Welcome 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Tennis – Wimbledon
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.
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)
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)
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.
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, meanwhile, are celebrating as they are taking the Championship spot vacated by Sheffield FC.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.