Women’s Sports Column 20-26 January 2018

gavelWelcome to this week’s column.  No prizes for guessing what’s been bugging me beyond endurance this week.  But actually there’s a bigger story that should be given prominence – the conviction of US Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar.  But there is plenty of news from other sports this week – news that, thanks to Mr Neville, has received even less (if that were possible) coverage than usual.

Stories this week come from netball, cricket, rugby union, football, Winter Olympics, tennis, bowls and Commonwealth Games.

Larry Nassar 

Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years imprisonment for the abuse of girls and young women he was supposed to be caring for in his role as US Olympic gymnastics team doctor.

Nassar pleaded guilty to 10 counts of sexual assault.

The 54-year old had already been sentenced to 60 years for the possession of child pornography.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina delivered a devastating speech in sentencing Nassar.

“As much as it was my honour and privilege to hear the sister survivors, it was my honour and privilege to sentence you.

“Because, sir, you do not deserve to walk outside of a prison ever again.”

156 girls and women accused Nasser and the court heard seven days of testimony.

In response to the accusations Nassar said,

“What I am feeling pales in comparison to the pain, trauma, and emotional destruction that all of you are feeling.

“There are no words to describe the depth and breadth of how sorry I am for what has occurred.”

 Football

Now let’s just get the next subject over with so we can move on other things as there is a lot to get through.

 FA appoints Phil Neville as new England Women’s Head Coach

It’s all been said.  I can add nothing new, but it won’t stop me putting my two penn’orth in.  The FA’s job advert said it was looking for:

“an outstanding football coach with a track record of consistent and successful management and development of elite players and coaches to high-performance levels.”

Or, alternatively, we can hire Phil Neville.  As I said last week, I’m ready to be converted, but if things do go well, will it because of Neville or in spite of him?

And, it never ceases to amaze me that hundreds of men who have never given a second’s consideration to women’s football unless it is to dismiss it as irrelevant, now feel it is their right, nay their duty, to give their opinion on this topic.  Should I be grateful that the “great and the good” of the men’s game now have an opinion – largely that the appointment is wrong?  No, I should not.  You’ve never shown any interest before – don’t pretend you’re commenting because you feel outrage at this appointment.  Can’t quite believe I’m going to say this, but at the moment those saying “who cares?” are the ones I want to read – at least they’re consistent……

Many of the social media comments over the last few days have been unpleasant and personal about Neville and have no place in any reasoned argument.  Neville’s tweets from way back have been a distraction from the real issues.  I don’t have much of an opinion either way on Neville as a person, but if the FA couldn’t find anyone better qualified for this role they are doing something wrong and Baroness Sue Campbell coming out and saying that the other candidates were “nervous” about the media grilling they would receive is not going to convince me otherwise.

Right, enough and onwards.

FAWSL

We’re up and running again in the WSL this weekend.  These are the fixtures:

Saturday 27 January

FAWSL1

Liverpool v Bristol City (5.30pm, Select Security Stadium)

FAWLS2

London Bees v Watford FC (2pm, The Hive)

Sunday 28 January

FAWSL1

Chelsea v Everton (12.30pm, Kingsmeadow Stadium)

Birmingham City v Yeovil Town (2pm, Solihull Moors)

Reading v Arsenal (2pm, Wycombe Wanderers FC)

Sunderland v Manchester City (2pm, Mariners Park)

FAWSL2

Millwall Lionesses v Durham (12 noon, St Paul’s Sports Ground)

Sheffield v Tottenham Hotspur (1pm, Sheffield FC)

Doncaster Rovers Belles v Brighton & Hove Albion (2pm, Keepmoat Stadium)

Oxford United v Aston Villa (2pm, Oxford City FC)

Other Football News

There has been a mixture of good and bad in the other news this week; I’m afraid it’s been one step forward, at least two back:

Manchester City

Manchester City are signalling their clear commitment to women’s football by launching their new “Same City, Same Passion” campaign.

As part of this they are merging their men’s and women’s social media channels and say that the campaign is,

“Focused on promoting women’s football by demonstrating that the same skills, same excitement and same passion exist wherever a ball is kicked”.

The club statement went on to say,

“Despite the rapid growth the sport has experienced since then, the general public perception of women’s football does not always match the reality of what can be seen on the pitch.

“In 2014, FIFA’s women’s football survey found that only 13 per cent of its member associations believed women’s football was perceived as a quality sport.

“Same City, Same Passion has been created to combat this misconception and to show that the similarities to the men’s game are far greater than the differences, and that men’s, women’s, boys’ and girls’ football can be enjoyed by everyone.”

“Same City, Same Passion aims to highlight that the similarities between men’s and women’s football are far greater than the differences and, regardless of who’s playing, it’s just football.

“Merging social media channels as part of this campaign offers us a unique opportunity to increase the visibility of our women’s team and to offer our supporters the chance to enjoy the excitement and passion that defines every Manchester City team.”

Let’s face it, the club is often accused of “buying” success, but, to be honest I say let them buy it if they are going to put this much faith in their women’s team.  Let it show the others how it’s done.  Hopefully, others will follow suit with similar commitment.  I’m not holding my breath, but it’s a definite step forward.

Boston Breakers

Bad news from the US this week as it has been announced that Boston Breakers have gone out of business.

The details are still sketchy, but it is believed that the players were told by email on Thursday.

England striker Natasha Dowie plays for the Breakers and the manager is former Liverpool boss Matt Beard.

More news in next week’s column.

Yeovil Town

It was announced today that Yeovil manager Jamie Sherwood will leave the club at the end of the season.  Sherwood has been doing the job part-time and with the league going fully professional from next season, he cannot carry on his other job in Wales and this one.  So he has opted to stand down from his role at Yeovil.

In a similar position is Ellie Curson, who is also to leave Yeovil to concentrate on her teaching career as she does not want to commit to a full-time professional team.

 Transfers

  • Chloe Kelly and Taylor Hinds have left Arsenal for Everton
  • England under-20 forward, Rinsola Babajide, has signed for Liverpool from Watford.

Netball

World Cup Qualifying

Scotland and Northern Ireland have qualified for the 2019 World Cup after the qualifying tournament at the weekend.

Friday, 19 January

Wales 40-52 Scotland

Wales were ahead at half-time 23-21, but the Scots came back and by the end of the third quarter were 32-31 up.  Then Nia Jones was sent off for Wales, the match had turned for good, Scotland extended their lead and took the match by 12.

 Saturday, 20 January

Northern Ireland 57-42 Wales

Northern Ireland were always ahead in this game.  They led 16-11 after the first quarter and 28-21 at half-time.  They were never headed and they took the match comfortably.

Sunday, 21 January

Scotland 52-31 Northern Ireland

Both sides had already qualified by beating Wales.  Scotland went on the offensive early and were 14-6 ahead at the end of the first quarter.  By half-time they were 27-14 up.

Scotland’s defence was stronger and their attackers more accurate as they stretched away to make the final gap 21 points.

Wales

The Welsh coach, Trish Wilcox, has already paid the price for failing to qualify for the World Cup as she was sacked this week.  She also leaves her role as Celtic Dragons coach.

Wales are now looking to appoint an interim head coach for the Commonwealth Games, before they make a permanent appointment later on in the year.

Wilcox had been in post for three and a half years.

Quad Series

 20 January (Copper Box)

South Africa 50-54 Australia

The Diamonds’ shooting was the difference in this match.  And yet, it could all have been different.  At half-time South Africa were one point ahead.

But they couldn’t maintain their form as Australia found theirs.  Going into the final quarter the Diamonds had reversed the deficit and were one point ahead 39-38.

The gap was stretched to four points by the end, but it was a whole lot tighter than expected.

England 64-57 New Zealand

What a game!  What a comeback from the Roses!

England came back from six down as the fourth quarter started, to tie the game 49-49 at the final hooter.  And so into extra time.

But it needn’t even have got that far, as Kadeen Corbin missed a shot in the last seconds which would have won the game in normal time.

The Roses powered through extra-time, forcing the Silver Ferns into mistakes and turning the ball over.  New Zealand seemed to visibly wilt as England got stronger and there was only going to be ne winner by the end.

Player of the match was Serena Guthrie, a ball of furious energy throughout.

 22 January (Copper Box)

England 46-50 Australia

But it was the same old story against Australia as England fell short.

The Roses were 28-21 down at half-time, a gap too large to come back from against the World’s number one side.

They brought it back to 37-34 at the end of the third, but Australia held on for the win.

25 January (Johannesburg)

South Africa 46-51 New Zealand

The Silver Ferns led by five after the first quarter, 14-9.  They maintained the gap with the score at 25-21 at half-time.

The gap was five 39-34 going into the final quarter, and although the Proteas fought in the fourth, New Zealand took the game by five.

There are two games to go: 28 January (Johannesburg)

Australia v New Zealand

South Africa v England

Tennis

The Australian Open final will be between the top seed, Simona Halep and second seed, Caroline Wozniacki.

Halep overcame 21st seed Angelique Kerber in a semi-final epic, 6-3 4-6 9-7

Wozniacki defeated Elise Mertens in straight sets, 6-3 7-6

The final is on Saturday 26 January.

Winter Olympics

The GB team for Pyeongchang has been announced.  The games begin on 9 February.  It’s great to see the crowdfunded “Micas” on the list.  The women taking part are:

Skeleton

Lizzy Yarnold, Laura Deas

Bobsleigh

Mica McNeill (Pilot), Mica Moore (Brakewoman)

Curling

Team Muirhead (In with a great chance of a medal)

Eve Muirhead (Skip), Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer

Figure skating

Penny Coomes (with partner Nick Buckland) (ice dancing)

Short Track Speed Skating

Elise Christie (500m, 1000m, 1500m) – (Great chance of a medal if she can stay out of trouble)

Charlotte Gilmartin (500m, 1000m, 1500m) (outside chance of a medal)

Kathryn Thomson (500m, 1000m, 1500m)

Biathlon

Amanda Lightfoot (7.5km Sprint)

Alpine skiing

Charlie Guest, Alex Tilley

Cross-country skiing

Annika Taylor

Freestyle skiing

Izzy Atkin, Rowan Cheshire, Emily Sarsfield, Katie Summerhayes, Molly Summerhayes

Snowboarding

Aimee Fuller, Zoe Gillings-Brier, Katie Ormerod.

Bowls

The World Indoor Bowls tournament is underway at Hopton-on-Sea in Norfolk and the women’s singles has been won by Katherine Rednall from Ipswich.

This is Rednall’s third title.  She beat Rebecca Field from Norwich in the final 13-3 13-6.

She now goes on to represent England at the Commonwealth Games in Australia.

Commonwealth Games

Wales have already announced their team for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, which take place 4-15 April 2018.  Included is 11-year old Anna Hursey, who be representing the Principality in table tennis.

The hockey, sevens and netball squads are still be finalised.

Aquatics: Jazz Carlin, Georgia Davies, Kathryn Greenslade, Ellena Jones, Harriet Jones,  Beth Sloan, Alys Thomas, Chloe Tutton, Harriet West.

 Athletics: Hollie Arnold (para), Olivia Breen (para), Rebecca Chapman, Melissa Courtney, Bethan Davies, Seren Bundy Davies (still to reach qualifying standard), Caryl Granville, Beverley Jones (para), Caryl Jones, Elinor Kirk, Heather Lewis, Carys Parry-Evans, Sally Peake,

Boxing: Rosie Eccles, Lynsey Holdaway, Lauren Price.

Cycling: Elinor Barker, Eleanor Coster, Joe Holt, Ciara Horne, Rachel James, Manon Lloyd,  Dani Rowe (having switched from representing England to representing Wales),

Lawn bowls: Anwen Butten, Laura Daniels, Jess Sims, Caroline Taylor, Julie Thomas (para), Pauline Wilson (para), Emma Woodcock.

Shooting: Sian Corish, Coral Kennerley, Sarah Wixey.

Squash: Tesni Evans, Deon Saffery.

Table Tennis: Charlotte Carey, Anna Hursey, Chloe Thomas.

Triathlon: Olivia Mathias, Non Stanford.

Weighlifting & Powerlifting: Tayla Howe, Laura Hughes, Catrin Jones, Holly Knowles, Nerys Pearce (para), Faye Pittman, Hannah Powell, Christie Williams.

Rugby Union

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

20 January

Firwood Waterloo 0-29 Loughborough Lightning

Gloucester-Hartpury 34-17 Bristol

Wasps 5-0 Saracens

DMP Sharks v Harlequins Postponed

Worcester Valkyries 5-22 Richmond

Just the one fixture this weekend:

27 January

DMP Sharks v Richmond (4pm, Northern Echo Arena)

So Saracens lose their unbeaten record at Wasps.  They are still top on 60 points from 13 games.  Harlequins are second on 54, with Wasps third on 47.  At the bottom, luckless Worcester lie on two points with Firwood Waterloo above them on seven.

Sevens

It’s the Sydney round of the World Sevens this weekend.  Check out http://www.sydney7s.com.au/ for details.

Standings: Australia are top on 20 points, USA are second on 18, Russia third on 16 with Canada next on 14 and New Zealand fifth on 12.

England lie eighth on six points and Ireland are one further back on four.

Cricket – off the Pitch

 History will be made this year as Anya Shrubsole will become the first woman to appear on the cover of the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.  It is the bible for cricket fans worldwide and this will be the 155th edition of the book.  Another small step in the right direction for women’s cricket.

Cricket – on the Pitch

WBBL

20 January

Melbourne Stars 118/6 (20 overs)

Melbourne Renegades 118/6 (20 overs)

Stars won in Super Over

It was a thriller at the MCG as the teams finished dead level after 20 over and the game went into Super Over.

Stars won the toss and elected to bat.  Lizelle Lee top-scored with 31, with contributions from Alana King (22), Anna Lanning (21 not out) and Georgia Elwiss (18).  The wickets were evenly distributed between the Renegades bowlers.

In response, Amy Satterthwaite scored 31 not out, Sophie Molineux 25 and Claire Koski 19 as the Renegades managed to finish on exactly the same score.

In their Super Over, the Renegades scored a healthy 10 runs, but lost four wickets in the process, including ducks for Molineux, Brown and Satterthwaite.

Lee and du Preez took it on for the Stars.  Lee scored seven and du Preez, three and won the game having lost fewer wickets.

Sydney Thunder 148/4 (20 overs)

Adelaide Strikers 111 all out (19.2 overs)

Thunder won by 37 runs

Rachel Priest scored 51 from 27 balls and Naomi Stalenberg 41 from 30 as the Thunder put on a good total of 148.

The Strikers lost wickets at regular intervals with Bridget Patterson scoring 30 from 20 balls.  But it wasn’t enough.  Samantha Bates took 3/21 from four overs and Stafanie Taylor and Nicola Carey two each.

Hobart Hurricanes 122/4 (20 overs)

Perth Scorchers 126/1 (16 overs)

Scorchers won by 9 wickets

Isobel Joyce top-scored for the Hurricanes with 52 not out and Georgia Redmayne 43, but no-one else made a significant contribution.  Katherine Brunt continued her good form with 2/22 off her four overs.

Elyse Villani attacked in response with 70 not out from 48 balls, Nicole Bolton scored 34 and Nat Sciver 18 not out as the Scorchers won with four overs to spare.

21 January

Sydney Thunder 114/5 (20 overs)

Adelaide Strikers 114/4 (20 overs)

Strikers won by 1 in the Super Over

Strikers won the toss and chose to bat.  They struggled to 114 with Suzie Bates top-scoring on 40.  The Thunder top four all got into the twenties, but were unable to get over the line and the game went to a super over.

Sophie Devine bowled for the Strikers, conceding just six runs and taking one wicket. She then opened the batting for the Strikers – she scored six and Suzie Bates one and Adelaide had won by one run.

Melbourne Stars 106/7 (20 overs)

Sydney Sixers 107/5 (18 overs)

Sixers won by five wickets

The Stars’ top four managed only 15 between them, but Erin Osborne scored 39 and Anna Lanning 18 as they limped to 106.  Marizanne Kapp took 2/13 from her four overs.

Alyssa Healy scored 21 from 16 and Ellyse Perry 39 not out from 45 as the Sixers took the win.

Hobart Hurricanes 130/7 (20 overs)

Perth Scorchers 134/4 (18.5 overs)

Scorchers won by six wickets

Georgia Redmayne scored 53 from 49 before she was caught and bowled by Katherine Brunt.

But 60 not out from Nicole Bolton, 21 from Elyse Villani and 24 from Nat Sciver were the telling innings for the Scorchers who got home with seven balls to spare.

24 January

Melbourne Renegades 68 all out (15.5 overs)

Sydney Thunder 69/6 (16 overs)

Thunder won by four wickets

Renegades were skittled by the Thunder as five players scored only one and Amy Satterthwaite top-scored with 17.  Nicola Carey took 3/10 off 3.5 overs, while Rene Farrell and Stafanie Taylor chipped in with two each.

Thunder took it easy in response and lost wickets along the way.  Rachel Haynes scored 37, keeping her head as wickets fell.  She was fifth wicket to fall and it was up to Stafanie Taylor and Rene Farrell to see it home.

After 12 matches, Sydney Thunder are top on 18 points.  The Sixers and Strikers are second and third respectively on 16 and Perth Scorchers lie fourth on 14.

Women’s Sports Column 13-19 January 2018

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  Back to myself, just about so how about starting with a rant?  Honestly, I don’t know what to say about Phil Neville.  Perfectly amiable chap I would imagine, but the best candidate to manage the Lionesses?  I think not.  Yet again, the FA, in its inestimable wisdom, treats the women’s game with contempt.  Anyway, enough ranting for now – yes, more is promised later.

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

Let’s crack on.

Football – off the Pitch

 Lionesses

No doubt as to the biggest story of the week.  I mentioned it last week, in the hope that it was a giant hoax – let’s face it, if April Fools’ Day had been impending we’d have thought it was a none-too-subtle effort on the part of the FA.  But apparently it’s not.  If the mainstream media is to be believed, Phil Neville is about to be revealed as the Lionesses’ new Head Coach.

“I have the opportunity to go to a World Cup and be successful with a group of driven and professional players, and as coach it’s the best job I could ask for.” (my italics)

Is this a slightly disingenuous statement from Neville?  “the best job I could ask for”?  You’re not wrong, sir.  Whether it’s the best job you deserve is another matter.

The rumours are that Casey Stoney is going to be trained up to be his assistant, which has got to be a good move.  But it doesn’t deflect from the main event.

“I’m excited to see how discussions turn out,” says Neville.  I’m not sure “excited” is how I feel right now; more like angry and betrayed.  Not new emotions when I consider the FA.

I am more than ready to be proved wrong.  What I want is what is best for the England women’s team, both now and in the future.  If this is Phil Neville, then so be it.  But in my view it’s a big gamble and at this stage the Lionesses should be pushing on, not going backwards.  Let’s see.

Transfers and other news

    • Bristol City have signed England under-21 forward Millie Farrow from Chelsea. She had previously been on loan at City in 2016, but a knee injury cut the spell short.
    • Brighton & Hove Albion have signed Swedish full-back Amanda Nilden until the end of the season. She is set to make her debut on 28 January against Doncaster Rovers Belles.
    • England left-back Demi Stokes has signed a new three-year contract with Manchester City.
    • Birmingham City goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger is already back in training after her operation to treat thyroid cancer. Amazing, considering she was only diagnosed in November.

Football – on the pitch
14 January – WSL1

Birmingham City Ladies 2-0 Bristol City Women
Mannion (54) pen
Wellings (61)

14 January – Continental Cup semi-finals
Chelsea 0-1 Manchester City

An eighteenth minute goal from Danish international Nadia Nadim was enough to see the league champions through to the final.  There were plenty of chances for Chelsea to equalise, but they couldn’t take one.  Nikita Parris had a couple of chances to double the away side’s lead, but in the end one goal sealed the tie.

Reading Women 2-3 Arsenal

Manchester City will face Arsenal in the final as the Gunners left it late to defeat Reading at Wycombe.  The away side took the lead through Beth Mead in just the fifth minute.  But two minutes later Reading were level as Brooke Chaplen hit a fierce shot to beat Arsenal goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal.  The sides went in level at half-time.  As the game opened up in the second-half there were plenty of chances, but the third goal did not come until the 70th minute when Lauren Bruton hit home from the edge of the area.  But Arsenal were not done.  Seven minutes later Viviana Meidema drew the Gunners level and on 82 Jordan Nobbs won it for Arsenal.

Rugby Union

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

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

14 January
Richmond Women 15-37 Gloucester-Hartpury Women

So that’s eight from eight for Saracens, and in some style against beleaguered Worcester.  They lead the table by five points on 59, with Harlequins second on 54.  Third are Wasps, but way back on 43.  Worcester are bottom with just two points.  Second from bottom are Firwood Waterloo on 7 with Richmond just above them on 14.

This weekend’s fixtures:

20 January
Worcester Valkyries v Richmond Women (2pm, Sixways Stadium)
DMP Sharks v Harlequins Ladies (2pm, Darlington RFC)
Wasps Ladies v Saracens Women (2.30pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Gloucester-Hartpury Women v Bristol Ladies (2.30pm, venue tbc)
Firwood Waterloo Ladies v Loughborough Lightning (4.45pm, Firwood Waterloo RFC)

Netball
World Cup

The launch event for the Netball World Cup 2019 took place this week in the host city, Liverpool. The event featured an exhibition game in the Great Hall of St George’s Hall and countries from across the netball-playing world were represented.

The “branding” of the tournament, the flag under which it is being played (a better term, I think) is “This is Netball” and comprises four ‘pillars’; *Elite Sport*, *Empowering Women and Girls*, *One Incredible Destination* and *Welcoming the World*.

It’s going to be a fantastic event and I would encourage as many of you as possible to make the effort to attend.  You can keep up to date with the build-up to next year’s event via the World Cup 2019 website: https://www.nwc2019.co.uk/

This weekend sees all of the home nations in action as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland take on each other at the European qualifying tournament for the World Cup in Perth, Scotland.  Two teams will qualify.

Coverage of the qualifiers is on the BBC website:

Friday, 19 January
19:30-21:00: Wales v Scotland, Connected TVs & online

Saturday, 20 January
15:00-16:30: Northern Ireland v Wales, Connected TVs & online

Sunday, 21 January
12:00-13:30: Scotland v Northern Ireland, Connected TVs & online

England, who have already qualified will be taking on New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in the Quad Series.  It will be played over six test matches at the Copper Box in London and in Johannesburg.  Please be aware that if you haven’t already booked your tickets, several of the games are already sold out.  Check the venue for details.

Full coverage on Sky Sports plus one random game on the BBC – Eng v NZ 17:45-20:00, coverage on the BBC Red Button, Connected TVs & online

20 January (Copper Box)
South Africa v Australia
England v New Zealand

22 January (Copper Box)
England v Australia

25 January (Johannesburg)
South Africa v New Zealand

28 January (Johannesburg)
Australia v New Zealand
South Africa v England

Tennis – off the court

Shenzhen has been awarded a 10-year contract to host the WTA Finals.  It beat off competition from Manchester, Prague, St Petersburg and Singapore.

 Tennis – on the court

Not much to shout about for British women’s tennis this week. Naomi Broady fell in the last round of qualifying for the Australian Open.  She was beaten by Bibiane Weijers of the Netherlands 7-6 6-2.

So, just two through to the first round proper.  Heather Watson bit the dust in quick time, losing to Yulia Putintseva 7-5 7-6, while British number one, Jo Konta, lasted into the second, suffering a shock defeat to world number 123 Bernarda Pera of USA, 6-4 7-5.

As you know, I’ve stopped reading the comments on the BBC sports pages when it comes to women’s sport.  I had to make a conscious effort to stay away from these – Konta usually receives a ridiculous and shameful amount of vitriolic comment even when she’s winning.  I’m glad I did.  There’s no escaping the bad results for both of the British players, but they are both human and no-one should suggest they weren’t trying their best.  They’re both talented individuals who had off-days.  End of story.

They weren’t the only ones.  Casualties in the first round included Aussie favourite Sam Stosur, 25th seed Peng Shuai, Americans Jennifer Brady, Coco Vandeweghe, Alison Riske and Venus Williams, 24th seed Dominika Cibulkova and 31st seed Ekaterina Makarova.

The second round saw the surprise exit of third seed Garbine Muguruza, beaten 7-6 6-4 by world number 88 Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan.

There are still some big names progressing, though, so looking forward to updating you all next week.

Winter Sports – ice hockey

Intriguing news before the start of the Olympics as it was revealed this week that North Korea and South Korea are to field a combined women’s ice hockey team in Pyeongchang.

In a spirit of détente the team will combine and the two countries will also march under the same flag.

But the move has not gone down well in Seoul.  The move essentially means that half of the South Korean team will have to be left out to make way for those from the North.

“I think there is damage to our players,” Sarah Murray, the coach of the South Korean team, said.

“It’s hard because the players have earned their spots, and they think they deserve to go to the Olympics. Then you have people being added later. It definitely affects our players.”

There have been online petitions and protests against the idea, but it seems the politics will win out.

Cricket – WBBL

13 January
Perth Scorchers 87/9 (16 overs)
Adelaide Strikers 88/4 (15.5 overs)
Strikers won by 6 wickets

Heather Graham top-scored with 19 as the Scorchers were nearly bowled out for an obviously under-par score.  Tahlia McGrath took 3/17 from her three overs, with all the other bowlers contributing.

In response, Suzie Bates led the way with 49 not out.  Tammy Beaumont was out for a duck, lbw to Katherine Brunt, but the Strikers took their time and claimed the win with one ball to spare.

Sydney Sixers 113 all out (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 114/6 (19 overs)
Thunder won by four wickets

After Alyssa Healy went cheaply, Ellyse Perry took on the scoring, making 25 from 25 balls.  Samantha Bates took 3/21 off four overs and the Sixers lost wickets regularly as they posted a middling score of 113.

Thunder lost Rachel Priest and Alex Blackwell without scoring, but Rachael Haynes with 17, Harmanpreet Kaur with 27 and Naomi Stalenberg with 48 took them to the brink of victory.  It was down to Stafanie Taylor (9 not out) and Rene Farrell (5 not out) to see it home.

Brisbane Heat 93/8 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 94/4 (17.2 overs)
Stars won by six wickets

Another low scoring match saw the Heat muster just 93.  Jess Jonassen top-scored with 46.  Erin Osborne was pick of the bowlers, taking 4/20 off four overs.

The Stars chased it down with over two overs to spare.  They lost Lizelle Lee early on but Katie Mack’s 20 and Mignon du Preez with 36 not out broke the back of the total, with du Preez hitting the winning runs with a boundary.

14 January
Hobart Hurricanes 100 all out (18.5 overs)
Melbourne Renegades 102/0
Renegades won by 10 wickets

Hurricanes started well with opening stand of 62 between Hayley Matthews and Stefanie Daffara.  But once they were gone there was little contribution from the others and they were all out in 18.5 overs.  There were three wickets for Maitlan Brown in 3.5 overs with two each for Lea Tahuhu and Amy Satterthwaite.

It was not enough though.  A fine batting display from openers Sophie Molineux (53 not out) and Emma Inglis (42 not out) saw the Renegades home by 10 wickets.

Adelaide Strikers 107/7 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 76 all out
Strikers won by 31 runs

A second poor batting performance in a row saw the Scorchers slump to a 31 run loss at Alice Springs.  Tahlia McGrath scored 34 off 28 balls as the Strikers posted a low-ish score of 107.

But the Scorchers had another off-day in the batting.  Nicole Bolton scored 30 but no-one else made much of a contribution.  The wickets were shared pretty evenly – Suzie Bates was player of the match with her 2/6 off three overs and 27 with the bat.

15 January
Hobart Hurricanes 120/9 (20 overs)
Melbourne Renegades 116/6 (20 overs)
Hurricanes won by 4 runs

A solid start saw the first four wickets put on 97.  After that things tailed off but 120 was always going to be competitive.

Amy Satterthwaite scored 65 for the Renegades, but they fell just short in the chase.

18 January
Sydney Sixers 160/5 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 151 all out (20 overs)
Sixers won by 9 runs

Alyssa Healy scored a fine 70 off 43 balls opening for the Sixers.  Ellyse Perry chipped in with 25 and Dane van Niekerk 44 not out as the Sixers posted a competitive score.

The Heat started well in response with Beth Mooney and Kirby Short putting on a first wicket partnership of 94.  Deandra Dottin scored 18, but then things fall apart for the Heat and they could not reach the Sixers’ total.  Sarah Aley took 3/31 from four overs and Dane van Niekerk 2/28 off her four.

19 January
Sydney Sixers 144/7 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 126/4 (20 overs)
Sixers won by 18 runs

Two wins in two days for the Sixers.  Healy went for duck this time, but 54 not out from Erin Burns was the standout batting performance as the Sixers scored a good 144.  Delissa Kimmince took 3/23 off four.

The Heat fell short of their chase.  Beth Mooney went for a duck.  Everyone else contributed well with Jess Jonassen finishing on 55 not out, but they just could not overtake the Sixers’ total.

It’s all Sydney at the top of the table.  Sixers head it with 14 points from 11 games.  Thunder are second on the same points from just nine games but on an inferior net run rate.  The Strikers are third, again on 14, this time from 10 matches and again with an inferior net run rate.    The Hurricanes prop up the table with just two points from 10 games.  Second to bottom are the Stars with six points from 10.

And finally,

I’m sure you all follow Jacqui Oatley on social media, and if you do you’ll probably know what I’m going to say.  But if you don’t I would encourage you to seek out just what has been happening this week as regards the Sheffield Star newspaper and a man named Ken.  Google it – sexist bites off more than he can chew when taking on women’s sports reporters (God bless ‘em).