Women’s Sports Column 11-17 May 2019

netball2Welcome to this week’s column.  Going to be a bit brief this week due to competing priorities.  But hopefully all that should be covered will be covered!

News and stories this week come from netball, golf, football, tennis, cricket and taekwondo.

Netball

The top two finishers in the league will contest the Super League Grand Final on…

Wasps Netball 74-54 Loughborough Lightning

Wasps showed why they finished the regular season so far ahead with a demolition of Loughborough at the University of Warwick Sports and Wellness Hub.

Wasps coach Mel Mansfield made no changes throughout the match and the team seemed to get stronger, possibly because of it.

Lightning actually made the better start and were one goal ahead after the first quarter.  In the second, Wasps came back and by half-time they were three ahead.

In the second-half Wasps found an extra gear and were dominant throughout.  They were soon ahead by six and then by nine at the end of quarter three.

They reinforced their dominance in the last fifteen minutes, taking the margin of victory out to an impressive 20 goals.

It was altogether tighter in the second semi-final.

Manchester Thunder 57-54 Team Bath

Bath started well, taking a four-goal lead after ten minutes, but Thunder got into their game and before the end of the first they were ahead and although Bath levelled it at various points, Thunder were never behind again in the match.

It was nip and tuck in the second and going into half-time Thunder were only one goal ahead.

Thunder started well in the third and although Bath came back, going into the last quarter Thunder were five in front.

Bath pulled it back while Thunder spent minutes just holding possession, but in the end Thunder were just too strong, maintaining their three goal lead until the final whistle.

The Grand Final is this weekend at the Copper Box in London.  The third-place play-off, between Loughborough Lightning and Team Bath starts at 3pm, with the final at 5.30pm, where Wasps will be going for their third title in a row.  I thought both games were going to be live on Sky, but it appears that they are now only showing the final, which is a shame.

England Roses

There was a blow this week for England as Beth Cobden ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament playing for Adelaide Thunderbirds on Sunday and is out of the World Cup.

She suffered the same injury during the Super League Grand Final in 2018 and had only just returned to competition.

Football

It was the final round of matches in both the Super League and Championship last weekend.  The results were as follows:

FAWSL

Yeovil Town 0-2 Birmingham City
Wellings 59’, Mason 64’ (OG)

Reading 2-3 Chelsea
Harding 50’, Williams 52’
So-yun Ji 8’, Carney 51’, England 64’

Arsenal 1-0 Manchester City
Mitchell 88’

West Ham United 0-4 Brighton & Hove Albion
Green 21’, Connolly 39’, Nilden 79’, Brazil 93’

Liverpool 3-1 Everton
Sweetman-Kirk 26’, Charles 31’, Rodgers 88’
Stringer 39’

Arsenal left it late to seal their win, but finished the season with 54 points from their 20 games, losing just two along the way.  Manchester City were second on 47 with Chelsea third on 42.

FAWC

Sheffield United 6-0 Millwall Lionesses
Gilliatt 11’, Rayner 17’, Salmon 36’ (Pen) 63’, Pennock 59’ 83’

Durham 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Filbey 60’ 90’

Manchester United 5-0 Lewes
James 11’, Sigsworth 33’, Galton 66’, Palmer 74’, Turner 78’

Charlton Athletic 4-0 Leicester City
Graham 1’ 63’ 92’, Ejupi 49’

Aston Villa 0-0 Crystal Palace

Manchester United were confirmed as Champions, ending with 55 points from 20 matches, suffering just one draw and one defeat all season.  Tottenham were promoted in second on 46 with Charlton Athletic third on 41.

That’s the domestic season wrapped up.  Now just the small matter of a World Cup to come.  Speaking of which…..

Scotland World Cup Squad

Shelley Kerr named her squad on Wednesday.  Rachel Corsie will captain the team and the squad comprises:

Goalkeepers: Lee Alexander, Jenna Fife, Shannon Lynn

Defenders: Chloe Arthur, Jennifer Beattie, Rachel Corsie, Nicola Docherty, Sophie Howard, Hayley Lauder, Joelle Murray, Kirsty Smith.

Midfielders: Elizabeth Arnot, Leanne Crichton, Kim Little, Joanne Love, Christie Murray, Caroline Weir.

Forwards: Fiona Brown, Lana Clelland, Erin Cuthbert, Claire Emslie, Lisa Evans, Jane Ross.

Transfers

Ellen White has left Birmingham City to join Manchester City on a two-year contract.  This is very disappointing for the Blues who had a good season and will be looking to build on their progress in 2019-20.  In a statement she said,

“I want to be in an environment and with a group of players that have that same winning mentality, that same professionalism, that same commitment and passion, and I think that’s a great fit at City.”

I’m not quite sure why she thinks Birmingham don’t have a “winning mentality” or “that same professionalism” – I’m hoping this is not a euphemism for having a lot of money to throw at it.  Either way, Birmingham fans probably won’t be pleased at the comment.

Millwall Lionesses

What is going on at Millwall?  After nearly going into administration in April, it was saved by nearly £17,500 raised through crowdfunding.

Now the Lionesses’ board of directors and senior management have broken away from the parent club and plan to go it alone.

The FA, in its infinite wisdom, has apparently approved “in principle” the formation of a “new” club, the London City Lionesses, which could take Millwall’s place in the Championship if it fulfils all of the qualifying criteria.

There is obviously a lot going on behind the scenes here, but one of the FA’s aims in the latest restructuring of the women’s game was to make it stable and sustainable.  With Yeovil’s administration, Sunderland’s woes and Millwall’s complicated story, I think we can safely say it has a long way to go before we reach this point.

Champions League Final

This Saturday sees the final of the Champions League in Budapest.  In our most parochial manner it is Lucy Bronze and Jess Fishlock against Toni Duggan!  Kick-off is 5pm BST and there is live text commentary on the BBC website.

Taekwondo

The World Championships are taking place from 15-19 May in Manchester.

Bianca Walkden is through to the final in the +73kg category, having won two fights before beating Briseida Acosta of Mexico in the semi-final 19-9.

She faces Shuyin Zheng of China in the final on Friday 17 May – the same fighter who beat Walkden in the Rio Olympics semi-final.

Still to come over the weekend we have Jade Jones in the -57kg, Aaliyah Powell in the -53kg and Lauren Williams in the -67kg,

Tennis – on the Court

Madrid Open

Seventh seed Kiki Bertens pulled off a fine win to take the Madrid title, beating third seed Simona Halep in straight sets 6-4 6-4.

Bertens had beaten eighth seed Sloane Stephens in her semi-final 6-2 7-5, while Halep overcame the unseeded Belinda Bencic in hers, 6-2 6-7 6-0.

In the doubles, fifth seeds Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova beat sixth seeds Xu Yifan and Gabriela Dabrowski in straight sets, 6-3 6-1.

Rome Open

It’s been an incident-packed tournament in Rome this week.  Serena Williams pulled out with a knee injury before her third round tie against sister Venus.  Jo Konta is still in the running, having had to complete two matches on Thursday.  First she beat seventh seed Sloane Stephens in three sets 6-7 6-4 6-1 and then an injury-hampered Venus Williams in straight sets 6-2 6-4.

After withdrawing from the Stuttgart Open through injury, top seed Naomi Osaka has again pulled out in Rome, before the start of her quarter-final with Kiki Bertens.  Bertens now receives a bye into the semis.

There are now only two seeds left standing; Bertens (6) and Pliskova (4).

The other quarter-finals looks like this:

Marketa Vonrousova v Jo Konta
Victoria Azarenka v Karolina Pliskova (4)
Kristina Mladenovic v Maria Sakkari

Tennis – off the Court

American player and world number 117, Nicole Gibbs, has been forced to withdraw from the French

Open after being diagnosed with salivary gland cancer.

The growth on the roof of her mouth was spotted by her dentist.  A biopsy showed it to be cancerous.

Gibbs will have surgery this Friday.  In a statement Gibbs said,

“Fortunately this form of cancer has a great prognosis and my surgeon is confident that surgery alone will be sufficient treatment.

“He even okayed me to play an extra couple of tournaments these past few weeks, which served as a nice distraction.”

She hopes to make a return at Wimbledon qualifying in June.

Golf

There was good news for women’s golf this week as the organisers of the Northern Ireland Open announced that men and women will compete for equal prize money.

It will be called the World Invitational and the $500,000 prize fund will be split equally between the men’s challenger event and the women’s event.

Cricket

T20 Challenge Final
Velocity 121/6 (20 overs)
Supernovas 125/6 (20 overs)
Supernovas won by 4 wickets with 0 balls remaining

It was a bad start for Velocity, whose top five mustered 30 between them, including a five-ball duck for Dani Wyatt.  They were rescued, somewhat, by Sushma Verma who scored 40 not out from 32 balls and 36 from New Zealander Amelia Kerr.

Lea Tahuhu took 2/21 from her four overs while the other wickets were shared around.

In response, Chamari Atapattu went early for just two, but fellow opener Priya Punia scored 29, Jemima Rodrigues 22 and Harmanpreet Kaur 55 from 37.  Both Punia and Rodrigues fell when the score was 53 and although Kaur steadied the ship, Supernovas wobbled again when the overseas stars Nat Sciver and Sophie Devine fell for two and three respectively.

Kaur was out in the last over with just four balls to go of the Amelia Kerr over and seven runs still to get.  They had Radha Yadav on strike and Lea Tahuhu at the other end.  Yadav scored two from the third ball, two from the fourth ball, two from the fifth ball and then Yadav drove the last ball for four and Supernovas took the match by four wickets.

County Cricket

Results from the fixtures on 12 May in the first and second divisions of the County Championship were as follows (home side first):

Division One
Hampshire 128 all out (45.4 overs) 6 points lost to Sussex 129/9 (46.4 overs) 16 points
Lancashire 241/6 (50 overs) 18 points beat Nottinghamshire 195/9 (50 overs) 5 points
Surrey 148 all out (44.1 overs) 3 points lost to Kent 152/3 (30.1 overs) 18 points
Warwickshire 108 all out (47.1 overs) 6 points lost to Yorkshire 112 all out (42.1 overs) 16 points

After three matches, Kent are top with 53 points.  Lancashire are one point behind and Sussex are way behind in third on 39.

Division Two
Berkshire 160 all out (43.3 overs) 17 points beat Somerset 86 all out (25.4 overs) 5 points
Cricket Wales 211 all out (50 overs) 17 points beat Essex 139/8 (50 overs) 6 points
Durham 171/6 (50 overs) 4 points lost to Middlesex 173/4 (44.3 overs) 15 points
Worcestershire 69 all out (32.1 overs) 0 points lost to Devon 70/1(16.4 overs) 18 points

We’re three games down in division two also, with Devon at the top on 52 points.  Behind them are Berkshire on 51 and Wales on 39.

More news and views next week as we hurtle headlong into this mad summer of top-class women’s sport!

 

Women’s Sports Column 18-24 August 2018

cricket-ballWelcome to this week’s column – the last before I’m off on my hols for two weeks.  So, I’d better get through as much as I can before I slope off to exotic climes.  Stories this week come from rugby union, cricket, football, gymnastics, hockey, athletics, golf, netball and tennis.

Let’s crack on.

Cricket

Big news from India this week as Jhulan Goswami has announced her retirement from T20s, just three months before the start of the T20 World Cup.  She took 56 wickets in 68 T20 internationals and is the leading T20 wicket-taker for India.

In an interview with ESPNcricinfo she said,

“My mind and body have been at loggerheads for a while now. I wasn’t able to focus properly on the format and it’s been difficult for me to motivate myself. Given the demands of T20, it doesn’t help when the body of a 35-year-old fast bowler takes longer to recover than she wants it to.

“The workload in T20s is different to that in the 50-over game and I don’t think my body had been supporting me in T20s. With age, my movements have got slower, so as a player, if I’m not able to give my best on the field, then I don’t think I should be in the T20I side. I saw no point dragging myself in the format beyond a point. And, for me, this is the point in T20s.”

She has been my favourite Indian cricketer for some time and it will take some time to get used to not seeing her charge in.  Her commitment, drive and sprit, as well as her frightening ability, has been something to behold.  But it is also good that she has withdrawn on her own terms and has realised when the time is right for her.

Kia Super League

The line-up for Finals Day is decided.  In the end, Loughborough were thanking their Surrey Stars as the Stars beat Western Storm, which not only meant the Lightning finished top but also that the Stars claimed the third place.  Here’s what happened in the last round of competition:

Lancashire Thunder 162/3 (20 overs)
Southern Vipers 153 (19.4 overs)
Thunder won by 9 runs

Harmanpreet Kaur top-scored with a stunning 44 not out from 20 balls and Nicole Bolton scored 43 from 34 balls as Lancashire posted a competitive 162.

The Vipers started well in response with an opening partnership of 42 between Danni Wyatt and Tammy Beaumont.  But they lost wickets regularly, as they fell behind the required rate.  Sophie Ecclestone took 4/20 from her four overs and Amy Satterthwaite 2/14 off just 1.4 as the Vipers were all out nine short of their target.

Yorkshire Diamonds 148/6 (20 overs)
Loughborough Lighting 145/6 (20 overs)
Diamonds won by 3 runs

Lightning lost their third game, but first full-length match, on Saturday as they fell just three short of their target.

Lightning dismissed Lauren Winfield for just eight, but Beth Mooney scored 76 from 50 balls to be the spine of the Diamonds innings.  When the useful Thea Brookes went for only one and Delissa Kimmince two, Loughborough must have thought they were going to restrict the Diamonds to a low total.  In the end they managed 148, which was good, but should not have been beyond the Lightning.

In response the openers started well, but Loughborough really needed Sophie Devine to continue in her fine vein of form.  She was out for 22, and while Rachael Haynes battled on to 47 from 38 balls, those around her began to fall as they dropped behind the rate.

Ellyse Villani bashed 26 from 23, but after she departed the innings slowed and the Lightning were unable to get over the line.

Western Storm 158/5 (20 overs)
Surrey Stars 160/5 (19.4 overs)
Stars won by 5 wickets with 2 balls remaining

It was so close.  For once Smriti Mandhana, in her last match for the Storm after being recalled by India to attend a training camp, did not fire, making only five before she was run out.

Rachel Priest scored 30, but it was up to captain Heather Knight to hold it together which she did, scoring 62 off 47 balls before she too was run out.  Fran Wilson contributed 28, but the innings somewhat subsided to the end as the Storm posted a fair 158.

What could Surrey Stars do?  They needed to win to get through to Finals Day.  They couldn’t rely on the Vipers beating Lancashire Thunder.

They started well.  The openers took it on and Lizelle Lee, who has been improving with every match this tournament, scored 48 from 28 balls as the opening stand with Bryony Smith totalled 90.  Lee was the first to go, and when Sarah Taylor went for one just two balls later, the Stars appeared to be faltering.

But 30 from Nat Sciver and 25 from Dane van Niekerk saw them keep up with the required rate and into the 19th over.  It was then up to Sophia Dunkley and Marizanne Kapp to get them over the line, which they did with two balls to spare.

Finals Day is on Monday 27 August and to my eternal shame I will not be around to see it.  It will be televised live on Sky, but if you are in the Hove area can I encourage you to get down to what will be a fabulous day of cricket, ridiculously underpriced at just £5 for adults and £1 for children.

The semi-final, between Western Storm and Surrey Stars starts at midday with the winners playing Loughborough Lightning in the final at 4pm.

Also happening on Bank Holiday Monday (27 August) and thanks to Richard Clark for the information:

The women’s One-Day Cup Div 3 promotion play-offs
Suffolk v Essex* (Long Melford CC)
Oxfordshire v Durham (Bicester & North Oxford CC)
Worcestershire v Cornwall (New Road, Worcester)
*Essex are seeking to avoid demotion from Div 2, rather than gain promotion from Div 3.

Richard tells me that it’s free admission at New Road for the Worcestershire game and that the County have been very supportive of the women’s team and of this game in particular, staging it at the County ground at New Road and giving it great publicity.

Thanks for that Richard, and good luck to all those taking part.

Golf

With one round of the Canadian Women’s Open completed, the lead is shared by three golfers; Aryia Jutanugarn of Thailand, Mariajo Uribe of Colombia and Nasa Hataoka of Japan on -8.

Of the British players, Georgia Hall and Charley Hull are both on -4, Bronte Law is -3, Mel Reid -2, Jodie Ewart Shadoff and Gemma Dryburgh on -1 and Catriona Matthew is level.

Gymnastics

Is anyone surprised?  Simon Biles this week became the first woman to win five US Women’s Gymnastics Championships all-round titles.

She scored 119.850, 6.55 points ahead of Morgan Hurd.

She also used the opportunity to show her support for survivors of sexual abuse, wearing a teal leotard – the colour associated with surviving sexual abuse.

Biles has only been back into training and competition for nine months after she announced she was going to take a break from the sport in 2016.

Athletics

There were some fine performances from Team GB’s women at the Birmingham Grand Prix last weekend.

Dina Asher-Smith finished second in the 200m, with Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas in first place.  Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands finished third.

Laura Muir won the 1,000m.  She was aiming to take Dame Kelly Holmes’ British record, but finished outside it by just over a second.  Fellow Briton Adelle Tracey was third.

Meghan Beesley finished third in the 400m hurdles with Eilidh Doyle in fourth.  Lea Sprunger of Switzerland was the winner with Janieve Russell of Jamaica in second.

Shara Proctor also finished third in the long jump.  Malaika Mihambo of Germany took first place and Caterine Ibargüen of Colombia was second.

Football

Under 20s World Cup

England’s Young Lionesses failed in their bid to make it to the Under 20s World Cup final.  They fell 2-0 to an excellent Japanese side.

To be honest, I thought England had a real chance they way they had been playing, until I saw Japan absolutely demolish Germany in their quarter-final.

 Quarter-finals

Spain 2-1 Nigeria

Aitana Bonmati scored after 13 minutes for Spain.  Patricia Guijarro got a second in first-half injury time.  Peace Ewomazino Efih got one back just before the hour mark, but it was only to be a consolation.

France 1-0 North Korea

The only goal of the game came just on the half-hour through a penalty, scored by Amelie Delabre.

England 2-1 Netherlands

This was a good performance by England, marred only, I feel by Georgia Stanway’s obsession with getting a hat-trick, which meant she was a bit too greedy in possession.  Mind you, one person’s greed is another’s single-mindedness.

The Netherlands actually took the lead in the twelfth minute through Victoria Pelova.  But Stanway struck on 20 and 23 to give England the lead.

The second-half was largely a tense England defensive display.

Germany 1-3 Japan

Three goals in 14 minutes put an end to any hope for Germany.  In truth, they had been lucky to get into the second-half without conceding.

The technical ability of the Japanese was a joy to watch; they completed 538 passes in the match compared to Germany’s 429.

Japan took the lead in the 59th minute through Jun Endo.  Ten minutes later they were two-up through Riko Ueki and the third was scored on 73 minutes by Saori Takarada.

Germany pulled one back on 82 minutes through Janina Minge, but there was no doubt as to the winner of this one.

Semi-finals

England 0-2 Japan

It was not to be for England as they were outclassed by Japan, whose passing, awareness and technical ability were again a joy to behold.

England should not be downhearted though as I think they would have proved a match for any other team in that tournament.  From a selfish point of view, it’s a pity they couldn’t have met in the final, rather than the semi.

The dynamic duo of Riko Ueki and Jun Endo bagged another goal each and while England tried hard to the very end, Japan were comfortable.

France 0-1 Spain

The hosts have been largely underwhelming in this tournament and succumbed rather limply to a single goal from Spain, who played the last 20 minutes with 20 players after Bonmati was sent off.

Patricia Guijarro scored the only goal of the game on 51 minutes, but the saddest sight was that of Bonmati who practically had to be carried off the pitch in floods of tears after she was dismissed.  She will miss the final.

France play England on Friday 24 August at 3pm UK time, in everyone’s least favourite match – the third place play off.  If England can get themselves up for it, and if I’m not cursing them, they should win this match and bring home a bronze medal.

The final, between Spain and Japan (Japan to win barring a major upset) is also on Friday 24 at 6.30pm UK time.

TV coverage via Eurosport.

Continental Tyres Cup

There is a new Conti Cup format in place this season.  We start with a group stage of 22 teams in four groups – two North, two South.  If a group match ends in a draw it goes to straight to penalties and the team winning the shootout is awarded two points and the loser one point.  The top two finishers in each group go through to the next stage.

The first round of matches was last weekend:

Results North
Group One

Birmingham City 0-0 Manchester City (Man City won on penalties)
Leicester City 2-2 Bristol City (Leicester won on penalties)
Aston Villa 1-2 Sheffield United

Group Two

Liverpool 0-1 Manchester United
Reading (yes, in the North) 4-1 Durham Women

Results South
Group One

Chelsea 3-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
London Bees 1-1 Yeovil Town (London Bees won on penalties)
Crystal Palace 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur (Crystal Palace won on penalties)

Group Two

Arsenal 3-1 West Ham
Lewes FC 5-0 Charlton Athletic

The next round of fixtures is this weekend.  See here for details.

The FA

Whilst trying to hide the sarcasm in my thoughts and feelings on this matter, the FA has announced it now has a new website for the WSL and Championship.

It also has the news on the FA Cup and Conti Cup.

Check it out: https://womenscompetitions.thefa.com/

Rugby Union

Australia 11-31 New Zealand

The Black Ferns took a one-nil lead in the two test series at the weekend.

They took the lead through Kendra Cocksedge in the eleventh minute.

The Wallaroos were awarded a penalty soon afterwards which was converted by prop Emily Robinson.

New Zealand’s captain Fiao’o Faamausili then got her first try of the afternoon.  Australian number eight Grace Hamilton was then sin-binned.

Just on half-time the Black Ferns scored again through Aldora Itunu and went into the break 19-3 up.

Into the second-half Australia started well and Robinson put over another penalty to make it 19-6.

But then Fa’amausili kicked into gear and scored two tries from driving lineouts.

Australia didn’t give up, though, and bagged a consolation try through Alisha Hewett.

The second game is at Eden Park this weekend.

Netball

World Cup Regional Qualifers – Africas

Uganda and Zimbabwe have qualified for the 2019 World Cup in Liverpool, this is alongside Malawi who qualify by right due to their world ranking.

World Cup Regional Qualifers – The Americas

This next qualifying tournament is for the Americas and takes place from 24 August to 2 September in Barbados.  Eight teams are vying for two spots: Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago are favourites due to their current world rankings, but it will be up to the others, Argentina, St Vincent & the Grenadines, USA, Grenada, St Maarten and Canada, to cause an upset.

To follow the tournament while I’m away check out https://www.nwc2019.co.uk/the-americas-teams-go-head-to-head-for-a-place-at-next-years-world-cup/.

Tennis

Cincinnati

The Cincinnati Masters title went to Kiki Bertens at the weekend as she defeated world number one Simona Halep in the final 2-6 7-6 6-2.

Halep took the first set comfortably in just half an hour, but in the second Bertens was 4-1 up before Halep came back to level at 4-4.  The set went to a tie-break and Halep had a championship point before Bertens took it 8-6.

Bertens again went 4-1 up in the third set but this time Halep could not bring it back, taking only one more game before Bertens sealed the match.

Halep has since withdrawn from the New Haven tournament which serves as the warm-up to the US Open.

Connecticut Open, New Haven

There have been several withdrawals from the tournament – the last before the US Open begins on 27 August.  As well as Simona Halep, Cincinnati winner Kiki Bertens has also withdrawn, as has top Briton Jo Konta, who has a virus and could be a doubt for the US Open.

Forbes Women’s Sports Rich List

Talking of tennis, eight out of ten of the highest earning female athletes are tennis players.  Serena Williams is top and the only two who are not from tennis are badminton player PV Sindhu and racing car driver Danica Patrick.

From June 2017 – June 2018 the top 10 earned $105m (£81.4m) which is DOWN 4% from last year and a whopping 28% down from five years ago.

  1. Serena Williams (tennis) – $18.1m (£14m)
  2. Caroline Wozniacki (tennis) – $13m (£10.1m)
  3. Sloane Stephens (tennis) – $11.2m (£8.7m)
  4. Garbine Muguruza (tennis) – $11m (£8.5m)
  5. Maria Sharapova (tennis) – $10.5m (£8.1m)
  6. Venus Williams (tennis) – $10.2m (£7.9m)
  7. PV Sindhu (badminton) – $8.5m (£6.6m)
  8. Simona Halep (tennis) – $7.7m (£6m)
  9. Danica Patrick (race car driving) – $7.5m (£5.8m)
  10. Angelique Kerber (tennis) – $7m (£5.4m)

Hockey

New Zealand women’s sport governance appears to be in some kind of crisis at the moment.  Hockey is the latest sport to initiate an independent review of the culture surrounding the national team.

The review has been ordered by Hockey NZ and the Hockey Players Association after a number of former and current players gave feedback about the team culture under coach Mark Hager, who has been in post since 2009.

In a statement to organisers said,

“We have agreed a plan to address the feedback, which involves an independent person to look into the feedback and gather more information if appropriate.

“There is absolutely no question that athlete welfare is paramount. At the same time, we must consider and protect the rights of employees.”

The situation came to a head after Hager mistakenly sent an email “to all” rather than to the person he meant to send it to, probably one of the coaches, during the Hockey World Cup.  It was an email that was deeply critical of the fitness and abilities of some players and everyone could read it.

Hager has apologised for the mistake, but it has encouraged players to speak out about the alleged “culture of fear” surrounding the team.

This latest problem comes hot on the heels of similar issues in football, cycling and rowing.

And finally,

As I have already said, I’m off on holiday next week.  I’ll be in Italy, but I think it’s safe to say I won’t be going to see Lazio any time soon.  The Lazio Ultras have issued a flyer suggesting that women should be banned from the first ten rows of the Curva Nord stand in the Olympic Stadium in Rome.  Apparently it’s a “sacred place”, whatever that means.  If it means that it’s a place where violence, anti-Semitism and racism are rife, I’m not sure why any woman would want to be there anyway……

More news and views in a couple of weeks.