

Eleanor Dickinson finished fifth in the women’s elimination race, and the women’s sprint team of Sophie Capewell and Katy Marchant lost to Germany in the first round of their event.

Katie Archibald

Scottish track cyclist Katie Archibald is to join road racing team Wiggle High5 in 2018.  She is not giving up on the track but sees the road racing as an addition to her career.

She is hoping to be selected for the Setmana Ciclista Valencia, Tour de Yorkshire and The Women’s Tour, but she will also compete at the track world championships next March.

Cricket – The Ashes

As you will all know, the Ashes are very nearly upon us.  It has not been the ideal warm-up for England’s women as they have managed to play only 18 overs so far due to rain.

Their first game, against a Cricket Australia XI was called off after 18 overs and they didn’t even get on the pitch for their second, which should have been against Queensland Fire.

However, it has been a similar story for both sides, with Australia’s warm-ups abandoned too.

Australia will, no doubt, miss captain Meg Lanning and her replacement, Rachael Haynes is somewhat of an unknown quantity.  England will be buzzing after their World Cup win in the summer.  All of this should point to an England victory, but it would be a brave woman who came right out and said it.  So I won’t.  The Test match will be key, even with fewer points riding on it.  Am I nervous?  Only completely.  More details and analysis, as ever, to come in this column.    

The fixtures are as follows:

22 October: 1st ODI Allan Border Field, Brisbane SOLD OUT!
26 October: 2nd ODI Coffs International Stadium, Coffs Harbour, NSW
29 October: 3rd ODI Coffs International Stadium, Coffs Harbour, NSW
9-12 November: Day-Night Test North Sydney Oval, Sydney
 17 November: 1st T20 North Sydney Oval, Sydney
19 November: 2ndT20 Manuka Oval, Canberra
21 November: 3rdT20 Manuka Oval, Canberra

Full coverage, I’m delighted to say, is on BT Sport and begins on Sunday at 12.15am!  Be there, but if you can’t, make sure you watch the highlights later in the day.

ICC Women’s Championship

West Indies v Sri Lanka
Game two 13 October
Sri Lanka 162 all out (46.3 of 47 overs)
West Indies 163/3 (39.4 of 47 overs)

Although the top four batters got a start for Sri Lanka, 162 never looked like being enough to worry West Indies.  Afy Fletcher took 3/24 off 10 overs with Anisa Mohammed and Stafanie Taylor chipping in with two each.

In response West Indies made it look easy.  Taylor starred with bat as well as ball, scoring 60, with Deandra Dottin coming in late on to make 37 not out from 37 balls to seal the win and the two points.

Game three 15 October
West Indies 182/8 (45 overs)
Sri Lanka 142 all out (40.4 overs)

The Windies batted first, setting Sri Lanka a tough target.  Stafanie Taylor again led the way with 55, with Hayley Matthews contributing a fine 41 and Merissa Aguilleira 37.

Sri Lanka were always going to fall short.  Dilani Manodara top scored for them with 42.  Pick of the bowlers were Shakera Selman and Stafanie Taylor who took three wickets each.

So it’s so far, so good for the West Indies who lie top of the ICC Women’s Championship table with six points from three matches.

Tennis

Maria Sharapova claimed her first title since 2015 at the weekend, when she won the Tianjan Open.    She beat Aryna Sabalenka 7-5 7-6 in the final.   It takes Sharapova up to 57 in the world rankings.

Kremlin Cup

A couple of days and a few thousand miles later Sharapova was knocked out in the first round of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow.  She lost to Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 7-6 6-4.

We’re now at the semi-final stage and only one seed remains.

The draw is as follows:
Daria Kasatkina v Irina-Camelia Begu
Natalia Vikhlyantseva v Julia Görges (7)

Luxembourg Open

Heather Watson made good progress to get to the quarter-finals of the Luxembourg tournament.  She beat third seed Anett Kontaveit in the round of 16 6-4 6-4.  But she fell in the quarter-final to fifth seed Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-4 6-4.

And then it was two.  Naomi Broady put in an excellent performance against an under-par Sabine Lisicki to win 4-6 7-5 6-3.  She was however, like Watson, unable to repeat the feat in the quarters, going down 6-0 5-7 6-1 to Mónica Puig of Puerto Rico.

The semi-final line-up is:
Pauline Parmentier v Carina Witthöft
Elise Mertens (5) v Mónica Puig

 Boxing

Natasha Jonas won again at the weekend with a third-round stoppage of Marianna Gulyas of Hungary.

It is Jonas’ third win since her return to boxing and turning professional in 2017, after initially retiring in 2015.

Aussie Rules Football

The AFL has banned transgender athlete Hannah Mouncey from taking part in the 2018 AFLW.

The governing body said it took into consideration “transgender strength, stamina, physique, along with the specific nature of the AFLW.”

The AFL Players Association (AFLPA) responded with a statement accusing the AFL of having no “clear guidelines on transgender players”.  It also stated that “No athlete should face such confusion around their eligibility for an elite competition just days out from a draft.”

Mouncey already plays for the Ainslie club in the Canberra Women’s League and previously played for the Australian men’s handball team.

Although she is now ineligible for this year’s draft, she may be able to be considered for future seasons.

In response to the ruling Mouncey said,

“While I am extremely disappointed with the AFL’s decision regarding my participation in Wednesday’s AFLW draft, I thank them for the genuine way in which they approached my situation.

“Despite not being able to take part in the draft, the AFL has given me the all clear to play for Ainslie next year in the AFL Canberra competition for which I am very grateful and look forward to doing in 2018, before hopefully being able to nominate for next year’s draft”.

This is going to become an issue in many sports and each sport will have to have its own policy.  The AFL clearly has not had to make this decision before but it’s good to see that their General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy, Tanya Hosch is giving it consideration, although it is a shame they didn’t think to pre-empt such a situation,

“We acknowledge Hannah’s openness and cooperation. She has contributed to a process which will substantially inform the development of the AFL’s transgender policy and procedure for future players at the elite level,” she said.

Let’s hope they have that policy in place before such circumstances arise again.

Rugby Union

Ireland National Side

Your country has just hosted an incredibly successful World Cup.  As a host side you haven’t done too well, so unsurprisingly your coach steps down.  But the sport is on a high.  It’s finally getting the profile it deserves.  So what do you do?

Well, apparently you advertise the opening for the new coach of the national side as a part-time post for a six-month period.

That’s just what the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has done to the women’s national side.

Former coach, Tom Tierney, was their first coach employed on a full-time basis and showed the IRFU’s commitment to the women’s team in the run-up to the World Cup.

But now it’s over, it seems that commitment just isn’t there anymore.  England Rugby was similarly criticised when it announced that contracts for fifteens players would end after the World Cup and payments would be only made to sevens players.

It is, unfortunately, a story we see again and again in women’s sport, and I have covered it many times.  The governing bodies talk a good game, but usually that’s all it is.   I’m sick of writing it, and I’m sure you’re all sick of reading it.  But it seems as if the end of this kind of shoddy treatment is by no means nigh.

This weekend’s Tyrell’s Premier 15s fixtures are as follows:

21 October
Wasps Ladies v Loughborough Lightning (2pm Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Firwood Waterloo Ladies v DMP Sharks (2.30pm venue tbc)
Harlequins Ladies v Bristol Ladies (3pm The Stoop)
Richmond Women v Saracens Women (5.15pm Richmond Athletic Ground)

22 October
Worcester Valkyries v Gloucester-Hartpury Women (2pm Sixways Stadium)

Netball

The England Roses squad for their three-match series against Malawi in November has been announced.

Ama Agbeze will captain the side, with England’s most capped player, Jade Clarke, serving as vice-captain.

The squad in full is:

Ama Agbeze (Capt.), Jade Clarke (Vice-Capt.), Eleanor Cardwell, Beth Cobden, Kadeen Corbin, Sasha Corbin, Rachel Dunn, Jodie Gibson, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Josie Huckle, Vicki Oyesola, Natalie Panagarry

The series fixtures are:
Friday 24th November, Copper Box Arena, 7.45pm
Sunday 26th November, Copper Box Arena, 2pm
Wednesday 29th November, Genting Arena, 7:45pm

Hockey

The results from last weekend’s Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier League fixtures were as follows:

University of Birmingham 3-1 Surbiton
Canterbury 1-2 Clifton Robinsons
Holcombe 1-0 Bowdon
Leicester 0-0 Buckingham
East Grinstead 1-0 Slough

There was a shock defeat for Surbiton at the weekend as the reigning champions went down 3-1 in Birmingham.  England’s Lily Owsley scored the first for the home side from a penalty corner after eight minutes, but four minutes later the visitors were level through Rebecca Middleton.

On 50 minutes Alice Wills put Birmingham back in front and Erica Sanders ensured the win nine minutes later.

After four games Holcombe are top of the table with eight points.  Slough and Surbiton are second and third respectively on seven with Slough in second on goal difference.

Para-taekwondo

Britain’s Amy Truesdale has won gold in the K44 +58kg category at the Para-taekwondo World Championships in London.

It is Truesdale’s fourth medal in the event having claimed gold in 2014, and bronze in 2009 and 2015.

She was leading 17-3 in the final against Rajae Ajkermach of Morocco when her opponent had to withdraw with an injury.

And finally,

 There will be no column for two weeks now, as I’m off on my hols.  I’d like to say I was off to Oz for the Ashes, but I’m not, so I won’t.  I’ll be back on Friday 10 November with the all the news, views, fixtures and results from that week, plus any burning issue that has arisen while I’ve been away.