Women’s Sports Column 6-12 October 2018

boxing_gloves-2Welcome to this week’s column. Hopefully a bit shorter (and sweeter) this week.  Lots of positive news around, which we all like to see. Stories this week come from boxing, football, rugby union, rugby league, tennis, netball, hockey, cricket, winter sports and motor racing.

So let’s crack on.

Boxing

Nicola Adams’ next bout could be a shot at the WBO world flyweight title.  On Saturday she beat Isabel Millan of Mexico on points (unanimous) at the Morningside Arena in Leicester.

She is now five from five since turning professional in 2017.

It was a test for Adams – the first time she had been taken beyond four rounds.  Two judges scored it 97-93 and one 96-94.

Her promoter, Frank Warren, is keen to see Adams get a shot at the title.  It could be as soon as December and he is eyeing up the undercard of the Josh Warrington v Carl Frampton fight, which takes place at the Manchester Arena on the 22nd.

The current champion is Arely Mucino of Mexico, who has been professional since 2008.  She has won 16 of her 20 bouts, nine within the distance.

Tennis

China Open

Second seed Caroline Wozniacki took the China Open title with a straight sets win over Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 6-3.

Wozniacki beat home favourite Wang Qiang 6-1 6-3 in the semi-final, while Sevastova defeated US Open champion Naomi Osaka 6-4 6-4.

The doubles final was an altogether closer affair, eventually won in three sets by second seeds Andrea Sestini Hlavackova and Barbora Strycova 4-6 6-4 10-8 over third seeds Xu Yifan and Gabriela Dabrowski.

This week sees tournaments in both Hong Kong and Tianjin.

Hong Kong Open

Naomi Osaka withdrew before the tournament started with a back injury.

Third seed Jelena Ostapenko suffered a shock exit in the round of 32, 5-7 3-6 2-6 to the unseeded Kristina Kucova of Slovakia.

At time of publication we are at the quarter-final stage; two have been completed and two are yet to take place:

Zhang Shuai beat Daria Gavrilova (7) 6-1 6-3
Dayana Yastremka beat Kristina Kucova 7-6 6-2
Garbine Muguruza (4) v Luksika Kumkhum
Elina Svitolina (1) v Wang Qiang (6)

Tianjin Open

Meanwhile in Tianjin Britain’s Katie Boulter has had a storming week.  She reached the quarter-finals of the Tinajin Open, eventually falling to world number six, Karolina Pliskova 5-7 6-0 6-3.

After taking the tight first set, Pliskova asserted her authority in the second, taking it 6-0.  But Boulter rallied in the third and was 2-0 up before Pliskova re-asserted herself and took the set and the match.

Quarter-finals:

Caroline Garcia (2) beat Petra Martic (6) 6-2 1-0 (Martic retired with an injury)
Aryna Sabalenka (4) beat Timea Bacsinsczky 7-6 7-6
Karlina Pliskova (1) beat Katie Boulter 5-7 6-0 6-3

Pliskova meets Bacsinsczky in the semi-final

Still to play:

Hsieh Su-wei (5) v Elise Mertens (3)

Tennis – off the Court

British number one Jo Konta has split with her coach Michael Joyce after less than a year.  She has struggled this year, particularly in the Grand Slams and has slipped to 45 in the world.

There is clearly something wrong in Konta’s world and it is not my job to speculate in this column.  Her rise over the last couple of seasons has been wonderful to watch and I really hope that she finds a coach who will restore the self-confidence she really should have, but shows so little.

More news as it happens.

Football

The shortlist for the first Women’s Ballon d’Or award has been announced.  There are two English players, Lucy Bronze and Fran Kirby, on the list.

It’s a lot more representative of the current state of things than the Best Fifa Awards that took place last month.

Shortlist:
Lucy Bronze (Lyon and England)
Pernille Harder (Wolfsburg and Denmark)
Ada Hegerberg (Lyon and Norway)
Amandine Henry (Lyon and France)
Lindsey Horan (Portland and USA)
Sam Kerr (Chicago and Australia)
Fran Kirby (Chelsea and England)
Saki Kumagai (Lyon and Japan)
Dzenifer Marozsan (Lyon and Germany)
Amel Majri (Lyon and France)
Marta (Orlando and Brazil)
Lieke Martens (Barcelona and Netherlands)
Megan Rapinoe (Seattle and USA)
Wendie Renard (Lyon and France)
Christine Sinclair (Portland and Canada)

Lionesses

There were two somewhat contrasting friendlies for the Lionesses this week.  The first, a dull affair played in rotten conditions against Brazil and the second, a much tighter effort enlivened by some incomprehensible refereeing decisions.

England 1-0

Brazil were clearly uncomfortable in the driving rain and wind at Meadow Lane.  England used it to their advantage and scored after just two minutes, an exquisitely placed header from Fran Kirby.

Nikita Parris caused mayhem down the wing, but was, perhaps, guilty of shooting selfishly on occasion when a cross or pass would have done a better job.

Marta went off with an injury in the first-half which didn’t help their cause.

England had several chances to increase their lead, but were profligate in front of goal.  But their attacking style was pleasing to the eye (23 shots, 8 on target), even if the quality of the end product was frustrating.

Brazil had a ten-minute period towards the end of the second-half when they seemed to finally come alive, but it would have been most unjust if they had scored the equaliser.

In the end England held out and were on the front foot at the final whistle.  It was a good performance under the circumstances, even though the opposition were disappointing.

England 1-1 Australia

The Matildas, by contrast, were up for the fight from the off.  And although the Lionesses were not made to pay for their carelessness in front of goal by Brazil, the Australians were not so forgiving,

Fran Kirby was on target again as England took the lead midway through the first-half.  Lucy Staniforth had a goal disallowed as she was (wrongly) adjudged offside.

But it was the two penalties turned down by the referee that had both Head Coach Phil Neville and the rest us scratching our heads.

Both Beth Mead and Nikita Parris were clearly brought down in the box with neither penalty being given.

Even so, England had plenty of chances to score again, particularly through Mead, but the Matildas kept on with a tenacity that we didn’t see from Brazil and were impressive on the break.

Six minutes from the end, Australia equalised as Clare Polkinghorne headed in from a corner.

World Cup Play-offs

The last European place for next year’s World Cup in France will go to either European Champions Netherlands or Switzerland.

First leg – 5 October:

Netherlands 2-0 Denmark
Beerensteyn 21’, Van de Sanden 42’

Belgium 2-2 Switzerland
Cayman 5’, De Neve 60’
Lehmann 55’, 87’

Second leg – 9 October

Denmark 1-2 Netherlands
Nadim 5’ (Pen)
Beerensteyn 7’ 90+2’

Switzerland 1-1 Belgium
Reuteler 23’
De Caigny 77’

So, Netherlands win 4-1 on aggregate and although the other tie finished 3-3, Switzerland go through on away goals.

The final is also a two-legged affair.  The first leg is on 5 November and the second on 13 November.  Netherlands are at home in the first leg.

Doncaster Rovers Belles

Breaking news is that Doncaster Rovers Belles are in talks with Club Doncaster about a possible takeover.

Club Doncaster runs Doncaster Rovers men’s side, the rugby league side and several projects in the community.

Belles Chair, Faye Lygo told the BBC,

“We believe matters are moving forward positively,” Lygo told BBC Sport.

“We have had to take measures to stabilise the club at a time of change in the women’s game and believe the future of the Belles lies in Doncaster, with the Rovers.”

Let’s hope that the discussions go well as a fully integrated club will hopefully ensure the Belles’ survival and progress.

Rugby League

Woman of Steel

Georgia Roche of Castleford is the Rugby Football League’s first ever Woman of Steel.

Roche, who is just 17, is part of the Castleford team that got to the Challenge Cup final this year and the Super League play-off semi-finals.

Talking of which….

Super League Play-offs

Leeds 24-10 Castleford Tigers

The first-half was a tight affair with Castleford going in 6-0 up at the break.  But Rhiannon Marshall, player of the match, had other ideas.  She went in for a try and set up two more for Chloe Kerrigan and Frankie Townend.  Charlotte Booth scored a fourth.  Suze Hill added another and Castleford could only come back with a consolation try from Kelsey Gentles.  Courtney Hill hit a penalty to round off the scoring and see Leeds safely through.

Wigan Warriors 10-6 St Helens

Wigan led 10-2 at half-time.  St Helens took the lead through a Faye Gaskin penalty, but Wigan hit back through tries from Alison Burrows and Rachel Thompson with Michelle Davis converting the latter.

The second-half was intense as both sides tried to make the decisive breakthrough.  In the end, the only score was a try from Saints’ Katie-May Williams with just four minutes to go.  It made for an exciting end, but Wigan managed to hold out to get through to the final.

So it will be Leeds v Wigan in the Super League Grand Final which takes place this Saturday, 13 October at the Manchester Regional Arena.  1pm kick-off.  Admission is £5 with under-16s getting in for free.

Rugby Union – Off the Pitch

Liza Burgess

Liza Burgess has become the 142nd member (and first Welsh woman) to be inducted into World Rugby’s Hall of Fame.

She won 93 caps for Wales and Great Britain, captaining Wales 62 times.  She also played in four World Cups and

Domestically, she started at Loughborough University and Wasps and then co-founded Saracens in 1989, spending ten years at the club.

She ended her playing career at Clifton (now Bristol) and played her last game for Wales in the 2007 Six Nations against England at the age of 42.

Since her on-field retirement, she has coached extensively both domestically and with the Welsh national side and was Giselle Mather’s assistant coach of the inaugural Women’s Barbarians team in 2017.

Rugby Union – On the Pitch

The Premier 15s are back in action this weekend:

13 October
Firwood Waterloo v Gloucester-Hartpury (12.30pm, Firwood Waterloo Rugby Club)
Worcester Valkyries v Harlequins (2pm, Sixways Stadiium)
Loughborough v Bristol Bears (3pm, Loughborough University)
Saracens v Wasps (3.45pm, Allianz Park)
DMP Sharks v Richmond (5pm, Northern Echo Arena)

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Results from 6 October were as follows:

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

Surbiton dropped their first points of the season in their draw with East Grinstead.  Holcombe were the beneficiaries as they beat Clifton Robinsons to go level with Surbiton at the top of the table.  Both lie on seven points, with Surbiton top on goal difference.  University of Birmingham are third on five points.  At the bottom Slough gained their first point of the season, but are still at the foot of the table, with Bowdon second from bottom on two points.

This weekend’s fixtures:

13 October
Buckingham v Bowdon (12 noon, Stowe School, P1)
Slough v East Grinstead (12.30pm, Slough HC)
Surbiton v University of Birmingham (1pm, Surbiton HC)
Beeston v Clifton Robinsons (2pm, Nottingham Hockey, P1)
Holcombe v Canterbury (6pm. Holcombe HC, P1)

Netball

This Saturday sees the second Fast5 All-Stars tournament at the Copper Box Arena in London.

Loughborough Lightning are the defending champions.  The eight teams taking part are Lightning, Surrey Storm, Team Bath, Wasps Netball, Manchester Thunder, Strathclyde Sirens, Severn Stars and benecosMavericks.

It will be a fast and furious five-hour session.  All eight teams play in a double elimination format; two wins and a team goes through to the semi finals.  Two losses and you’re out.  Teams winning one and losing one of their opening matches will play a deciding match for a place in the semis.

Matches are 12 minutes long.  There is a five-point line and a two-minute Power Play where points count double.

It’s the netball equivalent of T20 (not commenting either way).  But it will be fun, so if you’re in the vicinity of the Copper Box on Saturday, check it out – the tournament starts at 1pm and goes on until 6pm.   It is also live on Sky.

The winning team takes away £25k, so it’s not to be sniffed at.

One player who will be there – and it’s probably worth going just to see her – is Sharni Layton.  Somehow I missed the startling fact that Layton, who retired from international netball earlier on this year, will be one of the “All Stars” playing for Surrey Storm.  Layton (and I don’t doubt it for a moment) has also indicated that she will play AFLW for Collingwood in the new season. Top of Form

Cricket

No cricket reports this week, but just to let you know that Australia will playing a three-match ODI series against Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur in the coming weeks.  The dates are 18, 20 and 22 October and I will have news and reports on their completion.

Winter Sports

Lindsey Vonn has announced she will retire at the end of the upcoming season.

She currently has 82 World Cup victories and is still aiming to break Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86.

There is no doubt that the sport has taken a physical toll on her and it is mainly for this reason that she has decided that this season will be her last:

“Physically, I’ve gotten to the point where it doesn’t make sense,” she said.

“I really would like to be active when I’m older, so I have to look to the future and not just be so focused on what’s in front of me.”

And Finally – motor racing W Series

Is it a chance to “show what women are really capable of” (Catherine Bond-Muir, Chief Executive of the new W Series) or is it “a sad day for motorsport” and an “historic step backwards (Pippa Mann, British IndyCar driver)?  Is it “an important means to an end – a stepping stone for female drivers” (Alice Powell, sportscar driver) or is it “founded on segregation” (Charlie Martin, racing driver)?

The news that there is to be a new women-only motor racing competition, the “W Series”, has certainly divided opinion.  It is backed by some big names, both male and female, including former F1 driver David Coulthard, former Williams test driver Susie Wolff and Red Bull chief designer Adrian Newey.

It’s a tricky one and I can see both sides.  What we want to avoid is creating yet another opportunity for men to cry “inferior sport” when actually, the premise is that motor racing is a sport in which men and women can compete alongside each other.

There will be up to 20 drivers competing for a prize fund of $1.5m.  There will be six races around Europe, including one in the UK.   The cars will be identical and will be run by the W Series.

Competitors will be chosen by assessment of their capabilities.

So why do we need a women-only competition?  Newey states that brute strength is not a factor in the success of racing drivers and so, he says,

“That being the case, I believe the reason why so few women have so far raced successfully at the highest levels against men is a lack of opportunity rather than a lack of capability.”

And surely that’s the issue.  It was the issue when all-women shortlists for parliamentary seats were introduced, and it’s the issue now.  I was a long-time opponent of so-called “positive discrimination” and of all-women shortlists.  But I came to see that they are a means to an end.  We want women in all areas of life to have equality of opportunity.  But it doesn’t happen.

It’s slightly different in motorsport as there is the karting route to come through.  But are women getting the opportunity in karting?   If, by the introduction of the W series, seeing women in motorsport becomes the norm, then hopefully the competition will do itself out of a job.  But until that happens, let’s give them the chance to compete and provide them with a different possible route into major motorsport and formula 1.

I’m against “ghettoising” women’s sport, but I’m all for extending opportunity, particularly in sports where, traditionally, the opportunities have been few.  Let me know what you think.

More news and views next week.      

Women’s Sports Column 7-13 July 2018

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  When I started researching for this week’s column I thought it was going to be a quiet one, but the end of the week has brought such torrents of football news that the writing, I warn you, may just go on and on…

Stories this week come from, as I said, football (no, not that), athletics, cricket, tennis and netball.

Let’s crack on.

Netball

Superleague Grand Final
Loughborough Lightning 51-55 Wasps Netball

Wasps proved too strong for Lightning again at the weekend as they claimed their second Grand Final a row, condemning the Lightning to be runners-up yet again, and by the same score.

After Lightning took an early lead, Wasps pulled it back and by the end of the first quarter it was 12 apiece.

The second quarter was tight until Wasps missed  a shot and Peace Proscovia put hers away at the other end  and Loughborough were ahead by two 21-19.  But they didn’t hold the lead for long, and by half-time the momentum had swung and Wasps were in front by four, 28-24.

Wasps pretty much maintained their lead in the third, which saw them three up by the end, 43-40.

But Loughborough were not giving up without a fight as they brought it back to 44-all.

This was as close as they got.  In the final minutes Wasps would pull away, and then Loughborough would get it back within two.  But in the end Wasps got the better of it and took the title again.

Other news

Big news from netball both in England and Australia this week as top two Vitality Superleague sides Wasps and Loughborough change their management teams and two big Diamonds stars announce their retirement.

Wasps Netball

Grand Final winners Wasps have appointed Mel Mansfield as their new Head Coach.  Mansfield had been assistant coach for the senior team for two years.

Tamsin Greenway has stepped down as Director of Netball but will stay with Wasps as a coach and brand ambassador.

Loughborough Lightning

Runners-up Lightning, meanwhile, have announced that their new Director of Netball will be Sara Bayman, who will join Loughborough from the Sirens in September.

Bayman is a former England international with 84 caps to her name.

Emily Perry will become Pathway Head Coach, moving from the Lightning Netball Academy.

Aussie Diamonds

Two Australian greats announced their international retirement this week:

Defender Laura Geitz won 71 caps, won two World Cups (2011, 2015) and Commonwealth Games gold in Glasgow in 2014.

After giving birth to a son last year, Geitz had a break from netball, but knew she wanted to compete at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.  The final, which the Diamonds lost to England Roses, was her last international match.

It is thought that she will continue her domestic netball career with Queensland Firebirds.

Just a day later, Madi Robinson also announced her retirement.  Robinson won 61 caps in an eight-year international career, playing at wing attack.

She was part of the gold-winning 2014 Commonwealth Games squad, but did not play in the 2015 World Cup due to injury.  She made a comeback at the Gold Coast Games.

She is also planning to continue her domestic career as captain of Collingwood.

 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague

But the week has not been without controversy.  The 2019 Superleague teams have been announced and, it’s safe to say, the North does not come out of it well.  Team Northumbria has withdrawn from the elite league and has been replaced by London Pulse.

The Pulse, under CEO Natalie Seaton, will play their home matches at the Copper Box.

England Netball CEO, Joanna Adams, said:

“We are delighted to welcome London Pulse into the Vitality Netball Superleague for 2019.

“They submitted an excellent proposal and it’s brilliant to have new investment into the league.”

There has been plenty of comment across social media platforms, with the new move being widely questioned.  There will be only Manchester Thunder representing the north and nothing in the northeast region at all.  It has been suggested that Leeds Rhinos would have been a more balanced fit, but it was not to be.  I would hate to see the sport become a “southern” sport – let’s hope the development of sides in the north continues and that, vitally, England Netball offers its support to teams and clubs in the north.

The ten teams who will take part in the 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague are:

Benecos Mavericks, Celtic Dragons, London Pulse, Loughborough Lightning, Manchester Thunder, Severn Stars, Surrey Storm, Team Bath, UWS Sirens and Wasps Netball.

The 2018 Superleague awards were also announced this week.  The list of winners can be found here:

http://www.netballsl.com/2018/07/07/vnsl-2018-award-winners-announced/

Tennis – Wimbledon

Singles

It has been decided!  The Wimbledon women’s singles final will be between 25th seed Serena Williams and 11th Seed Angelique Kerber.

Both women have played some stunning tennis to get this far and both had straight sets victories in their semi-finals:

Williams beat 13th seed Julia Görges 6-2 6-4, while Kerber overcame French Open champion and 12th seed Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 6-3.

It is set to be a cracking final.  It all starts at 2pm on Saturday 14 July and UK coverage is via BBC Television and BBC Radio 5 Live.

Women’s Doubles

The women’s doubles semi-finals take place today (Friday 13 July) and will be as follows:

Kvete Peschke & Nicole Melichar (12) v Gabriela Dabrowski & Xu Yifan (6)
Alicja Rosolska & Abigail Spears v Barbora Krejcikova & Katerina Siniakova (3)

Mixed Doubles

The semi-finals of the mixed doubles are also today (Friday) and there is still plenty of British interest, although someone will miss out as they play each other in the second semi-final:

Katerina Srebotnik & Michael Venus (9) v Nicole Melichar v Alexander Peya (11)
Harriet Dart & Jay Clarke (GB) v Victoria Azarenka & Jamie Murray (GB)

Wheelchair Singles

Of special note this year, Kgothatso Montjane is the first black South African woman to play at Wimbledon.

The ladies’ wheelchair singles semi-finals will be:

Aniek Van Koot v Yui Kamiji
Diede De Groot v Kgothatso Montjane

The wheelchair doubles semi-finals:

Diede De Groot & Yui Kamiji (1) v Katharina Kruger & Kgothatso Montjane
Sabine Ellerbrook & Lucy Shuker v Marjolein Buis & Aniek Van Koot (2)

All ties to be played today, Friday 13 July.

Football

I thought it was going to be all about the signings this week, but events have overtaken this until I am now starting to think, at the risk of sounding overly dramatic, the soul of the game is in peril.

The more news, the more my heart sinks and I wonder where it will end.  Does the FA actually have a plan?  Are they just going to wait to see who sinks and who swims?

Doncaster Rovers Belles

The news overshadowing everything this week is that Doncaster Belles will not be playing Championship football next season, but will drop down to the National League.  It a statement it said,

“The club can announce that for the 2018/2019 season we will be competing in the Women’s National League. We can confirm we have withdrawn from the Women’s Championship and await FA ratification of the move in their Special General Meeting (date to be confirmed). We have worked closely with the FA and have mutually agreed the change in leagues which will ensure the continued viability and re-growth of the club.

“Our 50th year is upon us and the recent changes have allowed us to reflect and refocus. Our philosophy has always been centred on creating opportunities for women and girls in football. We are proud of our legacy which has pioneered the women’s game. Our coaching structure focuses on individual development and has seen players hit personal achievements, move on to high profile clubs and created opportunities with national teams. Our unique female mentoring scheme for coaches and managers has seen tremendous talent enter the game and again move onto exciting opportunities within the sport including with the England Lionesses. This remains our philosophy and we are excited to see a wealth of young developing players have a great opportunity to hit their full potential under a fantastic coaching team.  More details will follow on our decision.

“We look forward to celebrating our 50th Birthday with you all #backthebelles and welcome your input and support.”

It has been said on social media that the club has only four players left, and their remaining is not a certainty.  There has been no word as to who will be taking their place in the Championship.

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace, meanwhile, are celebrating as they are taking the Championship spot vacated by Sheffield FC.

Manchester United

And of course, there is always the looming presence of the new Manchester United outfit.  Casey Stoney announced this week that she now has a squad of 21 players, which will be unveiled on Friday 13 July.

Signings

There has been a considerable amount of disquiet this week amongst lovers of the women’s game about the numbers of overseas signings being made.  Are these good players, going to improve the health of the game in this country, or are they just cheap?  Is women’s football at the highest level about to go the way of the men’s Premier League in record time?  I really hope not.  Let’s hope that those signed from overseas are committed to playing here and making a difference, but let’s also hope that there are still pathways for young British players to come through and that they can get their chance at the biggest teams in the country.  I’d like to see every club with a wealth of talent and able to compete at the highest level – I don’t want it to become a fight for the title between the same four clubs every season.  Let’s see the best overseas players over here, enriching our clubs, teaching us what they have learnt in their respective leagues and making our clubs stronger both domestically and in the Champions League.

But let us not forget that professional women’s football in this country is, essentially, still in its infancy.  The FA is clearly going for a “survival of the fittest” policy and is unlikely to step in to help a club in trouble – and I have no confidence in it to have done the requisite checks before it issued licences.  I don’t think I’m alone in having a bad feeling about all of this.  More news and views as it happens.   

West Ham

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – West Ham mean business.  Matt Beard is assembling a fine squad, a good mixture of experience and youth.  They’ve been dabbling in the transfer market again this week:

Scotland striker Jane Ross has signed for them after being released by Manchester City.

They have also signed Dutch duo Esmee de Graaf from PEC Zwolle and Lucienne Reichardt from Dutch champions Ajax. De Graaf is a young striker, just 20, but she has already won two caps for the Netherlands.  Midfielder Reichardt is, by contrast, a relatively old hand at 27.

This takes the number of signings to seven, the others being Gilly Flaherty, Vyan Sampson, Rebecca Spencer and Brianna Visalli.

Reading

Reading, too, seem to be on the charge.  They have made an excellent signing, taking Gemma Davison from Chelsea.  Davison has been unlucky not to be getting regular starts for the champions and you can’t blame her for jumping ship in search of first team football.

Scotland defender Sophie Howard has also joined the Berkshire side.

Welsh international Charlie Estcourt has extended her contract with the Royals for another season and club captain Kirsty Pearce has also committed herself for another season.

Liverpool

After a mass exodus at Liverpool, it seems they are gearing up again with some major signings;

Ex- Donny Belles duo of captain Leandra Little and Rhiannon Roberts signed this week.

Goalkeeper Anke Preuss has signed from Sunderland

Athletics – World Cup

This weekend the London Stadium hosts the Athletics World Cup.  Eight countries are taking part: Great Britain & Northern Ireland, China, France, Germany, Jamaica, Poland, South Africa and USA.  Team GB largely comprises up-and-coming youngsters, but does include in-form long jumper Lorraine Ugen and high jumper Morgan Lake.

The women’s team in full:

100m Daryll Neita (Shaftesbury Barnet), 200m Beth Dobbin (Edinburgh,) 400m Anyika Onuora (Liverpool), 800m Adelle Tracey (Guildford & Godalming), 1500m Jemma Reekie (Kilbarchan), 100m hurdles: Megan Marrs (Windsor, Slouth, Eton & Hounslow), 400m hurdles Meghan Beesley (Birchfield Harriers), High jump Morgan Lake (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow), Pole vault Holly Bradshaw (Blackburn), Long jump Lorraine Ugen (Thames Valley), Triple Jump Naomi Ogbeta (Trafford), Shot put Amelia Strickler (Thames Valley, Discus Jade Lally (Shaftesbury Barnet), Hammer Sophie Hitchon (Blackburn), Javelin Laura Whittingham (Sale Harriers), 4x100m TBC; 4x400m TBC.

Para-Athletics

The GB team for the WPA European Championships, which takes place in Berlin from 20-26 August has also been announced this week.  The female athletes taking part are:

Kare Adenegan – T34 100m & 800m, Hollie Arnold – F46 Javelin, Martina Barber –T20 Long Jump, Olivia Breen – T38 100m, Sally Brown– T47 100m, 200m & 400m, Jo Butterfield – F51 Club Throw, Hannah Cockroft  – T34 100m & 800m, Hannah Dines  – RR3 100m, Sabrina Fortune – F20 Shot Put, Kylie Grimes  – F51 Club Throw, Kayleigh Haggo  – RR3 100M, Sophie Hahn – T38 100m, 200m & 4x100m mixed relay, Maria Lyle  – T35 100m & 200m, Polly Maton  – T47 Long Jump, 100m & 4x100m mixed relay, Stef Reid – T64 Long Jump and 200m* (200m subject to confirmation), Ali Smith – T38 100m, 200m, 400m & Long Jump, Laura Sugar – T44 100m & 200m, Vanessa Wallace – F34 Shot Put & Javelin, Eve Walsh Dann  – T36 100m & 200m.

Cricket

England v New Zealand ODI series

Hell hath no fury like an England team batting first.  In truth this has been somewhat of a disappointing series, with the first two ODIs hardly contested.  Let’s hope that the third, taking place at Grace Road, Leicester, today (Friday 13 July) is a closer affair.  From an England point of view, of course, it couldn’t have gone better and there are four ICC Women’s Championship points in the bag.

First ODI
England 290/5 (50 overs)
New Zealand 148 all out (35.3 overs)
England won by 142 runs

The England openers had amassed 111 before New Zealand took a wicket.  Tammy Beaumont went for 40, caught by Martin off the bowling of Tahuhu.  Amy Jones and Heather Knight both scored 63 – in fact everyone made a contribution as England scored a huge 290.

In response, as is becoming horribly regular, the Ferns’ openers made a good start, but after they were out the collapse was most definitely on.   Bates scored 28 and Devine 33, but only Maddy Green, of the rest of the side, got over 20.

Second ODI
England 241 all out (48 overs)
New Zealand 118 all out (38 overs)
England won by 123 runs

New Zealand managed to take all ten wickets in this game, but still lost the game convincingly.

Jones was out relatively early, having made 20.  Beaumont top-scored with 67 and Sciver made a useful 54.  The wickets were shared around with Devine, Kasparek and Watkin taking two each and Huddleston, Tahuhu and Kerr, one each.

Bates made 20 at the top of the order for New Zealand, but again Green with 20 was the next best scorer.  The middle order was pretty much reduced to single-figure scoring.  Katie George and Sophie Ecclestone took three wickets each and in the end it was all too easy for England.

ICC Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier

Bangladesh and Ireland have booked their places in the World T20, which takes place in the West Indies in November.

They face each other in the final of the Qualifying tournament on Saturday.

Bangladesh beat Scotland in their semi-final.  Bangladesh scored 125/6 off their 20 overs, but Scotland could only muster 76/7 in reply.

Ireland overcame Papua New Guinea in their semi.  Batting first, Ireland scored 113/6 off their 20 overs.  PNG were all out for 86 in 19.2 overs.

News and report of the final next week.

And finally,

Don’t forget there is another World Cup to look forward too – and it’s getting closer!  The Women’s Hockey World Cup begins in just two weeks.  Can England follow up their Olympic gold with a World Cup win?

It all begins on 21 July at the Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre in London.  TV coverage is via BT Sport.

More news and views next week.

Women’s Sports Column 12-18 May 2018

fieldhockeysticksWelcome to this week’s column.  Plenty again to get into this week.  Sorry I missed doing a full report on the FA Cup final as it was a great match – so just a quick review.  Stories this week come from tennis, football, rugby league, hockey, cricket, netball, sports administration and rugby union.  Plus, this week’s “And Finally” is a positive news story about a brilliant new campaign launched by Women in Football. 

So let’s crack on.

Hockey

It’s the Women’s EuroHockey Club Cup in Surbiton over the next four days.  Play is already underway.  English hopes lie with Surbiton, the current Investec Premier League champions, while the Republic of Ireland is represented by UCD Ladies.

So far the results have been:

17 May

    • Mannheim (GER) 0-1 Hamburg (GER)
    • AH & BC Amsterdam (NED) 8-0 UCD Ladies (IRL)
    • ‘s-Hertogenbosch (NED) 5-0 Victorya Smolevichi (BLR)
    • Club Campo de Madrid (ESP) 2-0 Surbiton (ENG)

We then go into a series of fixtures as follows:

18 May

    • UCD Ladies (Loser M2) v Mannheim (Loser M1)
    • Victorya Smolevichi (Loser M3) v Surbiton (Loser M4)

19 May

    • AH & BC Amsterdam (Winner M2) v Hamburg (Winner M1)
    • ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Winner M3) v Club Campo de Madrid (Winner M4)

20 May

    • Loser M5 v Loser M6 (7th/8th place)
    • Winner M5 v Winner M6 (5th/6th place)
    • Loser SF1 v Loser SF2 (3rd/4th place)
    • Winner SF1 v Winner SF2 (Final!)

Football – on the Pitch

Both FAWSL titles have been decided.  Chelsea secured the WSL 1 title on Tuesday, while Doncaster Rovers Belles were crowned champions on Sunday.

WSL1 Results

Saturday 12 May
Yeovil Town 0-2 Bristol City
Arsenal 2-1 Manchester City
Reading FC 3-0 Liverpool
Chelsea 2-1 Sunderland AFC

Sunday 13 May
Everton 0-3 Birmingham City

Tuesday 15 May
Bristol City 0-2 Chelsea
Chelsea secured the WSL1 title, and league and Cup double on Tuesday with a fine away win at Bristol City.  Drew Spence opened the scoring on 10 minutes and they maintained this one-goal lead until the 88th minute when Jonna Andersson sealed it with the second.  Their final game of the season is away at Liverpool on Sunday, when all games kick off at 12.30pm.

Wednesday 16 May
Manchester City 5-0 Yeovil Town
Sunderland AFC 0-2 Arsenal

WSL2 Results

Saturday 12 May
London Bees 0-0 Sheffield FC

Sunday 13 May
Durham 4-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
Aston Villa 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Oxford United 1-2 Watford
Millwall Lionesses 0-1 Doncaster Rovers Belles

The Belles had already sealed their championship win on Wednesday with a 2-1 win at Sheffield FC.  On Sunday they won again against the Lionesses with a Jade Pennock deflected shot.  Doncaster will not be promoted, however, as they applied to be in the new Women’s Championship (replacing WSL2) next season.  Their last game of the season is on Sunday 20 May when they are at home to Oxford United.  All games kick off at 2pm.

Wednesday 16 May
Watford 0-5 Sheffield FC

FA Cup Final
Arsenal 1-3 Chelsea

I was sorry to miss out on reporting more fully on the FA Cup final, which took place on 5 May, particularly as it was a cracking, competitive match and a record crowd of 45,423 saw a great advertisement for women’s football.

What a game for Ramona Bachmann, who has so often flattered to deceive for Chelsea.  After a quiet, even first half, the game needed a spark.  Enter Bachmann who scored twice to completely change the complexion of the game and take it away from Arsenal.

Disappointingly, some of Arsenal’s big names, including a particularly subdued Jordan Nobbs, just couldn’t up the tempo when needed.

Two great strikes by Bachmann were the difference. She scored on 48 and 60, ripping the heart out of Arsenal.  Vivianne Miedema pulled one back for the Gunners on 73, but the resurgence was short-lived.  Just three minutes later Fran Kirby got into the action, slotting home a fine shot to make it 3-1.

Football – off the pitch

Chelsea captain Katie Chapman has announced that she will retire from playing at the end of this season at the age of 35.

In a distinguished career, Chapman won 94 England caps, taking part in two World Cups and three European Championships.

Domestically, she played for Millwall, Fulham, Charlton, Arsenal and Chelsea, winning 10 FA Cups in total.

Since joining Chelsea in 2014, she has won the FA Cup/league double in 2015, the WSL Spring Series in 2017 and the 2018 FA Cup.

She will now take up an ambassadorial role with Chelsea.

Cricket

Exciting news from women’s cricket this week.  There will be a women’s T20 exhibition match at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai before the first IPL Qualifier on Tuesday May 22.

It will be broadcast live around the world and also live on Sky Cricket from 9.20am.  Make no mistake, this is a big thing for women’s cricket in India and it could pave the way for a future women’s IPL.

Many of the superstars of the women’s game will be playing:

IPL Trailblazers: Smirti Mandhana (c) Alyssa Healy (wk), Suzie Bates, Deepti Sharma, Beth Mooney, Jemima Rodrigues, Danielle Hazell, Shikha Pandey, Lea Tahuhu, Jhulan Goswami, Ekta Bisht, Poonam Yadav, Dayalan Hemalatha.

IPL Supernovas: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Taniya Bhatia (wk), Danielle Wyatt, Mithali Raj, Meg Lanning, Sophie Devine, Ellyse Perry, Veda Krishnamurthy, Mona Meshram, Pooja Vastrakar, Megan Schutt, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Anjuja Patil.

Wow – should be quite an event and I hope it gets the crowd and the coverage it deserves.

Tennis – Off the Court

Alize Cornet was facing a ban for missing three drugs tests in a year, but an independent tribunal has found that the doping control officer did not take “reasonable steps” to locate her for the third test.

The first test (3 November 2016) was missed as she left early for a flight to a competition, the second (26 July 2017) because again she had already set off for competition in the United States.

At the time of the third attempt (24 October 2017), Cornet says she was in her apartment but her intercom was broken.  She did not receive a phone call or any other attempt to contact her to conduct the test.

The tribunal accepted this as “frank and compelling” evidence.  Cornet also had two completed tests in that time, in March and October 2017.

Tennis – On the Court

Korea Open

British wheelchair tennis player Lucy Shuker won the Korea Open singles title this week.  She beat her doubles partner, Giulia Capolcci of Italy, in the final, 6-2 3-6 6-3.

As a pairing they also won the doubles title.

Shuker will go into the Japan Open next week, full of confidence.  The Japan event is part of the Super Series which is the next level down from the Grand Slams.

Madrid Open

Petra Kvitova won a tight Madrid Open final, beating Kiki Bertens 6-6 4-6 6-3.  It was an epic final, lasting just under three hours.

Italian Open

Kvitova then pulled out of the Italian Open, taking place this week.   Also missing is Serena Williams, who pulled out of both Madrid and Italy, instead concentrating on a return at the French Open, which begins on 27 May.  Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, has said that she “came back too early” after the birth of her first child, but is confident that she will be back, “Serena can achieve anything,” he said in an interview with the WTA website.

Johanna Konta was due to play Kvitova in the first round, but instead took on Magdalena Rybarikova, winning 6-4 6-3.

In the second round she faced Hsieh Su-wei, winning 6-0 6-4, but she fell in the third against current French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko in three sets, 2-6 6-3 6-4.  She started so well and confidently, while Ostapenko could not find her form at all and seemed to be struggling with the conditions.  Konta was 4-1 up after just 17 minutes.  But in the second set the tables were turned and Konta quickly lost the confidence she had shown in the first.  Ostapenko took her chances, taking the match with her first match point in the third set.

We are now at the quarter-final stages:

Angelique Kerber (11) v Elina Svitolina (4)
Maria Sharapova v Jelena Ostapenko (5)
Anett Kontaveit v Caroline Wozniacki (2)
Simona Halep (1) v Caroline Garcia (7)

Meanwhile at the same tournament Karoline Pliskova lost her temper with a vengeance, attacking the umpire’s chair with her racquet after she was beaten by Greece’s Maria Sakkari.

She had a smash called out when serving at 30 all, five games all in the third set.  Television replays showed it to be in, but on clay the reviews are done by physical marks (I’ve never quite understood that) and as there was no mark to be seen, the call stood.

At the end of the match Pliskova repeatedly hit the chair with her racquet frame.  She now, needless to say, faces a fine.

Rugby Union – Canada Sevens

New Zealand retained their Canada Sevens title in Langford on Sunday, defeating Australia in the final, 46-0.

Portia Woodman scored the first try, followed quickly by one for Ruby Tui.  Kelly Brazier scored a third after Australia had conceded a penalty and the Black Ferns took a quick tap.

They still had time to score again before half-time as Woodman went in for a second and it was 22-0 at the break.

It was no better for Australia in the second-half.  Niall Williams went in twice and then captain Sarah Goss barrelled over for a seventh.

Brazier went in for her second and New Zealand’s eighth to leave Australia stunned and well beaten.

Other Placings

USA claimed bronze with a 21-5 win over France and Canada finished fifth, beating Ireland 29-12.

The Challenge Trophy went to Japan as they beat Spain 26-21.

Pool Results

Pool A: Fiji 24-14 England; New Zealand 51-0 Brazil; Fiji 47-14 Brazil; New Zealand 22-0 England; England 31-17 Brazil; New Zealand 12-7 Fiji

Pool B: Russia 14-35 United States; France 33-7 Japan; Russia 7-24 Japan; France 22-19 United States; United States 28-7 Japan; France 45-0 Russia

Pool C: Spain 0-7 Ireland; Australia 22-7 Canada; Spain 10-24 Canada; Australia 31-19 Ireland; Ireland 17-19 Canada; Australia 43-10 Spain

England finished seventh, equalling their best place of the series so far, beating Fiji 29-24.

The final round takes place in Paris on 8-10 June, with Wales competing by invitation.

Rugby League

Last weekend’s results were as follows:

Sunday 13 May
Featherstone Rovers 32-40 Castleford Tigers
Bradford Bulls 72-10 York City Knights
Wigan Warriors 16-6 St Helens

Castleford Tigers lead the table with seven points from four games.  St Helens lie second with six points from four games.  Leeds Rhinos are also on six points, but from three games – they are third on points difference.  York City and Featherstone are yet to take a point.

Netball

Round 12 of the Netball Super League was last weekend.  The results were:

Saturday 12 May
UWS Sirens 45-59 Wasps Netball
Surrey Storm 51-56 Team Bath
Team Northumbria 51-58 Manchester Thunder
Severn Stars 55-44 Benecos Mavericks

Monday 14 May
Celtic Dragons 38-66 Loughborough Lightning

This weekend’s Round 13 fixtures:

Friday 18 May
UWS Sirens v Loughborough Lightning (7pm)
Surrey Storm v Wasps Netball (7.45pm)

Saturday 19 May
Benecos Mavericks v Celtic Dragons (3pm)
Manchester Thunder v Severn Stars (5pm)

Monday 21 May
Team Bath v Team Northumbria (7pm – Live on Sky Sports)

Sports Administration – Sport England

Jennie Price will quit her position as Chief Executive of Sport England at the end of October.

She took over in 2007 in the heat of London’s 2012 Olympic bid.  Since she has been in post, the number of people playing sport regularly has gone up by 1.6 million.

Price was also instrumental in the formation of the This Girl Can campaign.   She was awarded a CBE in 2017 for services to sport.

And finally,

Use it, shout it, talk about it #Whatif is trending.  So what is #What if?

It’s the new campaign launched by the organisation Women in Football, at Twitter HQ in London on Wednesday.

It is aimed at everyone; football professionals, businesses and members of the public who are encouraged to pledge one way they could take action to contribute to helping improve things for women and girls in football.

There are already some high-profile names involved and the pledges already received should make a difference.  These include:

Sky Sports – #WhatIf Sky Sports committed to including female talent as studio pundits on Gillette Soccer Specials from the 2018/19 season onwards 

SPORF – #WhatIf @SPORF amplified the reach of women’s football by fully integrating coverage of the women’s game on online communities

Twitter – #WhatIf Women in Football had its own emojil on Twitter

Betfair – #WhatIf Betfair ring-fenced 50 per cent of their Cash4Clubs grassroots grants for women’s teams to help support their growth and sustainability

Forza Football – #WhatIf Forza Football made live score updates and results for women’s football games easily accessible across the world

Anyone can make a pledge, be it large or small, as an individual or corporately.  Check out the story: https://www.womeninfootball.co.uk/news/2018/05/16/whatif-we-changed-the-landscape-of-football-forever/

Or contact Leanne Dingle via leanne@womeninfootball.co.uk for more information.

There is a great will to improve the lot of women in all aspects of football.  Although I constantly despair at the comments made by those who obviously have nothing better to do, I do believe that women’s football is a good and improving product, worthy of investment by individuals and companies alike.  Let’s get behind this campaign – make your own pledge and keep #Whatif trending.

From my own point of view, I do what I can but #Whatif I can do more?  #What if I pledge to tweet more, cover more in depth and promote women’s football wherever I can.  Let’s do it.   

And, and finally,

Congratulations to Chelsea Manager, Emma Hayes, who this week gave birth to a baby boy.  Not content with a championship and FA Cup double, she is now a Mum!  Talk about multi-tasking…..

Sorry to be flaky, but there will be no column again next week, but I’ll be back in a fortnight with more news and views.