Women’s Sports Column 14-20 July 2017

laura 1Welcome to this week’s column.  After last week’s marathon, hopefully it’s a bit more of a sprint this week, although with so much going on it’s hard to keep it brief.  But here goes.  Stories this week come from cycling, netball, cricket, lacrosse, football, athletics, hockey and diving.  England teams managed to appear in three semi-finals in two days this week!

Cricket World Cup

I don’t have the room to go through the last group of round-robin matches, so instead I’d like to concentrate on the semi-finals.  And what games they were!

18 July

England v South Africa
Bristol

Shrubsole says “What’s all the fuss about?”

South Africa 218/6 (50 overs)
England 221/8 (49.4 overs)
England won by 2 wickets

Well that was too close for comfort for England (understatement).

When South Africa only posted 218, England must have been rubbing their hands.  But, as we know, chasing is not England’s strong point and they seemed to do everything they could to lose it.

Opener Laura Wolvaardt scored a fine 66 from 100 balls, which was needed when the dangerous Lizelle Lee was bowled by Anya Shrubsole for just seven.  Trisha Chetty was done by a remarkable world-class stumping from Sarah Taylor off the bowling of Nat Sciver.  Mignon du Preez then came in and scored 76.  But other wickets fell cheaply with both Kapp and van Niekerk run out.  The hard-hitting Chloe Tryon was caught and bowled by Jenny Gunn and South Africa were faltering.  It was a patchy and slow innings and 218 should have been well within reach for England.

They got off to a steady start in reply.  The first wicket partnership was 42 before Lauren Winfield was caught by du Preez off Khaka for 20.  Beaumont followed soon afterwards for 15 and it was up to Sarah Taylor and captain Knight to steady the ship.  At this point it was serene progress.  Then chaos ensued.  Taylor was run out needlessly for an excellent 54 – she had looked good to go on a make a big score.  It was Knight’s fault and this obviously disturbed her as she was dismissed next over, smacking a Luus full toss straight to Wolvaardt.  Four balls later Sciver was bowled by Luus for 3 and England were in disarray.

Katherine Brunt was the sixth wicket to go, bowled by Daniels and the crowd didn’t quite believe what they were seeing.

Fran Wilson was seventh to go, committing (in my eyes) the ultimate sin by trying one of those hideous scoop shots and it going straight to the keeper.  Unnecessary and reckless at this point in the game.  England were then 213 for seven with two overs to go.

Jenny Gunn was playing a storming innings at this point, but running out of partners.  When Laura Marsh came in England needed five runs from ten balls.  Sounds easy.

Last over with the intimidating and fast Shabnim Ismail to bowl it.  Three runs needed.  Third ball Marsh is bowled and England still need two to win off three balls.

Enter Anya Shrubsole.  First ball hit for four and England win.  You can practically see her saying “Why are you all messing about?  Let’s get this done.”  And she did.

The South Africans were rightly devastated, but England go on to the final.  Would they face their old foe Australia, or the only team to defeat them in the World Cup so far, India?

20 July

Australia v India
Derby

Australia have no answer to Harmanpreet Kaur

India 281/4 (42 overs)
Australia 245 all out (40.1/42 overs)
India won by 37 runs

When the Derby day dawned dark and rainy it looked as if the reserve day might come into play.  But no-one foresaw what was to come as both the weather and the play brightened until we were blinded by the brilliance of one player in particular – Harmanpreet Kaur.

In a game reduced to 42 overs India made a steady, if unspectacular start.  Smriti Mandhana fell cheaply to Schutt and Raut soon after, but captain Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur began to build a partnership slowly and steadily.  Raj fell with the score on 101 in the 25th over and from then Kaur took over.

Kristen Beams bowled possibly the widest, biggest no-ball ever seen and Kaur hit the resultant free-hit for six.  She seemed to take this as a sign to cut loose.  And so she did.  From then on it was carnage.  There were sixes and fours a-plenty as she ended up with a magnificent 171 off 115 balls.  Towards the end of the innings she began to limp with what looked like either cramp or a thigh injury, but it didn’t seem to hold her back.  She was ably backed up by Deepti Sharma with 25.  The Australian bowlers were battered and bruised and Lanning appeared bereft of ideas as India racked up an incredible 281 for 4 off just 42 overs.

So what would Australia’s response be?  In truth they got further than they should as Alex Blackwell refused to capitulate, but there was no way India were giving it up.  The scorecard makes strange reading.  The openers were dismissed cheaply and when Lanning was bowled by Goswami for an eight-ball duck they were in trouble.  Perry and Villani did their best, scoring 38 and 75 respectively, but when Perry was out in the 27th the score was 140/5 and Australia were way behind the rate.

Blackwell tried her best, but wickets fell all around her and they were all out in the penultimate over.

India were worthy winners and they will be tough opponents in the final.  I don’t suppose I’m giving anything away when I say England have got to win the toss on Sunday and bat?  I didn’t think so.

Off the pitch

Pakistan

There have been reports that Pakistan’s women team have been cold-shouldered by the Pakistan Cricket Board since their return from the World Cup.

Pakistan lost all seven of their matches, but showed definite spirit, promise and improvement in all aspects of the game.

However, this obviously wasn’t good enough for the PCB as not a single representative turned up to meet the team on their return and no onward travel was organised.  One member of the team was picked up and taken away on a motorbike by her father.

According to an article on “The Nation” website, the governing body was “very angry” at the team’s performances and that wholesale changes would be made.

An unnamed source is also quoted,

“Most of the non-performing teams as well as old players, who are now have well passed their peak will be replaced with the young and talented girls, who are performing exceptionally at national level and are knocking at the national team’s door.”

Since the situation was made public the PCB has issued a statement:

“The PCB wishes to clarify that as per the usual practice all logistical arrangements were made for the national women’s team on their arrival from England, Monday June 17. There was a bus ready to take the players to the National Cricket Academy (NCA) and from there to their homes if needed.

“Officials from the Women’s Wing were present to facilitate the players and management, some of the players though opted to return home through their own transport with their families after seeking due permission from the team manager.  The PCB regrets news items in certain sections of print and electronic media that erroneously claimed that there were no arrangements made for players’ return from the airport.”

I’ll leave it with you, but you can expect the fallout to continue for some time to come.

Football

As one stunning tournament draws to a close, another begins.  And so it will be for the rest of the summer!  The Women’s Euros are finally underway, after what seems to have been a long, long build-up.

Women’s Euros

Everyone has now played one game with Group A having played two.

16 July
Group A

Netherlands 1-0 Norway

The hosts kicked it all off in front of a sell-out (and distinctly orange) crowd of 21,732 in Utrecht with a 1-0 win over Norway.  Utrecht-born Shanice van de Sanden, who plays in the WSL for Liverpool, scored the only goal, heading in from a great cross by Lieke Martens.

Denmark 1-0 Belgium

It was a one goal game in Doetinchem too as Sanne Troelsgaard headed in after Pernille Harder’s free-kick had been tipped onto the crossbar.

17 July
Group B

Two surprise results on day 2.

Italy 1-2 Russia

Russia scored twice in the first 30 minutes to shock Italy.  Elena Danilova scored the first and Elena Morozova the second to put Italy on the back foot.

In the second half Italy huffed and puffed and had chances.  They pulled one back through Ilaria Mauro and then thought they had equalised in the last minute but Elisa Bartoli was adjudged (correctly) offside.

This was Russia’s first victory in a Euros tournament.

Germany 0-0 Sweden

Shock number two of the day came in Breda, when Sweden after 11 attempts, finally managed to end on level terms with Germany.

In truth Germany didn’t play well and Sweden’s defence was organised.

18 July
Group C

Austria 1-0 Switzerland

Another first as Austria won their first game in major tournament.

Austrian captain Nina Burger’s goal in the first half was enough to take the points.  Switzerland’s misery was compounded after the break when Rahel Kiwic was sent-off for a professional foul – the first red card given in a Women’s Euros since 2009.

France 1-0 Iceland

It looked as if Iceland had earned a priceless points against one of the tournament favourites in Tilburg but five minutes from time France were awarded a penalty.  Eugenie le Sommer calmly slotted it home to seal the win.

19 July
Group D

Spain 2-0 Portugal

Portugal were all-but defeated by half-time as first Vicky Losada and then Amanda Sampedro scored for an impressive Spain side.

Portugal were completely overrun, failing to get a shot on target in the match.

England 6-0 Scotland

The Lionesses began in the best possible style with a thumping win over Scotland.

Jodie Taylor scored a hat-trick, while Ellen White, Jordan Nobbs and Toni Duggan each got one to complete an excellent win against a Scotland side that were clearly suffering from first-night nerves but also missing important players due to injury.

Taylor’s first came in the tenth minute when she got on to Fran Kirby’s flick to score.  Her second came after a melee in the goalmouth.  Ellen White then put away her seventh in nine games to make the score 3-0 at half-time.

Taylor grabbed her third in the 53rd minute as she lobbed the keeper.  She was then substituted on the hour mark to a standing ovation.

England’s fifth came through a Jordan Nobbs volley and Toni Duggan banged in another in injury time to complete the rout.

To make matters worse for Scotland, striker Jane Ross injured her shoulder during the match and may well miss their next game against Portugal on Sunday 23 July.

England are notoriously slow-starters and this result should send out a warning to the tournament’s other favourites, particularly as no-one else has had such an impressive start.  Of course England should not slip into complacency and their biggest group test will come against Spain on Sunday.

20 July
Group A

Norway 0-2 Belgium

It was another disappointing performance from Norway as they lost 2-0 to Belgium in Breda.

Belgium took the lead just on the hour when Elke van Gorp scored from close range.  Their second was headed in by Janice Cayman, who was allowed to get there first after some slack Norwegian defending.

Norway will be hard-pressed to qualify now and their last group game is against the in-form Netherlands on Monday 24 July.

Netherlands 1-0 Denmark

It’s two from two for the hosts as they held on to a goal lead to take the points against Denmark.  Although they dominated for large parts of the game, the Danes applied pressure of their own after going behind and, it could be argued, deserved an equaliser for all their hard work.

The only goal of the game was a penalty, scored by Sherida Spitse after Danielle van de Donk was fouled in the box.

Off the Pitch

WSL2 club Brighton and Hove Albion have announced their new manager will be former England Head Coach Hope Powell.

It is Powell’s first management job since she was sacked from the England post after the team’s poor performance at the 2013 Euros.

Netball 

World Youth Cup

England took a sensational bronze medal after defeating Fiji in the third-place play-off 70-35.  The winners were New Zealand who beat neighbours Australia in an exciting and tight final 60-57.

England’s placing is even more impressive when you know that the entire coaching team were out of action for several days due a sickness bug going through the camp.  At one point three players and four coaching staff were in quarantine.

Off the Court

Loughborough Lightning announced this week that head coach Karen Atkinson is to leave her role to move to Italy.

Atkinson had been in the role since 2014.

Cycling

La Course

The first stage of the two-part La Course event has been won by Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten.  She probably wouldn’t thank me for mentioning this, but you will remember van Vleuten from Rio 2016 when she suffered that terrible crash while leading the road race – yes, that crash.

Britain’s Lizzie Deignan finished second, 43 seconds behind.

The second stage is a 22.5km “chase” in Marseille and takes place on Saturday.

The top riders will go according to time gaps with van Vleuten off first.

 Stage one result:

  1. Annemiek Van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) 2hrs 7mins 18secs
  2. Lizzie Deignan (Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam) +43secs
  3. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Highs) +1min 23secs
  4. Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam) +1min 28secs
  5. Shara Gillow (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) +1min 33secs
  6. Amanda Spratt (Orica-Scott) +1min 41secs
  7. Lauren Stephens (Team Tibco – Silicon Valley Bank) +1min 51secs
  8. Ana Christina Sanabria Sanchez (Servetto Giusta) 2mins 24secs
  9. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3 Procycling) 2mins 52secs
  10. Hanna Nilson (BTC City Ljubljana) 3mins 04secs

Hockey

World Hockey League Semi-Finals

It was heartbreak for England on Thursday as they went out in the last four to the USA in a penalty shoot-out.

England took the lead early on through Hannah Martin.  They kept the lead until three minutes from time when, down to 10 players, after Lily Owsley was yellow carded, Jill Witmer equalised.

The penalty shoot-out was a mass of blanks!  Melissa Gonzalez scored the only penalty for the USA and Sarah Haycroft England’s only penalty to take it into sudden death.

Alex Danson missed her attempt, but Gonzalez scored again to win the game.

Sunday’s final will be between USA and Germany, who beat Argentina 2-1 to get there.

England will play Argentina in the third-place play-off.

Lacrosse

Rathbone’s Lacrosse World Cup
Quarter-finals:

England 9-5 Wales

England ‘s fast start saw them take a 6-1 lead by half-time and although Wales fought back they couldn’t quite pull it back enough.

Sophie Brett scored a hat-trick and the other goals came through Olivia Hompe, Laura Merrifield, Torz Anderson and Jenny Simpson with a brace.

By the time Wales put the pressure on it was too late.

USA 20-3 Israel

World number ones USA worked their magic again as they convincingly defeated eighth seeds Israel.

Israel started strongly, but once the USA were back in the game they took over and at the half-way stage it was 13-3 to the USA.

After the break it was a one-sided affair as the reigning champions added another seven goals.

Australia 21-6 Scotland

Another one-sided affair in the third quarter-final as Australia beat Scotland for the second time in two days.

Scotland started well, but by half-time they were 11-3 down and struggling.  Australia continued to dominate in the second period and won comfortably.

Canada 16-1 New Zealand

Canada are ranked second in the world for a reason.  They took New Zealand apart to take up the fourth spot in the semi-finals.

Canada took the lead after just 57 seconds and were 11-0 up at half-time.

New Zealand never stopped fighting but it was in the final third that they couldn’t convert.

Semi-finals

USA 19-8 England

Semi-final heartbreak part two for England came within hours of England hockey’s defeat.

It was always going to be an uphill task for England against the world’s number one ranked team.

It was a tight game in the first-half, even though England were 2-0 down after just two minutes.

They drew level after five minutes through Laura Merrifield and Lucy Lynch and were only 5-9 down at half-time.

In the second-half England kept up until a devastating 15 minute spell with eight unanswered goals for the USA took the game away from the hosts.

England will now play Australia in the Bronze Medal match on Saturday 22 July.

Canada 8-6 Australia

By half-time Canada were 5-3 ahead with all to play for.

Thirty seconds after the break Australia pulled the deficit back to one.  With two minutes 45 to go and Australia ahead for the first time it took a Dobbie score to take it into overtime.

Kinna and Jimerson scored for Canada in overtime to seal the victory.

The final, between USA and Canada will be on Saturday 22 July.

Athletics

World Para-athletics Championships

I have been most remiss in recording the excellent performances by British women athletes at the World Para-athletics Championships over the last couple of weeks, so here’s a round-up of what has happened so far:

Gold medals have gone to Georgina Hermitage (400m T37), Hannah Cockroft (100m T34, 400m T34, 800m T34), Sophie Kamlish (100m T44), Olivia Breen (Long jump T38), Samantha Kinghorn (200m T53), Sophie Hahn (200m T38), Hollie Arnold (Javelin Throw F46) and Stef Reid (Long jump T44).

Hannah Cockroft has yet again shown she is amongst the very best in the world this week.  She has won three golds and has now won 10 world titles and five Paralympic gold medals.

Georgie Hermitage won the T37 400m in a world record time of 1:00.29.

Kare Adenegan claimed a silver and two bronzes in the 100m T34, 400m T34 and 800m T34 respectively.

Bronze medals have also been won by Sammi Kinghorn (400m T53), Maria Lyle (100m T35), Kadeena Cox (200m T38) and Gemma Prescott (F32 club).

And finally,

To keep the wolf from the door I have had to get a non-writing, but paid, job.  I will endeavour to keep up with the column, but there may be times when it is brief, or indeed, non-existent.  I realised when I went freelance that it was going to be an uphill struggle to get paid work.  Let’s face it, I’ve painted myself into the smallest corner possible: I’m a woman, of an “advanced” age, writing about sport, focussed on women’s sport, and not living in London!  I’ll keep at it, that’s for sure – there are so few of us still that I have to do it (and I’m still available for commissions).  So thank you all for your support and bear with me.

There will be no column next week as I will be working elsewhere, but I will be at the World Cup final at Lord’s on Sunday so look out for a report and photos midweek.

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Women’s Sports Column 4-10 February 2017

12928352_10201803729532769_8195423317764149816_nWelcome to this week’s column.  There are things good and bad this week, as usual.  I have found it difficult to be upbeat this week, some of the reasons for which I outline in “And finally”, but I hope that the news I give here is largely positive and makes you all feel positive about women’s sport.

This week’s stories come from rugby, football, cricket, golf, athletics, netball, winter sports and tennis.

Football

Notts County

Things are looking up for Notts County.  I reported a couple of columns ago that a winding-up order had been issued.  This threat now seems to be receding.

The petition has now been adjourned for 49 days.  The new Notts County owner, Alan Hardy, attended the hearing.

They still have to find the money to pay off their debt to HMRC.

But there seems to be no exodus of players from the club – in fact they are still making signings.  They are also advertising for a physio, so hopefully they will pull through.

Watford

Another club seemingly in trouble is Watford Ladies.

Last week they conceded their FA Cup tie against Doncaster Belles without a ball being kicked.  The club statement said that this was done,

“in order to ensure necessary preparations were fully in place ahead of the start of the league fixture programme”.

But since then they have appointed a new head coach, Keith Boanas, and held a series of meetings to discuss the future.  They have assured the league and their fans that “we believe we’re now on a very firm footing”.

Hopefully the club is in the process of ironing out its problems and will be back on course soon.

Indian Women’s League results

5 February

FC Pune City 0-5 Rising Student FC 

6 February

Aizawl FC 0-3 Eastern Sporting Union FC

Jeppiaar Institute 1-1 Alakhpura FC

8 February

FC Pune City 4-0 Aizawl FC

Rising Student FC 7-0 Jeppiaar Institute

9 February

Alakhpura FC 0-1 Eastern Sporting Union FC

That concludes the league stage.  The semi-finals, which take place on 11 February line-up as follows:

Rising Student FC v FC Pune City

Eastern Sporting Union FC v Alakhpura FC

I’m sorry I’ve only been able to bring the bare results, but it is all the information I have been able to glean.  I wish I could have seen some of the action, but I think it’s important just to mention it.

Cricket

The Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament is underway in Colombo.  The top three finishers go through to a “Super-6” section (it’s never simple with the ICC).  This is how it stands at the moment:

Team Matches played Won Lost tied No result Points
GROUP A            
India 2 2 0 0 0 4
Sri Lanka 2 1 1 0 0 2
Ireland 2 1 1 0 0 2
Zimbabwe 1 0 1 0 0 0
Thailand 1 0 1 0 0 0
GROUP B
Pakistan 3 2 1 0 0 4
South Africa 2 2 0 0 0 4
Bangladesh 3 2 1 0 0 4
Scotland 2 0 2 0 0 0
Papua New Guinea 2 0 2 0 0 0

Tennis

Great Britain have made a fine start to the Fed Cup this week.

Britain are seeded third out of the 14 nations taking part in Tallinn and first in their group.

They began their group C campaign with a 3-0 win against Portugal:

Both Heather Watson and Johanna Konta won their singles matches and then Jocelyn Rae and Laura Robson won the doubles to make it 3-0.

Heather Watson beat Ines Murta 6-1 6-1

Johanna Konta beat Michelle Larcher de Brito 6-2 6-4

Rae and Robson beat De Brito and Murta 6-2 6-3

The team then went on to beat Latvia by the same margin

Heather Watson beat Diana Marcinkevica 6-3 6-0

Johanna Konta beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 6-3

Rae and Robson beat Daniela Vismane and Marcinkevica 6-0 6-7 6-2

Great Britain play Turkey today (Friday).   The four group winners will play promotion play-offs on Saturday.  The two winning nations will then qualify for World Group II play-offs in April .

The group winners will play-off against the Group B winners on Saturday.

The groups line-up as follows:

Pool A: Poland, Georgia, Austria

Pool B: Croatia, Hungary, Bosnia/Herzegovina

Pool C: Great Britain, Turkey, Latvia, Portugal

Pool D: Serbia, Israel, Bulgaria, Estonia

Golf

Britain’s Laura Davies equalled the course record with an eight-under-par 65 in the first round of the Oates Vic Open in Victoria, Australia.  She hit six birdies and one eagle in the process.

She heads the leaderboard by two going into the second round:

-8 L Davies (Eng), -6 N B Larsen (Den), H Clyburn (Eng), S Gal (Ger), W Hillier (Aus), M Reid (Eng), -5 H-J Choi (Kor), K Kirk (Aus), M Parra (Spa), A Yin (US)

Speed Skating

 Elise Christie will miss a second World Cup event because of concussion.  She was unable to compete in Germany last week and will also miss this weekend’s event in Belarus.

Christie is now focussing on the World Championships which take place in the Netherlands from 10-12 March.

Athletics

 US athlete and former Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson has been banned from athletics for three months after testing positive for a banned diuretic.

She said she was given hydrochlorothiazide for high blood pressure but didn’t understand the ramifications regarding doping.   Her ban has been in place since 1 December.

Netball

England were disappointingly well beaten by New Zealand in their second game of the Quad series in Liverpool.  They lost the game 61-37.  By half-time they were 11 behind and were never going to make up the difference.

They needed to improve greatly if they were to make it a game against Australia.  And this they did.  They still lost 47-46, but the improvement in their work-rate, shooting and defending will give coach Tracey Neville great heart.

With 10 seconds to go England only needed one goal to take into extra time, but Sharni Layton, so often the thorn in her opponents’ side intercepted to prevent the goal and win the game.

As expected, Australia retained their Quad series title this week, but they were made to fight for it every step of the way by the England Roses.

To some extent Neville will be frustrated.  She will wonder how three such different performances were produced.  They won in extra time against the Proteas, lost catastrophically to the Silver Ferns and ran the Diamonds close.  I don’t envy her trying to draw conclusions from this.

It was also good to see the BBC covering some of the games.

Wales v New Zealand

After the Quad series was over the Silver Ferns played two tests against Wales this week.  Although Wales are improving as a netballing nation, in truth it wasn’t much of a contest.  It was, however, a chance for netball fans to see Wales play one of the world’s best teams in Wales.

Wales 27-92 New Zealand

Wales 39-72 New Zealand

Wales were somewhat overawed in the first game, but fought well in the second to produce a much-improved display.  Wales will now be working towards the Commonwealth Games which take place on the Gold Coast in 2018.

Rugby

 Six Nations

There were wins for England, Wales and Ireland in the first round of the Six Nations last weekend.

Scotland 15-22 Ireland

Broadwood Stadium 3 February

Ireland took a bonus point win in the first game of the 2017 Championship to leave them top of the table after the first round of matches.

Scotland scored first through Jade Konkel, powering over after just five minutes.  Sarah Law scored the conversion to make it 7-0 to the home side.

Then Ireland had a period of sustained pressure which resulted in Sene Naoupu going over from close range.  The conversion was missed.

Ireland then scored their second, this time through Alison Miller, who went over in the corner, but the conversion was missed again.

Scotland hit back as Player of the Match Konkel went over again.  Law missed the conversion but then put over a penalty to make it 15-10 to the Scots at half-time.

After the break the Scots went down to 14 when Lindsey Smith was sin-binned.  Ireland took advantage and scored a try through Lindsay Peat that went unconverted.  The score was tied at 15-15.

Scotland had their chances to take the game away from the visitors, but first Law then Helen Nelson missed kickable penalties.

But Ireland made them pay and in the 82nd minute, Jenny Murphy crashed over under the posts to take the game.  Stapleton kicked the conversion and it was 15-22.

Scotland will see this as a definite chance missed to win their first championship game in seven years.

Italy 8-20 Wales

Stadio Comunale Pacifico Carotti, 4 February

Wales scored first with a penalty from Elinor Snowsill after eight minutes.

Prop Caryl Thomas then crashed over for the first try of the afternoon with Snowsill adding the conversion and it was 10-0 after 20 minutes.

Italy came back into it with a penalty from the boot of Michela Sillari, which was followed up soon after by a try for the home side through Manuela Furlan after good work from Isabella Locatelli.

Italy were unable to convert the try, however, and went in at the break 8-10 down.

Early in the second-half Wales stretched their lead as Dyddgu Hywel went in and then a third try came soon after from a driving Welsh maul and scored by captain Carys Phillips.

Italy did their best to pull it back, but were unable to breach the Wales defence again.

England 26-13 France

Twickenham 4 February

England came from 13-0 down at half-time to take the win at Twickenham on Saturday.

Shannon Izar drew first blood for the French as she intercepted a Katy McLean pass and ran 70m to score.  The conversion was missed but it was 5-0.

Emily Scarratt missed a penalty, but then Christelle Le Duff put one over in front of the posts to take it to 8-0.

Gaelle Mignot powered over from a maul for France’s second try of the half to go in 13-0 up at the break.

England came out for the second-half with renewed vigour and took the initiative from the off.

First Scarratt scored a penalty, then Danielle Waterman went in for England’s first try, converted by Scarratt to take it to a 10-13 game.

France then conceded another penalty for a high tackle.  Scarratt slotted home again and the game was level.

Another penalty saw England go in front for the first time and a second for another infringement at the scrum took the lead to six.

Amy Wilson-Hardy scored England’s second try, again converted by Scarratt to make the final score 26-13.

This weekend Tamara Taylor will make her 100th appearance for England when they face Wales on Sunday.

This weekend’s Six Nations fixtures:

 Saturday 11 February

Wales v England

Cardiff Arms Park

11.30am

France v Scotland

Marcel Deflandre

8pm (GMT)

Sunday 12 February

Italy v Ireland

Stadio Tommaso Fattori

1pm (GMT)

And finally,

I have to confess I’m feeling a bit low about the women’s sports world at the moment.  I won’t turn it into a rant as I don’t think I’ve got the energy, but it just seems to me that for every step forward there are two back.  Those in the “bubble” (I have mentioned this before), still maintain that great progress is being made, but you only have to look at two things to see that it’s not quite as easy as that; one is media coverage, the other the response to media coverage.

I’ve seen both that has caused me pain this week.  Firstly, the success of the expansion of netball has led Sport England to reward it with £16.9m of funding.  How was this greeted in the press?  I saw two articles, by women, one which said that no amount of money would make her go back to netball and the other by a woman who plays netball, who wrote a supposedly tongue-in-cheek piece on why netball isn’t “cool” and not “as much fun” as basketball.

The responses to coverage are even more depressing.  Women’s cricket journalist, Raf Nicholson, wrote a great piece this week for Cricinfo on the pros and cons of cricket double-headers.  There were some good and interesting comments on the piece at the bottom.  But the one that stood out was a man who thought this would be the correct platform to tell us all that women (in general, not cricketers or any specific group) will never be any good at sport because they get pregnant.   This wasn’t a one sentence reply either – it was lengthy.  Why this chap thought this was the place to air this view isn’t clear, but it was the comment that drew the eye.

Consequently, this week my store of optimism is at a low ebb.  Hopefully next week I’ll be back to my normal self and celebrating the world of women’s sport to the full!

 

 

Women’s Sports Column

netball220-26 February

This week’s stories come from tennis, netball, cricket, winter sports, hockey and cycling. Extra bits of early Saturday 27 news as I’m late posting!

Poor fortunes for all of Britain’s top tennis players this week. British number two, Heather Watson, lost in the first round of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco. She was beaten by American Christina McHale 4-6 6-0 7-6.

British number one, Johanna Konta, fared little better, getting to round two before she lost to Croatia’s Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 4-6 6-2 7-5.

And Laura Robson has suffered yet another setback in her quest for fitness. Her wrist injury has forced her to pull out of the Monterrey tour event next week. She had been targeting the French Open in May for her Grand Slam return, but this may now be in doubt.

 

After losing Sasha Corbin to injury for the season, Loughborough Lightning have suffered another blow with Jade Clarke announcing she is to leave to play for Adelaide Thunderbirds. The Australian season starts in April, which means she will only be able to play three more games for the Lightning, ending with the game at Team Bath on March 4.

In an interview with the Loughborough Sport website, Loughborough’s executive director of sport, John Steele, expressed his opinion at losing a player mid-season,

“We are extremely disappointed with the way Adelaide Thunderbirds have conducted themselves.  Approaching one of our players directly, midway through the season has been very disruptive and has put our player in a difficult position. Our focus now is to ensure we have the best possible support structure in place for our squad as we move forward with our 2016 season.”

Here are the scores from this week’s games:

Team Northumbria         48           44           Yorkshire Jets

Surrey Storm                     62           40           Celtic Dragons

Yorkshire Jets                    38           51           Hertfordshire Mavericks

So, the table stands as follows:

   

Played

Points

1 Manchester Thunder

4

12

2 Hertfordshire Mavericks

4

12

3 Surrey Storm

4

9

4 Team Bath

4

9

5 Loughborough Lightning

4

6

6 Team Northumbria

5

3

7 Yorkshire Jets

5

0

8 Celtic Dragons

4

0

                                                                              

Lots of cricket news again this week. England finally triumphed 2-1 against South Africa in their three-match T20 series. After losing the second game poorly, England seemed in a more determined mood from the start. Edwards won the toss and put South Africa in. South Africa posted a decent total of 131/4, but England batted well, with another match-winning innings of 60 runs from Sarah Taylor, saw England win with 27 balls to spare. The only fly in the ointment was the quality of the England fielding which, at times, was abysmal. It will have to improve before the T20 World Cup in March. For a more depth analysis of the series read my article for www.womenssportsuk.com.

On the domestic front, more details of the new summer Superleague were released this week. The six host (the ECB are still allergic to the word “franchise”) names have been released. They are: Lancashire Thunder (playing at Old Trafford), Loughborough Lightning – that’s not confusing is it? (playing at Loughborough University), Southern Vipers (playing at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton), Surrey Stars (playing at the Kia Oval), Western Storm (playing at Bristol and Taunton) and Yorkshire Diamonds (playing at Headingley).

The games will be played between July 30 and August 14 – 15 group matches in 16 days. Finals day will be on Sunday August 21 and will be played at Essex’s county ground in Chelmsford.

News of squads will follow shortly.

 

The epic hockey series between Great Britain and Australia finally came to an end in the home side’s favour as they beat Britain 3-2 in the final Test to take the six-game series 2-1.

The Hockeyroos took the lead after five minutes thorough a Georgina Morgan penalty corner and the lead was doubled just before half time through a goal from Emily Smith. The game seemed to be beyond GB when Grace Stewart scored a third five minutes into the second half. Great Britain fought back through Sophie Bray and Joie Leigh, but were unable to find the equaliser.

The team were heartened by this performance and by the series as a whole. It stands them in good stead for the build up to the Olympics in Rio later in the year.

 

What started out as a good week for Lindsey Vonn ended in agony. She won the downhill title in La Thuile, Italy, a record 20th World Cup trophy, as she finished second in the penultimate race to go 173 points ahead of Canadas Larisa Yurkiw, with only 100 points left to win in the last race.

But on Saturday 27, Vonn crashed out in the World Cup super-G event in Soldeu-El Tarter, Andorra, and was taken to hospital. The American team spokeswoman reported that Vonn has hurt her knee, but the extent of her injury is, as yet, unknown. The race was stopped for ten minutes to allow a rescue sled to access the course and take the injured skier away.

In other skiing news, Vanessa-Mae has been awarded damages for defamation from the FIS (International Ski Federation). They had claimed that her qualification for the 2014 Winter Olympics had come through fixed races, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport cleared her of any wrongdoing.  The FIS has apologised and Vanessa-Mae intends to donate her damages to charity. Her four year ban was also overturned. She intends to try to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.

In curling, Eve Muirhead’s rink was named Scottish curling champion this week. It is sixth time that Muirhead’s team has become champion, and will now represent Scotland in the World Women’s Curling Championships in Canada in March.

I didn’t get chance to report on another gold for Great Britain in the Winter Youth Olympics last week. Ashleigh Pittaway won the skeleton bob in one minute 50.23 seconds, 0.96 seconds ahead of Germany’s Hannah Neise. Madi Rowlands had taken Britain’s first gold in the ski halfpipe on Sunday 21 and added a bronze to her tally on Friday, this time in the sky slopestyle.

Cycling road race world champion Lizzie Armitstead has started her season in the best possible way, winning the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Belgium. Her team mate Chantal Blaak took second with Tiffany Cromwell in third.

And finally, last week saw the SJA British Sports Journalist awards. In the 31 categories, there were only six women writers, six photographers and two broadcasters nominated. I could write about men’s sport – I love it – and possibly earn a living, but I choose to write about women’s. This is a whole different matter.  It is still incredibly hard for a woman to make it in the macho world of sports journalism, writing about men’s sport – it’s even harder to build any kind of profile writing about women’s sport. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but there are a lot of people (women and men) doing their very best to promote women’s sport for absolutely no remuneration whatsoever (including me). Rarely will any of these people receive the recognition they are due. It’s not that they don’t need or want to make money, but until women’s sport is seen as worthy of sponsorship, mainstream coverage etc., etc., this situation will continue.

 

 

 

 

 

Back to netball – after 30 years (part 1)

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Thanks to the Just project, run by Harborough District Council, I have been given the chance to play netball for the first time in 30 years.

As a sports journalist, I’m always writing about the national and global stuff and rarely have the chance to make a difference locally. So I decided I wanted to do just that and approached my local council for advice and to offer my services – although I didn’t know in what capacity.

This was at the end of November. I met with SDOs Emma and Hollie and was glad to learn that in the New Year they were launching a new scheme aimed at girls 14+ and women and designed to get them into sport. Sounded just up my street.

My first idea was to sample each sport and blog about it – I said I would promote the scheme to as many people as I could. Unfortunately, the foot surgery (if you haven’t heard about this, read about it here) meant that some of the sports were out.

So I decided instead to concentrate on one sport and put my all into it. I had played netball for school – yes, I was the shortest goalkeeper in the history of goalkeepers – so netball it was.

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The date was set. Tuesday 19th January. It had just turned ridiculously cold and the snow from the weekend was still lurking around the edges of everything. Not to worry, I thought, nice warm sports hall, no bother. I found out the day before I was due to play that it was outside! OUTSIDE? But once I’ve decided to do something, I generally go through with it, so with woolly tights under the trackies and many, many top layers, I set out to Fleckney sports centre.

Unfortunately, everyone else obviously didn’t have “mug” tattooed across their foreheads and the instructor, Val, and I were the only ones who turned up. Val was not chuffed, unsurprisingly, but more displeased that we were due to play outside anyway! We discussed it with the lady who was looking after the sports centre and she outlined some times when the hall was free. At that point we gave up and Val went away to negotiate a change of day and time (and venue) with Emma.

I went home, all dressed up and nowhere to go…….

Don’t worry folks, it gets better. Tune in to part two of “Back to netball – after 30 years”, coming soon.

Into (sporting) battle in 2016!

UN

I’m not given to military metaphor, but in this case it’s forgivable as this is what we advocates of women’s sport have to do in 2016.

We’ve come so far this year, but I’m sick of saying “….will be the year we finally break through into the mainstream” and then it doesn’t happen.

This year I have profiled (and met) so many brilliant individuals, organisations, media platforms and crusaders getting the women’s sports word out there, but we need more.

We need to get across two vital things:

WOMEN: it’s ok (in fact it’s brilliant) to play, officiate, coach, administrate, run and write about ANY sport you want

WOMEN: it’s ok (in fact it’s brilliant) to watch on TV (if you’re lucky), read about or support in person any women’s sport you want.

And until we get those two messages across we will not achieve even a modicum of equality.

Unfortunately there is no doubt we still face discrimination, derision, even downright hostility to our aims and the vicious circle is still with us:

diagram

But we CAN break into this circle. Every day individuals and organisations are trying their hearts out to do this.

I Know I would say this, being a journalist, but I still think that the media is the key, There are so many fantastic platforms for women’s sport out there – see my earlier article for details. But, in a sense, this is ghettoising women’s sport. You can get the news and results, fixtures etc., that you want, but you have specifically to go to women’s sports platforms to do it.

Things won’t change in the populace at large until women’s sport gets far more mainstream coverage. And this, I feel, is how we have to break the vicious circle.

Hold our mainstream media to account.

Women’s sports journalists – pitch, pitch and pitch again.

Once we begin to gain the coverage we deserve, everything else will come. In these straitened times we cannot rely on the foresight of companies such as SSE (sponsoring the women’s FA cup) or Helena Morrissey/Newton (sponsoring the Boat Race); we have to go out and get it.

It’s infuriating that again and again we have to prove the worth of our “product”. But we do. And the good thing is, we can.

So, let’s do it. Let’s get together and show the man and woman on the street that we mean business, because I can’t keep saying “20… was the year we nearly made it”.

If you’re interested in discussing how we can go forward together please get in touch. I would be happy to hear from anyone passionate about or involved in any sport.

This is, honestly, my last rant for 2015.   Wishing my readers and followers a Happy Christmas. Bring on 2016 – I’m up for the fight, are you?

Women’s Sport: there’s no time for back slapping – get beyond the bubble

free kick 4

I’m sorry if this sounds a bit bah humbug during this festive period, but I am not happy.

It’s awards time, nostalgia time, time for looking back at 2015 for the great progress made in women’s sport: more television coverage than ever before, more radio coverage than ever before, FA Cup at Wembley, Varsity Boat Race, Lionesses, EA Sports FIFA 2016 featuring women’s national teams,  and generally more recognition of women’s achievements in sport, etc, etc.

One of my favourite memories of the year is attending the FA Cup Final at Wembley and seeing numerous big beefy male Chelsea supporters cheering their female team onto the pitch – it actually brought a proud tear to my eye.

Several great campaigns started this year: This Girl Can, Cover the Athlete, What if…? and Women’s Sports Week.

But I fear we are bound, once more, to be looking back through rose-tinted spectacles.

This has also been the year when Mike Selvey, amongst others, seriously asked whether women should be playing test match cricket at all.  As I put it in my article for WSUK, when my indignation was at its peak,

“Women aren’t suited to the longer game, apparently.  They should give it up and stick to what they’re good at (I wasn’t sure if bed and kitchen had been edited out of the end of this theory, but let’s not be too cynical). “

It has been the year when Susie Wolff has had to give up her formula 1 dream, because

“There was very little opportunity to carry on in Formula 1.  My goal was to get on to the starting grid and that didn’t look achievable. So I had to call it a day.”

It has also been the year when Eva Carneiro was sacked by Chelsea after Jose Mourinho castigated her for going on the pitch to do her job.

And the year when Eugenie Bouchard was asked by an on-court interviewer at the Australian Open Tennis to “Give us a twirl”.

We are also back to a situation where gender testing hit the headlines again, including the new and worrying “normalisation” of female genitalia.  Women are being operated on so that they conform to someone’s idea of what genitalia should look like.  It’s as if all the campaigning going on around the evils of FGM are lost as it seems to be sanctioned in the name of sport.

And last but not least, the print media are still lagging way behind in covering women’s sport, even though most have been promising faithfully to improve and extend their coverage.

Progress has indubitably been made, but I still maintain that I, and most of the people I know in the business of women’s sport, exist in a “bubble” – a bubble that prevents them from seeing that outside it perceptions are moving at a glacial rate.

So – the bubble.  How do we get beyond it?

One way is to keep checking on the “mainstream” outlets.  Keep in touch with @WomenSportPress, who will tell us just how much (or little) coverage women’s sport is receiving.  But check it out yourselves – do a count of how much news actually gets reported and how it’s reported.  Look at the comments sections.  Report sexist and misogynistic comment.  How much women’s sport is featured in online news outlets?  Where does it come on the page?  What is the attitude?

But of course, it’s not just in the media and at elite level.  Keep an eye on your local sports facilities and local councils.  What are they offering for girls and women?  Could they do better?  How is it offered?  At what times of the day?  Do they assume all women must be stay-at-home mums so their classes are all during the day?  Do they have initiatives to get girls and women involved in sport?

And it’s everything in between!  We want women’s sport to be viewed as “normal”, as “mainstream”.  We want coverage to be second nature to all media.  We want girls to grow up thinking that doing sport is natural and fun.  I don’t actually want to write a weekly women’s sports column, because it should just be part of what everyone does, but until it is I’ll keep writing, so that women’s sport gets the attention it deserves.

So while we’re all patting each other on the back and saying what a good job we’re doing, giving out awards for this and that, we should still be looking at the even bigger picture.  You only need to look at the comments section of any online article about women’s sport to see the banal barrage of sexist, belittling and sometimes misogynistic responses.  And if anyone mentions the word “banter” to me, I’ll scream – because it’s not.

By all means let’s congratulate ourselves on the progress, but let’s also get beyond the bubble, because if we don’t we will inevitably end up failing in our mission to make women’s sport a part of everyone’s life.

The Women’s Sports Column

What’s new in the world of women’s sport

Welcome to this, my inaugural Women’s Sports Column!  Its aim is to highlight just a few of the important, inspirational and interesting stories from the last week.  Let’s redress the balance, shall we, because if the national press and most other mainstream media outlets are to be believed, there is so little women’s sport out there it is not worth mentioning….

The Australian Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) starts on Saturday (December 5).   It is the first T20 women’s competition of its kind and will be trailblazing its way across Australia in parallel to the men’s BBL.  The ECB will be watching its progress with bated breath as it prepares to launch its equivalent in England in 2016.  Certainly the marketing and build-up have been impressive, with big sponsorship from Australian sports equipment and clothing brand, Rebel.

There will be 59 games in 50 days in a tournament of eight teams.  Some games will be played as double-headers before the men’s, while others will stand alone.  Both tournaments will culminate in a grand finals day in January.  Several England players have been signed up including Sarah Taylor, Charlotte Edwards, Kate Cross, Lauren Winfield, Heather Knight, Danni Wyatt, Nat Sciver, Katherine Brunt and Laura Marsh.  Other notable names include New Zealanders Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine and Sara McGlashan, West Indians Stafanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin and South Africans Mignon du Preez and Marizanne Kapp. Former Aussie all-rounder, Lisa Sthalekar, has even come out of retirement to take part.  For more information check out Cricket Australia’s website.

While we’re on the subject of cricket, England’s 2016 fixtures against Pakistan have been released.  There will be three one-day internationals and three T20s.  Disappointing to see no test match, but it still promises to be an interesting and enjoyable series.

20.6.16 ODI Grace Road, Leicester
22.6.16 ODI New Road, Worcester
27.6.16 ODI The County Ground, Taunton
3.7.16 IT20 Bristol County Ground
5.7.16 IT20 Ageas Bowl, Southampton
7.7.16 IT20 The Essex County Ground, Chelmsford

Last, but not least when it comes to cricket, qualifying for the 2016 Women’s World T20 is well underway for associate nations.  The qualifying tournament, which is taking place in Thailand, has gone to form and the final will be between Bangladesh and Ireland on Saturday 5 December.  Both have now qualified for the World T20 proper, taking place in India in March 2016.

It’s also been a busy football week for the home nations in qualifying for the 2017 European Championships, with wins for England and Scotland and a hard-fought draw for Wales.  England beat Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 at Ashton Gate in Bristol on Sunday 29 November.  The headed goal, from Jill Scott, came well into the second half.  It was a difficult game, with the Bosnia-Herzegovina strategy seeming to be to keep 11 players behind the ball at all times.  England were patient and persistent, however, and deserved the win.  A crowd of over 13,000 braved a wet and windy Bristol Sunday evening to watch the game.

Things were much easier for Scotland as they put 10 past a weak Macedonia team at St Mirren Park.  Jane Ross scored four, Jo Love a hat-trick and Jennifer Beattie, Hayley Lauder and Lisa Evans got a goal each.  They are now three points clear at the top of Group 1.

Wales had to settle for a 2-2 draw away to Israel on 1 December. The home side went ahead early on, but two from Tash Harding looked to have sealed it for Wales, until a late equaliser from Israel ruined Wales’ night.  They are now five points behind leaders Austria in Group 8.

Women’s basketball has a way to go before it gets on the mainstream sporting radar.  Netball has been much in the news this year, with the World Cup in Sydney in August, but basketball has to fight for all the coverage it can get.  So although not strictly this week, this is the update for Great Britain’s attempt to qualify for EuroBasket 2017.  Unfortunately it has not been a good start, with two losses from two.   On 21 November GB lost 78-64 away to Montenegro and on 25 November at home to Italy 48-60.  GB currently sit third in Group C with two points.  The next round of qualifying will be in February 2016.

In the World Women’s 7s Series in Dubai, Australia took the title this afternoon against Russia by 31-12. The first half was tight, but Australia upped it in the second, with an inspirational Ellia Green performance taking it away from Russia.  England and France fought it out earlier for third place, with England coming out on top 10-5 in a pulsating game which went to extra time golden points.  It has been a while since neither New Zealand nor Canada featured in the final two games, and it is encouraging to see that European teams are making progress in this event.   England’s policy of playing its best side in Sevens events at the expense of the 15-a-side game has been controversial, but if this result is anything to go by, seems to be paying off.

And finally, it’s the awards season and this week the shortlist for BBC Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) was announced.  It includes three women – yes three!  Obviously the BBC has learnt its lesson from the dark days of 2011 when the lack of any female athlete on the shortlist caused outrage (in my world, anyway).  Those shortlisted are cyclist Lizzie Armistead, England footballer Lucy Bronze and athlete Jess Ennis-Hill.

Also this week was the third BT Action Woman of the Year ceremony.  The winner, or actually winners, were the England Women’s Football team (Lionesses) who finished an outstanding third place in the World Cup this summer.  Runners–up were the England Women’s Hockey team, for their European Championship triumph in August.  Third place went to World Downhill Biking Champion and winner of the World Cup Series, Rachel Atherton.  It was an impressive shortlist that also included Nicola Adams, Lizzie Armistead, Georgina Hermitage, Jess Ennis-Hill, Johanna Konta, Sarah Outen and the Oxford Women’s Boat Race crew.

There’s so much more I could (and probably should) mention, but so little time.  If this has whetted your appetite for women’s sport, why don’t you check out some of the links in this article and join me next Friday for more.

Prepare for my new Women’s Sports Column

261220082485PAPERSI know I keep banging on about it, but it doesn’t make it any less true – there is not enough coverage of women’s sports in the media.  Just 7% of all media coverage is devoted to women’s sport.  I am always trying to help to redress the balance!

To this end I have decided to compile a weekly women’s sports column as part of my blog.  It will be news-based, rather than results-based, but it should give a presence to some of the stories that matter, all in one place.  If you want a results service you can’t do better than WSUK.

There are so few dedicated women’s sports columns – there are some fabulous female sportswriters out there, but they tend to be feature writers.

So, take a look at my column every week and you may find there’s more going on than you thought!

 

 

 

Half-term report

I’m just about six months into my year-long experiment to see if I can, at the advanced age of 46, become a half decent sports journalist.

You may remember that after a few weeks I posted an article entitled Writing opportunities are out there – when will I get paid?

Well, the news is, I still haven’t been paid for anything!  To be honest, I’m not surprised, because although the opportunities are indeed out there, they are by a vast majority, unpaid.

I have made some progress.  I’m enjoying writing the blog and have had some good and useful feedback.  I have been writing for Women’s Views on News and Women’s Sports UK. Neither is paid, but it has been good promotion for me and I have received good comments.  I am, as they say, “building a portfolio”.

I have finally pitched to another web publication (don’t know if it’s paid, but I suspect not), but haven’t had a reply.

I’ve joined the Women’s Sports Network and Women in Journalism and attended events organised by both.  Highly recommended.  I’m shaping my LinkedIn profile, to no great effect.

Although I’ve written some good stuff I don’t feel quite organised enough at the moment.  My foot injury and subsequent period of enforced inactivity have put me back somewhat, but I fear it may be deeper than that.

I have lots of ideas and am very good with deadlines, but I don’t think I’ve planned well enough what I’m going to be doing from day to day.  Consequently, while I was on the sofa with my foot up I let things drift.

I’m only just starting to get back to form now and am going to make more of an attempt to structure things better.  I never expected commissioning editors to be beating down my door, but I had expected to make more progress by now.  I think this is largely down to me and I need to rectify it as soon as possible.

So between now and Christmas, as well as posting the odd blog piece and articles for WVoN or WSUK  It’s going to be all about planning and focus, ready for a major assault on paying outlets in the new year.  I’ve not given up hope and I’m still sure I have something to offer, but I’ve got to step up my action if I’m going to get anywhere.

Wish me luck – can’t help thinking I’ll need it.

Individuals to follow – Resources for women interested in sport part 3

While I’m on a roll, let’s crack straight on with some of the individuals and the odd blog you should follow if you want to keep up with what’s happening in women’s sport.

But first, I need to make good another omission from my last blog,  To be honest, I just couldn’t decide whether to put them in as they cover men’s as well as women’s football, but on reflection I think that’s a bit churlish.  So, undoubtedly, the best podcast (and should be listed merely because it has the best name) is The Offside Rule (We Get it!). Although it has become (relatively) famous for its female-fronted podcast, the website also contains blogs, features, columns and a whole lot more.  Kate Borsay, Lynsey Hooper and Hayley McQueen are the brains behind the podcast although their team seems to be growing daily.  It’s erudite, knowledgeable and humorous and I urge you to give it a go.  It can become seriously addictive!

Right, on to individuals.  As you will know, there are so many incredible women out there trying to spread the gospel of women’s sport.  I can only cover a few, but they are some of my favourites.  Some have websites, but mostly I follow them on Twitter.  Despite its totally hideous, trolling side and its propensity to triviality, Twitter can be useful for information.  You’ve just got to follow the right people!

@ConnorCricket Clare Connor is Director of Women’s Cricket at the ECB.  News from the top of women’s cricket.  What more do you need to know?

@AlisonMitchell One of my favourite broadcasters, who has worked so hard to be “mainstream” in cricket.  Brilliant broadcasting about gymnastics too.

@Lottie2323  This is for fun.  England captain, Charlotte Edwards doesn’t usually impart great items of cricketing wisdom, but it is fun and gives you some idea of what it’s like to be a professional cricketer.

@ShelleyBBC One of the most influential women in sport in this country – Shelley Alexander is Editorial lead for women’s sport on the BBC.  She retweets an amazing amount of information on an incredible range of sports.  Very knowledgeable and crusades constantly for women’s sport.

@clarebalding Brilliant broadcaster and “national treasure”.  Always surprises me how much work she does so that she knows exactly what she’s talking about on whatever subject she’s been given.

@RuthHoldaway Chief Executive of Women in Sport.

@SallyHancock1 Chair of Women in Sport and expert in sports marketing and sponsorship.  A loud voice in the quest for equality in media coverage, sponsorship and pay in women’s sport.

@EllyOldroyd Another one of my favourite broadcasters.  Well-respected voice of Radio 5 Live.

@judmoo Judy Murray often tweets pictures of cake and desserts, but is the ambassador for tennis.  Contrary to popular belief, she’s not just Andy and Jamie Murray’s Mother….

@Tanni_GT Always erudite, and a tireless advocate for disability sports, Tanni Grey-Thompson is great to follow.  Gives a whole new perspective on sport and everything Welsh!

@annaedwards3 Anna Edwards is Producer of the Sportswomen programme on Sky.

@Anna_Kessel Writes for the Guardian and the Observer and is Co-Founder and Chair of Women In Football.  Always a pleasure to read, and always fighting for women’s sport.

Shameful to admit, but I don’t read many blogs.  If anyone out there can recommend any good women’s sports blogs, I’d be grateful.  The one I never miss, though, is womens-cricket.blogspot.co.uk.  Written beautifully by Martin Davies and a must for women’s cricket fans.

So there we are.  I could keep going for a while yet, but if you just try a few of these to start with you won’t regret it.