Women’s Sports Column 28 April – 4 May 2018

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  After a surfeit of ranting last week, calmness reigns as I endeavour to present as much as I can without going on to 3k words!  Stories this week come from rugby union, football, tennis, cycling, hockey, netball, cricket, rugby league plus a reminder about the Be a Game Changer awards.

Rugby Union – on the pitch

Tyrrell’s Premier 15s Final

Saracens are the inaugural Premier 15s Champions.

They beat Harlequins 20-24 in the final at Ealing Trailfinders RFC on Sunday.

It was a fitting final to a fine season; full-blooded with plenty of flowing rugby on offer.

Saracens took the lead after five minutes when Sam Martinez Gion went over for the first try.  Quins hit back quickly with an Ellie Green penalty.

Saracens looked to have got a second on 10 minutes when Poppy Cleall crossed, but it was disallowed and the penalty given to Quins.  Saracens were clearly on top, but couldn’t seem to make the most of their possession until Lotte Clapp went over under the posts to make it 12-3.

Quins tried to get back into it, but were disappointed when Garnet Mackinder went in for Saracens’ third just before half-time.  They didn’t give up, however, and got their due reward as Holly Myers scored the try to get them back into the game and make it 8-17 at the break.

The momentum was with Quins and they took full advantage, Jess Breach scoring their second try nine minutes in.

There then followed a period when it looked to be anyone’s game.  Hannah Botterman scored a try for Saracens and then Deborah McCormack did the same for Quins, taking the score to 24-20 with just two minutes left.

Quins thought their comeback could be completed when Poppy Cleall was sin-binned for killing the ball on the line.  But Jess Breach could not quite get over and nothing Quins tried came off.

The game ended with a turnover by Player of the Match, Marlie Packer and Saracens had won it.

Rugby Union – off the pitch

England full-back and wing Danielle Waterman has announced her retirement from international rugby.

She won 82 caps for England in a career spanning 15 years and scored 47 tries.

“It has been an incredible journey and a true honour to be a Red Rose for the past 15 years,

“It’s been a huge privilege to have not only played alongside and against some of the best players in the world, but to have been part of the huge development and progression of women’s international rugby to date.

“Winning the World Cup in 2014 was definitely a dream come true and to beat New Zealand for the first time in 16 years and go world number one was amazing, and to do it with the support of the Lions crowd was amazing.”

Waterman will continue to play her club rugby with Wasps.

Tennis – on the court 

Stuttgart Open

Karolina Pliskova defeated Coco Vandeweghe 7-6 6-4.  Vanderweghe had been very much in it in the first set, but at the beginning of the second she fell and injured her hand, necessitating a medical timeout.

In the end, Pliskova’s serve was the difference – she served 11 aces in the two sets.

Istanbul Open

Meanwhile, In Istanbul France’s Pauline Parmentier was triumphant, beating Polona Hercog of Slovenia 6-4 3-6 6-3.  Three out of four semi-finalists were unseeded and Parmientier saw off the last of them, Irina-Camelia Begu, seeded seven, in straight sets.

This week we’re on to Prague and Rabat, Morocco.

Prague Open

Unfortunately, it gets no better for Britain’s Heather Watson this season.  She lost in the first round of the Prague Open to wildcard Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia 6-1 6-3.  Last week’s Stuttgart winner, Karoline Pliskova, has withdrawn from her home tournament, through injury.

We are now at the semi-final stage:
Zhang Shuai (6) v Petra Kvitova (2)
Mihaela Buzărnescu (7) v Camila Giorgi

Morocco Open

We lost second, third and fourth seeds, Dominika Cibulkova, Petra Martić and Timea Babos in the first round.

The semi-final line-up:
Ajla Tomljanović v Aleksandra Krunić (7)
Elise Mertens (1) v Su-Wei Hsieh (8)

Tennis – off the court

Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Madrid Open which starts next week.  She has said she does not yet feel ready for the clay season.

Football

Don’t forget it’s the FA Cup final on Saturday at Wembley Stadium.  Apparently over 40,000 tickets have already been sold.

It’s bound to be a close-fought thing with Arsenal and Chelsea well-matched.  Neither side has had the ideal run up to the final with Arsenal beaten 3-0 by Birmingham City at the weekend and Chelsea totally outplayed by Wolfsburg on Sunday.

The match kicks off at 5.30pm and is live on BBC1 from 5.10pm.

Champions League

Unfortunately it was all too predictable for the remaining English teams as both went out at the semi-final stage to their impressive opponents.

Lyon 1-0 Manchester City
(Lyon win 1-0 on aggregate)

Former City player and England star, Lucy Bronze, put paid to City’s hopes on Sunday with a stunning volley to take her new club through to the final.

In truth, City barely raised a chance throughout the tie (both legs) and went out with a whimper rather than a bang.

Lyon had several other chances, the best of which fell to Amandine Henry in the second-half, but her shot came off the post.

After the season started well, City only have the league title to go for and they currently lie second behind Chelsea.

Wolfsburg 2-0 Chelsea
(Wolfsburg win 5-1 on aggregate)

The damage was done in the first leg of this tie.  Wolfsburg took it incredibly easy as they romped away to a 2-0 win.

Pernille Harder scored the first put the first away after making a good run into the box and Ewa Pajor headed the second to seal the win.

Although the British teams are getting closer, I’m afraid it still looks as if they are some way behind their continental European colleagues when it comes to European competition.  There will, undoubtedly be further progress next season and there needs to be if the world’s best players are to be tempted to play in the FAWSL.

FAWSL

Saturday 28 April
WSL2
Doncaster Rovers Belles 3-1 London Bees

Sunday 29 April
WSL1
Sunderland AFC 0-2 Reading
Birmingham City 3-0 Arsenal (hat-trick for Ellen White)
Liverpool 1-1 Everton

WSL2
Tottenham Hotspur 6-3 Durham
Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 Aston Villa
Sheffield FC 4-1 Oxford United
Watford 0-4 Millwall Lionesses

Wednesday 2 May
WSL2
Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Millwall Lionesses

Thursday 3 May
WSL1
Bristol City 1-6 Manchester City

There’s a change at the top of WSL1 as Man City’s drubbing of Bristol City meant not only drawing level with Chelsea on points, but overtaking them on goal difference.  They have 32 points from 14 games and a goal difference of28.  Chelsea are second with a goal difference of 26 from 14 games and Reading are third with 28 points but having played two games more.  We may just be saying at the end of the season that bagging that six at Bristol won City the WSL1 title. Yeovil are still bottom with just two points from 14, while Bristol City are second from bottom on 10.

In WSL2 Doncaster Rovers Belles are still top on 38 points from 15 games.  Millwall missed the chance to close the gap as they could only draw their game in hand against Spurs and are second on 33.  Brighton & Hove Albion lie third with 31 from 14 games.  Watford lie marooned at the bottom with just a solitary point from 13 games.

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey Premier League Final

Surbiton completed their fifth title in a row as they beat Holcombe 3-1 in the final on Saturday 28 April at Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre.

They scored in the first half through Sarah Page (8th minute field goal), Hollie Pearne-Webb (10th minute penalty corner) and Beckie Middleton (26th minute penalty corner), taking the match away from Holcombe.

In the second-half Holcombe battled back, scoring a goal through Heather McEwan (35th minute field goal), but it proved only to be a consolation as Surbiton took the title once more.

Play-offs

Slough retained their Premier League status after they draw 1-1 with Beeston, while Hampstead & Westminster beat Stourport 4-2.

Slough 1-1 Beeston

Beeston scored first through a Sophie Robinson field goal, but Slough kept on pressurising the Beeston goal until in the 23rd minute Mel Ball rounded the keeper to equalise.

It was a competitive second-half, with both sides having chances to win it.  In the end the draw for Slough was enough.

Hampstead & Westminster 4-2 Stourport

Hampstead & Westminster not only needed a win, but they needed Slough to lose to be promoted.  Whilst they fulfilled their part of the bargain, the Slough draw meant they were foiled in their attempt.

Stourport took the lead through a Lorna Mackenzie penalty corner, but Hampstead & Westminster equalised soon after with a Lauren Turner field goal.  Just minutes later they were in front as Jessica Orrett fired home a penalty corner.

In the second-half both teams were still battling hard.  A reverse strike from Sophie Thompson brought Stourport level, but the Londoners were not done.  Louise Radford scored their third and Turner their fourth and her second to take the tie away from Stourport.

Rugby League

The Super League scores from the weekend were as follows:

Castleford 40-16 Bradford Bulls
Wigan Warriors 14-20 Leeds Rhinos
St Helens 40-14 Featherstone Rovers

So after three matches of the season, St Helens are top with the only 100% record.  Castleford Tigers are second on four points.  There are still three teams yet to get off the mark; Bradford Bulls, Featherstone Rovers and York City Knights, although the latter two have only played two games.

Cycling

It’s the Tour de Yorkshire this week and stage one was won by Dutch rider Kirsten Wild of the Wiggle High5 team.

Britain’s Dani Rowe lies fourth after she picked up four bonus seconds in intermediate sprints and fellow Briton Pfeiffer Georgi will be in the Queen of the Mountains jersey as she reached the only climb of stage one in first place.

Friday’s second stage starts in Barnsley and is 128km long.

Netball

It was round nine of the Netball Superleague last weekend.  The results were:

Wasps 64-60 Manchester Thunder
UWS Sirens 44-58 Surrey Storm
Celtic Dragons 51-56 Team Northumbria
Severn Stars 43-58 Loughborough Lightning
Benecos Mavericks 57-41 Team Bath

So Wasps maintain their 100% record with 10 wins from 10 games.  As I have said before the figures may be somewhat skewed as although it was round nine, Wasps have played 10 and some teams only seven!  Benecos Mavericks have 21 points – that’s seven wins from nine games.  Lightning are third on 18 – six wins from nine.  Team Northumbria are off the bottom of the table, having registered their first win of the season in their ninth attempt when they beat the Celtic Dragons on Saturday.  UWS Sirens are bottom with only one win, but they have only played seven games.

This weekend sees a kind of combined round 10 & 11 to cover the Bank Holiday in the UK.  The fixtures are:

Friday 4 May
Team Bath v Celtic Dragons (7.30pm)

Saturday 5 May
UWS Sirens v Manchester Thunder (2pm)
Surrey Storm v Benecos Mavericks (6pm)
Loughborough Lightning v Team Northumbria (6pm)

Monday 7 May
Surrey Storm v Celtic Dragons (3pm)
Team Bath v Severn Stars (5pm) – Live on Sky Sports
Manchester Thunder v Loughborough Lightning (5pm)
Team Northumbria v UWS Sirens (6pm)

Cricket

Two pieces of cricket news this week.

Firstly, Wales have signed New Zealand wicketkeeper-batter Rachel Priest for the 2018 county season.  This is a major coup for Wales, who play in the second division in both the Women’s County One-Day Championship and the Women’s County T20.

It is hoped that Priest’s presence will inspire Wales in their push for promotion in both competitions.

Priest has played 86 ODIs for New Zealand with an average of 28.35.  She also played in the Kia Super League in 2017 for tournament winners, Western Storm.

Secondly, Sarah Taylor has given an interview with the BBC on how she has coped with the anxiety that put her out of the game for some time a couple of years ago.  It’s well worth a listen.  Here’s the link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/43991569

Be a Game Changer

Don’t forget you still have time to vote in the Women’s Sport Trust #Be A Game Changer Awards.  Check it out: https://www.womenssporttrust.com/bagc2018/

And finally,

No ranting; just something to consider.  This is a comment left at the end of the BBC website’s piece on the retirement of Danielle Waterman from international rugby:

“6. Posted by Bionic weather man

On 1 May 2018 11:15

I think it’s great what she has achieved but truth be known women’s rugby and women’s sport in general is a complete travesty. The tens of millions they waste on women’s sport could be better used else where [sic] to improve infrastructure etc.”

This is what we’re up against, Ladies and Gentlemen.  I’ll leave it there.

No column next week, but I’ll be back the following week with more news and views. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 21-27 April 2018

test tubesWelcome to this week’s column.  After the netball frenzy of last week, it’s all calmed down a bit.  But there’s still plenty going on with stories from athletics, football, rugby union, rugby league, cricket, golf, cycling, tennis and netball. Plus another depressing “And finally”.  Sorry folks, but it’s got to be done.

Let’s crack on.

Athletics

The big breaking news this week comes from the IAAF and its attempts to restrict women with higher testosterone levels from competing in their best events.  Well, that’s how I see it, anyway.  If you have followed me for any length of time, you will know this is subject I have covered before and this announcement has thrown it all up in the air again.

Even if it didn’t mean it to appear so, this new ruling has been seen as a direct attack on South African 800m/1500m runner Caster Semenya.  The acceptable testosterone levels will be reduced in the new directive, but only for those in 400m-1mile events.

If a woman with higher testosterone levels is to compete, they will have to take medication for six months previous to competition.

In its statement the IAAF stated,

“The sport has a lot of athletes with DSD (hyperandrogenism).

“It is not just the one or two females you hear about in the media. In elite female athletics, the number of intersex athletes is 140 times more than you might find in the normal female population.

“As world governing body, we need to ensure a level playing field for all athletes. The research and evidence clearly shows there is a performance advantage in female athletes with DSD over the track distances covered by this rule.”

This very hypothesis was successfully challenged by Indian sprinter Duttee Chand in 2015, which caused a similar ruling to be suspended.  This is the first attempt by the IAAF since then to re-introduce a ruling on acceptable testosterone levels.

The IAAF will also have to contend with the accusation that this is a racist rule.  There can be no doubt that a powerful, strong, black woman is a troubling image for some people and the IAAF appears to be reinforcing this with its new ruling.

If the IAAF is so convinced that intersex athletes are such a threat, why doesn’t it just go the whole hog and re-introduce the invasive gender tests many women were subject to for so many years?  Then it could ban anyone who it feels doesn’t conform to its idea of “natural”.

I cannot believe there is not a better way to sort this issue.

The new rules should come into effect in November 2018, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was delayed due to legal opposition.

If you would like to read more of my research and views on this see below:

http://www.wispsports.com/womens-sports-blogs/extra-cover-by-penny-hopkins/makes-woman-woman/

http://www.womensviewsonnews.org/2013/11/gender-testing-in-sport-back-in-the-news/

http://www.womensviewsonnews.org/2015/08/sport-gender-testing-guidelines-suspended/

Cricket

History was made at Lord’s on Tuesday when Middlesex played their first ever appearance on the main pitch in front of a record crowd of over 5,000 – a mere 85 years after their founding.

MCC were captained by Charlotte Edwards and the side also included England’s Sarah Taylor and Georgia Elwiss.

MCC batted first, scoring 145/3 in their 20 overs.  Top scorer was Alex Rogers on 72.

In reply, Middlesex made a good start, but fell behind the required rate until it was nine-per-over.  But Maia Bouchier took it on, and they needed 30 off the last four overs.

In the end it went down to the wire as Hayleigh Brennan hit a boundary off the penultimate ball to win it for Middlesex.  Bouchier finished on 39 not out with captain Natasha Miles having made 38.

But, as you will realise, the result was very much secondary to the historic aspect of the game.  Onward and upward for women’s county cricket (hopefully).

Smriti Mandhana

The BCCI has nominated Smriti Mandhana from the women’s game and Shikhar Dhawan from the men’s game for the prestigious Arjuna award 2018.  These awards are given annually by the Indian Government’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to recognise outstanding achievement in sport.  The awards have been given since1961 and it is only the second time a woman has been nominated, after Harmanpreet Kaur received the same honour in 2017.

Tennis – on the Court

Fed Cup
Great Britain lost their tie against Japan at the weekend.  While Jo Konta won both of her singles matches, Heather Watson lost both of hers, which took it down to the doubles.  GB now returns to the Europe/Africa Zone.

I’m not sure that playing a doubles team of Watson/Konta is the way forward – surely it makes more sense, if you have a team of four, that two will be doubles specialists?

Watson lost the first rubber to Osaka 2-6 3-6.  Konta levelled the tie by beating Nara 6-4 6-2.  On day two, Konta beat Osaka 6-3 6-3, but Watson lost to Nara 6-7 4-6.

The deciding doubles was the only rubber to go to three sets.  Kato/Ninomiya defeated Konta/Watson 6-3 3-6 3-6.

Meanwhile the Fed Cup final will be between Czech Republic and defending champions, USA.

The Czechs beat Germany 4-1 in their semi-final.  They were 2-0 up after the first day, but then Julia Goerges beat Karoline Pliskova 6-2 6-2 to bring it back to 2-1.  But Petra Kvitova then defeated Angelique Kerber 6-2 6-2 and then the Germans retired from the doubles, giving the Czechs the 4-1 tie win.

The USA were 1-1 with France after the first day of singles.  On day two, Sloane Stephens beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-2 6-0 and Madison Keys defeated Pauline Parmentier 7-6 6-4 to give USA an unassailable 3-1 lead.  France won the dead rubber doubles to take it to 3-2.

The final will be on the weekend of 10-11 November in the Czech Republic.

There are two WTA tournaments taking place this week; Stuttgart and Istanbul.  As of today (Friday 27 April) we are at the quarter-final stage of both.

Stuttgart Open

Simona Halep (1) v Coco Vandeweghe
Anett Kontaveit v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Elina Svitolina (3) v Caroline Garcia (6)
Karolina Plíšková (5) v Jelena Ostapenko (4)

Istanbul Open

Maria Sakkari v Arantxa Rus
Caroline Wozniacki (1) v Pauline Parmentier
Polona Hercog v Svetlana Kuznetsova
Donna Vekić v Irina-Camelia Begu

Tennis – off the Court

The LTA has announced it wants to see 1,600 women qualifying to coach in the next five years.  This would double the number currently working in the sport.

The announcement was made at the Women’s Coach Conference in Birmingham this week.

In her speech, Judy Murray said,

“I believe that girls respond better to female role models.

“The LTA want to see more female coaches who can encourage girls to take up, and stay in, sport.”

Football

Lots of football news to get through this week, both on and off the pitch.

On the Pitch

Champions League

It was a poor week for the British teams in the Champions League semi-finals as Manchester City could only draw at home, while Chelsea suffered a comprehensive home defeat.  Both teams will now find it difficult progress to the final.

Manchester City 0-0 Lyon

City would have been hoping for a lead to take back to Lyon, but it was not to be.

Lyon had the lion’s share of possession throughout, but relatively few chances.  Their best came through Eugenie Le Sommer just before half-time and substitute Camille Abily just after.  And in the closing minutes Karen Bardsley pulled out a fine save to deny Amandine Henry’s header and to keep it level after the first leg.

Mel Lawley had a good chance for City, but the Lyon ‘keeper, Sarah Bouhaddi, pushed her shot over the bar.   Nikita Parris also volleyed over, but, in truth, City had few chances.

City will have to play exceedingly well to beat Lyon on their own turf.

Chelsea 1-3 Wolfsburg

If the Manchester City result was disappointing, Chelsea’s first leg was nothing short of a disaster.

The home side started well and took the lead through Fran Kirby in just the second minute.

But a header from Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir and an own goal from Maren Mjelde meant the German side went in 2-1 up at half-time.

In the second-half Wolfsburg were clearly the better side and got a third through Lara Dickenmann.

Both second legs are this Sunday, 29 April.

FAWSL

This week’s WSL1 and WSL2 scores were:

Saturday 21 April
FAWSL1
Yeovil Town 0-0 Arsenal
Sunderland AFC 1-2 Bristol City

Sunday 22 April
FAWSL1
Reading 3-0 Everton

FAWSL2
Durham 2-1 Millwall Lionesses
Tottenham Hotspur 2-4 Sheffield FC
Aston Villa 1-0 Oxford United
Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Watford 0-4 London Bees

Tuesday 24 April
FAWSL1
Arsenal 3-0 Liverpool

No change at the top in WSL1, but Yeovil have now picked up two points in two games at the bottom.  Bristol City also picked up their third win of the season, taking them to 10 points, still second from bottom, but level on points with Everton, who are third from bottom.

Millwall Lionesses spurned their chance to close the gap on leaders Doncaster, as the top two both lost at the weekend.  Brighton are now only one point behind Millwall in third, but Watford are still bottom with a single point.

Off the Pitch

Fran Kirby scooped the PFA Women’s Player of the Year award on Sunday at the Grosvenor House Hotel.  Bristol City’s Lauren Hemp picked up the PFA Young Women’s Player of the Year.

Casey Stoney also received a Special Achievement award.

And the week got even better for Kirby as she won the inaugural Football Writers’ Association’s (FWA) Women’s Footballer of the Year award on Tuesday.  It’s great to see that football writers now care about women’s football enough for there to be an award!

The shortlist for the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2018 has also been announced.  The contenders are:

Lucy Bronze (Olympique Lyonnais & England)
Pernille Harder (Wolfsburg & Denmark)
Sam Kerr (Chicago Red Stars/Perth Glory & Australia)
Dzsenifer Marozsan (Olympique Lyonnais & Germany)
Lieke Martens (Barcelona & Netherlands)

Check out the profiles of the contenders and how to vote here.  You have until 8am on Tuesday 8 May make your choice.

Golf

After the first round of the Mediheal Championship in California, the lead is shared by five golfers: Lydia Ko (NZ), Caroline Hedwall (Swe), Kim In-kyung (Kor), Jessica Korda (USA) and Su Oh (Aus) on -4.  England’s Charley Hull is one back along with Kim Sei-young (Kor), Celine Herbin (Fra) and Lexi Thompson (USA).

Rugby union

Kitakyushu Sevens (World Sevens Series Round Three)

New Zealand won the latest round in the World Sevens in Japan on Sunday.  They defeated France in the final 24-12.  In doing so, they closed the gap in the Sevens standings to six points.

England beat China 36-5 to finish seventh.

Semi-Finals: New Zealand 17 – 12 Australia; France 21 – 0 Spain
11th Place Match: Japan 14 – 33 Canada
Challenger final: United States 24 – 19 Ireland
7th Place Match: China 5 – 36 England
5th Place Match: Fiji 7 – 30 Russia
3rd Place Match: Australia 19 – 5 Spain
Final: New Zealand 24 – 12 France

Rugby league

Just two results from the Super League this week:

Sunday 22 April
York City Knights 0-62 Castleford Tigers
Bradford Bulls 4-42 St Helens

Cycling

Good news all-round for women’s cycling this week.

It was announced this week that Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen will compete in the Tour de Yorkshire in May.  Britain’s Katie Archibald and Dani Rowe will also race.

The two-day race starts in Beverley on 3 May and ends in on a course of 162 miles.  It’s a race that is gaining in profile and popularity and this year will be broadcast live on television.

The second piece of interesting news is that former UCI president Brian Cookson is planning to develop a professional women’s cycling team by 2009.

In a s statement he said,

“Over the next few months, I am going to be exploring the possibilities of setting up a new professional cycling team structure.  My intention is that this should begin with the establishing of a UCI Women’s WorldTour Team for 2019 – a team that will meet or exceed the new high standards that are likely to be put in place by the UCI for the new two-tier structure for Women’s Teams that was developed during my term as UCI President.

“I am not just talking about a top-level team in the traditional sense. There has never been so much interest in women’s sport, fitness and health generally, and this is clearly reflected in the interest in women’s cycling, not just at the elite level, but in terms of general participation. It seems to me that we are at a moment of real opportunity for women’s cycling. We are at a pivotal point, a sea-change in attitude towards women’s sport in the media and amongst the public is taking place, and we should seize this opportunity.”

“I am putting this idea out there because I want to stimulate the decision-makers in those companies, many of whom (men and women) enjoy cycling themselves, to start to think about the possibilities.  The potential return on their investment could be very substantial, but I want to make it clear that it will need innovation, creativity, and a major effort from their side to make that happen.”

He is hoping the team will be based in the UK, but this will be largely dependent on being able to raise the required sponsorship.

Although Cookson was unsuccessful in his bid for a second term as president, he is still a name in the cycling world and will hopefully carry the gravitas needed to secure the serious amount of sponsorship money he will need to get the team off the ground.

Netball

The Vitality Superleague is back!  Round eight’s results were:

Saturday 21 April
Manchester Thunder 62-57 Surrey Storm
Team Northumbria 43-47 Severn Stars
Loughborough Lightning 54-41 Benecos Mavericks

Sunday 22 April
Wasps Netball 61-44 Team Bath

The table is a bit higgledy-piggledy at the moment as although we’re on round eight, not all teams have played eight games; indeed the Dragons and the Sirens have only played six each.  At the moment Wasps are top with a one hundred per cent record, nine wins from nine (27 points).  Thunder are second with six wins from seven games (18 points) and Mavericks third with six wins from eight games (18 points).  Team Northumbria are bottom, yet to get off the mark after eight games.

This weekend’s fixtures are:

Friday 27 April
Wasps Netball v Manchester Thunder (7pm)

Saturday 28 April
UWS sirens v Surrey Storm (2pm)
Celtic Dragons v Team Northumbria (4pm)
Severn Stars v Loughborough Lightning (6pm)

Sunday 29 April
Benecos Mavericks v Team Bath (5.30pm) (Live on Sky Sports)

Women’s Sports Trust – Be a Game Changer Awards

The shortlists for the Be a Game Changer Awards have been announced.  The public vote is from 30 April – 13 May.

Categories are: Sporting Role Model – Individual, Sporting Role Model – Team, Ambassador of Women’s Sport, National Governing Body of the Year, Inspiring Initiative – National, Inspiring Initiative – Local/Grassroots, Imagery of the Year and Media Initiative of the Year.

To see all those shortlisted, click here – and don’t forget to vote!

And finally,

In a similar theme to last week’s “And Finally”, you will be unsurprised to know that it is a rant – so if you’ve had enough of me ranting I’d stop reading now.

This rant is over something I find mind-bogglingly bizarre and concerns, yet again, the keyboard warrior commentators at the end of BBC football posts.

Last weekend, as outlined above, it was the PFA Awards.  Now, if I’m not wrong there’s a Men’s award and a women’s award, also a Young Player (male) and Young Player (female) award.  So why then, were there on the end of the BBC article, not just one but several males asking why the outcome of the women’s award had been included.  One suggested it was another example of women’s football “being rammed down our throats”.

I do feel there really is only one answer to this; the BBC was covering the whole event, as they are supposed to do.  Not just half of it.  How would it be if they gave the result of the Best Film award at the Oscars, but not that of the Best Director award?  It would be half a story.

Seriously, this one has had me scratching my head for most of the week.  The level of misogyny against women’s football is not diminishing – in fact I would contend it is increasing.  Sorry to end on a negative note, but it’s dispiriting to see it again and again.  Yes, these are obviously males with limited social skills, probably living with their mothers and yes, I probably should laugh at them.  But what I fear is that they are actually fully functioning members of society who go on to (or already have) wives/partners and daughters……

And, and finally,

Don’t forget it’s the Tyrrell’s Premier 15s final on Sunday, at the Trailfinders Sports Club in West Ealing at 3pm.  Be there to see what’s sure to be a cracking match between Saracens and Harlequins.

Women’s Sports Column 28 January – 3 February 2017

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  Over the next few weeks my posting may be sporadic due to a family bereavement – totally unprofessional to mention, but I’ll make every effort I can to keep the column going.  There’s so much going on that it will give me purpose and encouragement to carry on writing.

So, on that note, let’s crack on.  News this week comes from tennis, netball, winter sports, football, cricket, This Girl Can, rugby, Be a Game Changer and the biggest news from Australia for a while – the introduction of the Women’s Aussie Rules Football league.

Be a Game Changer Awards 2017

The public nomination period for the Women’s Sports Trust “Be a Game Changer” Awards 2017 is open from 1-15 February.  Check out the Women’s Sports Trust website for details.

The categories for nomination are:

Sporting Role Model (individual), Sporting Role Model (team), Ambassador of Women’s Sport, Sponsor Partnership of the Year, National Governing Body of the Year, Inspiring Initiative (National), Inspiring Initiative (Local/Grassroots), Photographer/Filmmaker of the Year, Imagery of the Year, Media Initiative of the Year, Media Individual of the Year, Outstanding Contribution to Women’s Sport.

If there’s someone you think should be recognised in any of these categories, don’t wait as the nomination period is a short one.

Netball

Quad Series

The Quad Series is currently underway.  This is the story so far:

Saturday, 28 January, Durban

Australian Diamonds 57-50 New Zealand Silver Ferns,

South Africa Proteas 55-60 England Roses (After extra time)

Tuesday, 31 January, Durban

South Africa Proteas 46-62 Australian Diamonds

Thursday, 2 February, Echo Arena, Liverpool

England Roses 37-61New Zealand Silver Ferns

Sunday, 5 February, SSE Arena Wembley, London

England Roses v Australian Diamonds (live on BBC Two from 1pm)

New Zealand Silver Ferns v South Africa Proteas

Rugby Union

Six Nations

Don’t forget it’s the start of the Six Nations this weekend.

It all kicks off tonight (Friday) with Scotland v Ireland at the Broadway Stadium.  Kick-off is 6.35.pm.  It will be covered in Ireland by RTE.

Ireland will be favourites to win even though they will be without regular captain Niamh Briggs.

Teams:

Scotland: Chloe Rollie (Murrayfield Wanderers), Megan Gaffney (Edinburgh University), Lisa Thomson (Edinburgh University), Lisa Martin (Murrayfield Wanderers, capt), Rhona Lloyd (Edinburgh University), Helen Nelson (Murrayfield Wanderers), Sarah Law (Murrayfield Wanderers/Edinburgh University); Tracey Balmer (Worcester), Rachel Malcolm (Lichfield), Lindsey Smith (Hillhead Jordanhill), Emma Wassell (Murrayfield Wanderers), Deborah McCormack (Aylesford Bulls), Karen Dunbar (RHC Cougars), Louise McMillan (Hillhead Jordanhill), Jade Konkel (Hillhead Jordanhill).

Replacements: Lucy Park (Murrayfield Wanderers), Heather Lockhart (Hillhead Jordanhill), Katie Dougan (Edinburgh University), Sarah Bonar (Lichfield), Jemma Forsyth (Hillhead Jordanhill), Jenny Maxwell (Lichfield), Lauren Harris (Melrose), Eilidh Sinclair (Murrayfield Wanderers).

 Ireland: M Coyne (Connacht); N Kavanagh (Munster), J Murphy (Leinster), S Naoupa (Aylesford Bulls), A Miller (Connacht); N Stapleton (Leinster), A Hughes (Leinster); L Peat (Leinster), L Lyons (Munster), A Egan (Belvedere); O Fitzsimons (Leinster), ML Reilly (Leinster); C Griffin (Munster), C Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), P Fitzpatrick (Leinster) capt.

Replacements: J Finlay (Leinster), I Van Staden (Ulster), C O’Connor (Connacht), E Anthony (Munster), N Fryday (Connacht), M Healy (Connacht), C McLaughlin (Ulster), E Considine (Munster)

Second to kick off will be Italy v Wales in Acona at 2pm on Saturday 4 February.

Wales: Dyddgu Hywel (Scarlets), Elen Evans (Scarlets), Kerin Lake (Ospreys), Robyn Wilkins (Ospreys), Adi Taviner (Ospreys), Elinor Snowshill (Newport Gwent Dragons), Keira Bevan (Ospreys), Caryl Thomas (Scarlets), Carys Phillips (c) (Ospreys), Amy Evans (Ospreys), Rebecca Rowe (Newport Gwent Dragons), Mel lay (Ospreys), Sioned Harries (Scarlets), Rachel Taylor (Scarlets), Shona Powell-Hughes (Ospreys)

Replacements: Lowri Harries (Scarlets), Cerys Hale (Newport Gwent Dragons), Gwenllian Pyrs (Scarlets), Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys), Alisha Butchers (Scarlets), Sian Moore (Newport Gwent Dragons), Gemma Rowland (Newport Gwent Dragons), Jessica Kavanagh-Williams (Scarlets)

England v France takes place on Saturday at Twickenham at 7.35pm (after the men’s game).   This is already being billed as the Six Nations decider.

The game will be live on Sky Sports and on the radio on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra.  There will also be highlights on BBC TV.

DMP Sharks second row, Tamara Taylor will receive her 99th England cap.

England:  Danielle Waterman (Bristol), Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries), Emily Scarratt (Lichfield), Amber Reed (Bristol), Amy Wilson Hardy (Bristol), Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Natasha Hunt (Lichfield), Rochelle Clark (Worcester Valkyries), Amy Cokayne (Lichfield), Laura Keates (Worcester Valkyries), Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Harriet Millar-Mills (Lichfield), Izzy Noel-Smith (Bristol), Marlie Packer (Bristol), Sarah Hunter (Bristol)

If you can’t find TV or radio coverage, try the Six Nations You Tube channel.

Sevens

This Friday and Saturday sees the next round of the World Seven Series, this time in Sydney.

England finished third in Pool C on Friday as they beat Spain but lost to both Russia and the USA.  They failed to make the Cup quarter finals and now face Papua New Guinea in the Challenge Trophy semi-final.

England Women squad, Sydney

  1. Natasha Brennan, 2. Abbie Brown (C), 3. Alice Richardson-Watmore, 4. Millie Wood, 5. Lauren Cattell, 6. Rachael Woosey, 7. Heather Fisher, 8. Kelly Smith, 9. Fran Matthews, 10. Jo Richardson-Watmore, 11. Katie Mason, 12. Chantelle Miell

Pool C results

Friday 3 February

England 19-10 Spain

England 14- 22 USA

Russia 31-5 England

New Zealand, Australia and Russia finished unbeaten in their respective pools on day one.

Ireland beat Fiji and Brazil and lost to Australia in Pool B and to finish second.  They will face USA in their Cup quarter-final.

The full Cup quarter-final line-up is as follows:

New Zealand v France

Ireland v USA

Australia v Fiji

Russia v Canada

Australian Rules Football

Possibly the biggest thing to hit women’s sport in Australia in years.  The AFL has, at last, launched a women’s league and it is set to be huge.

The first game took place today and a crowd of 24,500 (with reportedly 1,000 locked outside) saw Carlton beat Collingwood 46-11.

No-one can say it hasn’t been a long time coming.  I’d love to go through the history here (perhaps a new column for WiSP Sports?), but I haven’t got time or space.  For a quick introduction try this piece by Russell Jackson in The Guardian.

For weeks on end now my social media timeline has been buzzing with the league’s imminent arrival.  Cricket Australia and other sports governing bodies must be quaking in their boots.

It’s not my game, I admit it now, but the enthusiasm is infectious and if I can find a reliable source for news, coverage and information I’ll certainly feature it in the future.

One thing’s for certain – the AFLW means business.

Football

Indian League

As I mentioned last week, the new Indian Women’s league is now go.  I’m happy to give the results so far:

28 January

Jeppiaar Institute FC 1-7 Eastern Sporting Union FC

Rising Student FC 6-1 Aizawl FC

29 January

FC Pune City 0-0 Alakhpura FC

30 January

Eastern Sporting Union FC 1-2 Rising Student FC

31 January

FC Pune City 1-0 Jeppiaar Institute FC

Alakhpura FC 6-2 Aizawl FC

2 February

Eastern Sporting Union FC 3-1 FC Pune City

Rising Student FC 0-1 Alakhpura FC

3 February

Aizawl FC 2-3 Jeppiaar Institute FC

Transfers

The threat of the demise of Notts County Ladies seems to have receded and they have started making signings again.  This week they signed striker Kirsty Linnett from Birmingham City.

Arsenal, meanwhile, have strengthened their forward line by signing England Under-23 striker, Beth Mead, from Sunderland.  This may have something to do with the news a few week ago that Sunderland are reverting to part-time status, while Arsenal could offer Mead a full-time contract.

I’m hoping this doesn’t signal an exodus from Sunderland, especially as they club went to such pains to reassure us all that their part-time decision was agreed by all – players and staff alike.

However, this week also saw midfielder Brooke Chaplen out of the door as she signed for Reading on an 18-months contract.

This Girl Can

Sport England launched the second phase of its This Girl Can campaign this week.

Since its inception in 2015, 1.6 million women and girls aged 14-40 have taken up or restarted sport.

The next four-week campaign will tackle fear of judgement, preventing women giving up sport and widening the approach to women in their 50s and 60s.

Look out for the adverts on social media, TV and the new fantastic billboards and posters at bus-stops.

Cricket

India

It is well known that the governing body of Indian Cricket, the BCCI, is undergoing a period of change and reform.   A new panel of administrators has been appointed to run the body.  And surprisingly, there is just one ex-player in the panel of four – and that ex-player is a woman.  Diana Edulji played for the Indian women’s team from 1976 to 1993.  She took 63 test wickets in 20 matches and 46 ODI wickets in 34 matches during this time.

Since her retirement she has been involved in sports administration, and is, thus, well qualified to help restructure the BCCI.

Needless to say she went through the ignominy suffered by so many cricketing women when she was refused entry to the inner sanctums of Lord’s even though she was in charge of the Indian tour of England in 1986.  Apparently she suggested that the MCC be renamed MCP (Male Chauvinist Pig).

She also clashed repeatedly with former BCCI president N Srinivasan who told her that regarding women’s cricket,

“I’m not interested, we have no choice but to run it, so we are running it for the sake of running it.”

She has also been a devoted advocate of better conditions and pay for the women’s game and is not afraid of wading into an argument.

Watch this space to see how it goes.

Kia Super League

Big news from the Kia Super League this week, with not only the fixtures being announced, but also a new broadcast package from Sky and TMS.

Thursday 10 August – Southern Vipers v Western Storm (Ageas Bowl, live on Sky Sports)
Friday 11 August – Yorkshire Diamonds v Lancashire Thunder (Headingley, live on Sky Sports)
Saturday 12 August – Western Storm v Loughborough Lightning (Taunton, live on Sky Sports)
Sunday 13 August – Surrey Stars v Yorkshire Diamonds (Kia Oval, live on Sky Sports)
Tuesday 15 August – Loughborough Lightning v Southern Vipers (Derby, live on Sky Sports)
Wednesday 16 August – Lancashire Thunder v Surrey Stars (Emirates Old Trafford, live on Sky Sports)
Friday 18 August – Loughborough Lightning v Yorkshire Diamonds (Loughborough)
Sunday 20 August – Lancashire Thunder v Loughborough Lightning (Blackpool CC)
Sunday 20 August – Southern Vipers v Surrey Stars (Ageas Bowl)
Sunday 20 August – Yorkshire Diamonds v Western Storm (York CC)
Wednesday 23 August – Lancashire Thunder v Southern Vipers (Liverpool CC)
Wednesday 23 August – Surrey Stars v Western Storm (Guildford CC)
Saturday 26 August – Surrey Stars v Loughborough Lightning (Guildford CC)
Saturday 26 August – Western Storm v Lancashire Thunder (The Brightside Ground, Bristol)
Saturday 26 August – Southern Vipers v Yorkshire Diamonds (Arundel)
Friday 1 September – Finals day (1st Central County Ground, Hove, live on Sky Sports)

There will be six double-headers with the T20 Blast.  There will be coverage from every round on Test Match Special.  Personally I’m still not convinced about the efficacy of double-headers in either the cricket fashion (women playing before) or rugby fashion (women playing afterwards.).  I’d be happy to hear what you think.

WBBL

Perth Scorchers were unable to do the double last Saturday as the women’s team lost to the Sydney Sixers at the WACA in the final of the second WBBL.

The Sixers batted first and scored a respectable 124/5.  Alyssa Healy, in storming form throughout the tournament, was top scorer with 40 and Marizanne Kapp scored 34 not out.  English fast bowler Anya Shrubsole took 2/17.

The Scorchers were unable to reach the target though, falling short by seven runs.  They finished on 117/7 off their 20 overs.  Katherine Brunt top scored with 35 not out.  Nicole Bolton scored 34.  Sarah Aley took 4/23.

So that’s two from two for Sydney as the Thunder took the inaugural competition in 2016.

World Cup Qualifying Tournament

The World Cup Qualifying tournament in Sri Lanka gets underway on 7 February.

Group A comprises:  India, Sri Lanka, Ireland, Zimbabwe and Thailand

Group B comprises: South Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Scotland and PNG

Four places are still up for grabs.

Tennis

Serena Williams claimed her 23rd Grand Slam title on Saturday as she beat her sister Venus to win the Australian Open in Melbourne.

She won the match in straight sets, 6-4 6-4.

Winter Sports

More success for Britain in winter sports this week.

Snowboarder Katie Ormerod won a bronze medal in slopestyle at the X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

She scored 80.33.  The gold was taken by Julia Marino on 94.66.

Meanwhile, in bobsleigh, Mica Moore and Mica McNeill won junior Bobsleigh World Championship gold in Winterberg, Germany.

Moore of Wales and McNeill of England only teamed up this winter but have already won four medals in competition.  They won in Winterberg in a time of 53.96 seconds.  Anna Koehler and Franziska Fritz of Germany won silver with compatriots Kim Kalicki and Lisa-Sophie Gericke taking bronze.

And finally

French League Un club, Lille, have offered free match tickets to women after sexist banners appeared in the crowd with their match at Lyon.

I’m sure most of you have seen the banners; one was a picture of a man with the word “stadium” underneath, while the second was a woman with the word “kitchen” underneath.

Ironic really, as the Lille women’s team have won the French title 14 times…..