Women’s Sports Column 28 January – 3 February 2017

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

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

Be a Game Changer Awards 2017

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

The categories for nomination are:

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

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

Netball

Quad Series

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

Saturday, 28 January, Durban

Australian Diamonds 57-50 New Zealand Silver Ferns,

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

Tuesday, 31 January, Durban

South Africa Proteas 46-62 Australian Diamonds

Thursday, 2 February, Echo Arena, Liverpool

England Roses 37-61New Zealand Silver Ferns

Sunday, 5 February, SSE Arena Wembley, London

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

New Zealand Silver Ferns v South Africa Proteas

Rugby Union

Six Nations

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

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

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

Teams:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sevens

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

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

England Women squad, Sydney

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

Pool C results

Friday 3 February

England 19-10 Spain

England 14- 22 USA

Russia 31-5 England

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

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

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

New Zealand v France

Ireland v USA

Australia v Fiji

Russia v Canada

Australian Rules Football

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

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

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

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

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

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

Football

Indian League

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

28 January

Jeppiaar Institute FC 1-7 Eastern Sporting Union FC

Rising Student FC 6-1 Aizawl FC

29 January

FC Pune City 0-0 Alakhpura FC

30 January

Eastern Sporting Union FC 1-2 Rising Student FC

31 January

FC Pune City 1-0 Jeppiaar Institute FC

Alakhpura FC 6-2 Aizawl FC

2 February

Eastern Sporting Union FC 3-1 FC Pune City

Rising Student FC 0-1 Alakhpura FC

3 February

Aizawl FC 2-3 Jeppiaar Institute FC

Transfers

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

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

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

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

This Girl Can

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

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

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

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

Cricket

India

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch this space to see how it goes.

Kia Super League

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

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

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

WBBL

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

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

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

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

World Cup Qualifying Tournament

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

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

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

Four places are still up for grabs.

Tennis

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

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

Winter Sports

More success for Britain in winter sports this week.

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

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

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

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

And finally

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

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

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

 

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Introducing the Fleckney Rogues – AKA Back to Netball after 30 years part 7

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I’m well aware that my netball blogging has been seriously lax of late. I plead mitigation – life has just got in the way yet again. Added to which I’ve had several interesting assignments writing-wise, which hopefully you’ve been keeping up with.

So I’ve decided to merge the highlights of the last five sessions together and give you a flavour of just what has been going on.

As you may have guessed we now have a new name – the Fleckney Rogues. And indeed we are getting more roguish by the session!

Good turnout for the first session gave us encouragement. We discussed roughly how we thought it would work, noted who was there and likely to turn up in future weeks. We had enough people to pay up front for 10 weeks. Armed with only Val’s notes and the ridiculous diagrams from my previous posts, we attempted to run a session. Did it work? Yes it did.

We found a bag of balls and two sets of bibs waiting for us. Apparently they had been found at the back of the cupboard! Unfortunately only two of the balls were fully pumped up, but still.

We did a warm-up and worked on a few of the drills we had done before. This worked relatively well. Admittedly, it took up to five minutes each time to decide if we were doing each drill correctly, but once we were sorted there was no stopping us!

One of our favourite drills is going up the court in pairs. You’ll have seen this before, but it looks something like this:

Drill2

 

It’s really good for passing, footwork and you get to shoot at the end. When there are enough players for two pairs we turn it into a contest and you get one point for hitting the hoop and two for getting it in. First to ten points wins.

For the first three weeks it all went well. I missed one week because I was “sunning myself” (tee hee) in the Peak District.

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Fourth week was hard as there weren’t many of us.

I have to say, at this point, that I’m writing the second half of this blog after five weeks in. And now I’m quite worried. Fourth week, as I say, there weren’t many of us, but we made sure we did a good session and worked hard.

Fifth week Val was due to visit us to see how we were getting on. Naturally we wanted a good turnout for Val to be impressed. We were three. Val was brilliant, as always, even though she’d come out of the goodness of her heart to see us and we were so few. We had a great session, full of fun and laughter, and Val actually said how much we’d improved. As she wasn’t getting paid for this, I think she meant it! She was impressed with our footwork and our shooting.

Val also gave us a couple of new drills to try. At this point I was going to add a new picture, but confused myself so you’ll have to imagine us in a triangle with Val in the middle, pass turn left pass turn left run (I think). And then we turned the other way – if I tried to draw it it would look like spaghetti!

And joy of joys, I got to do a bit of defending! Val said she always puts the defending in place last, but now it was time we got into it. If you get the ball skills, footwork and passing in place first, then defending should fall into place.

I practiced marking Val! Great fun. She was showing how you have to move to outsmart a defender (she didn’t) and how you can get in front of your marker rather than stay behind (she didn’t). She also said that instead of moving in straight lines, the attacker should be prepared to go on a diagonal to get past the defender (she didn’t). Gosh, I enjoyed that.

Something like this:

defending2

We thanked her profusely and went home happy, but there is a niggle in my mind now; will the Fleckney Rogues keep going without new blood? Will the usual suspects still turn up or will it drop off? At this moment, I don’t think I can plump either way, but I just hope we can carry on.

I’ll try not to leave it another five weeks before the next instalment. And I hope I have something positive to report next time.

 

 

 

Back to Netball – part 6

 

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So sorry for the delay, life has a tendency to get in the way and while I appreciate you’re all waiting agog to find out if we continue our netball adventures alone (or, as I’ve taken to calling it, unleashed) I really haven’t had chance to write it up until now.

So, quick recap. Friday 1st April was our last session of netball with Val, our coach, as part of the Just Harborough scheme.

Good turnout for the last session and everyone is a bit emotional. Good job we’re also practical and realise we have to discuss our future – if we have one.

The session unfolds as usual. Warm up, bit of a jog. Some passing and footwork and then some games with bean bags! I must admit I’m of the opinion that life is so much better with bean bags – I don’t mean the sitting-on kind, but those little rectangular ones we used to have at school for use in games.

So here we are, running, passing, picking up bean bags. The intensity is almost palpable as we have been assured there are prizes at stake. Two teams fighting to the death.  We then go into a game with the emphasis on footwork and passing, rather than scoring.

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You are spared the drill diagrams this week as you really don’t need to see how we pick up a bean bag, but hopefully you’ll appreciate the photos.

 

 

 

 

By the time we’ve finished (and our team lost, by the way – mutter mutter), we’re happily sweaty (or glowing, depending on which century your perception comes from) and ever so slightly knackered.

020Val has medals – yes medals – for us all and Emma, the organiser of the scheme, turns up to distribute hats (yes I am wearing one and yes it looks silly) and t-shirts.

In return we have a card and flowers for Val and she is suitably embarrassed.

 

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So what do we decide to do? We decide to carry on of course. There are enough of us to commit to ten more weeks and pay for the court in advance. Emma informs us that the sports centre has committed to buying balls and bibs (can they stretch to bean bags, we think? But that is for another time).

We’re going to have our own Facebook group and try to encourage new members in. Emma will help us with marketing materials and we’ll try to get some media coverage. We won’t have a coach, a) it’s too expensive b) there’s a ridiculous shortage of netball coaches in Leicestershire c) we really need a “leader” or “activator” level coach, but such a thing doesn’t exist anymore in netball.

Ce--iZnXIAAQf1VSo, essentially, we’re on our own. We have some paperwork from Val, plus my inscrutable drill diagrams to see us through. But that’s not all we have. We have determination and no small amount of bolshiness, which, I feel, may be our winning factor. We’ll take it in turns to run the drills and try to expand our knowledge of the game through reading and YouTube!

Make sure you catch up with part 7 when you will learn just what we got up to in our first netball “unleashed” session.

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And at this point I would like to thank Val and Emma for being behind us all the way in our endeavours – and especially to Val who insisted we have all improved so much since we started. Our group is living proof that it doesn’t matter how old you are, what shape or size you are, exercise can be fun, not pressurised, and good for both body and soul!

 

Back to Netball (after 30 years) – Part 4

So here I am at third actual week of active netball. And it’s all going surprisingly well. Each week I seem to have recovered better than the last, which is good. And I think I’m improving, in fact we all are.

This week it’s all about passing and footwork again – Val is determined that we will know what foot we’ve landed on….

So we’re jumping and hopping like, er, well, would fleas be too horrible a simile? Ok, fleas it is. And making sure we know where and how we’re landing. Pivoting to turn to face to person we are passing the ball to, making sure we’re balanced. Sounds easy? Well it’s not.

We go into one of Val’s fiendish drills which, at first, we’re all laughing at and thinking we’ll never get the hang of. Then the concentration hits and you can see it in every face. Not only are we going to get it right, but we’re going to get faster at it, a well-oiled machine.

I think it’s time for one of my ridiculous diagrams:

part 4 no1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good grief, we were all over the place to start off with, but it really did get better. By the time we stop we’ve just about got it right and everyone is (rightly) pleased with themselves.

Then we do another drill, and, I have to confess, even now I’m not quite sure how it worked. It needed three to a group and we had a group of four so each of us took a turn to sit out. I was quite happy for my turn on the sidelines to come, and I couldn’t even understand it watching it from the outside!

Here it is (I think)

part 4 no 2

It was then complicated further by Val shouting change, at which point the sequence went the other way. I’m afraid I didn’t have a Scooby, although I tried hard!

To my intense relief, we ended the drill and got into a game. This time we not only got points for scoring but also for good footwork.

All good fun, and I say, I think we’re all improving.

I did have one star moment when, as a ball seemed to be sailing over my head, I leapt like a salmon (probably not much like one, in truth) and plucked it out of the air, earning a round of applause!

However, I’ve realised the sad truth – I’m waiting for Val to have a Hagrid moment

 “You’re a netballer, Penny!”

 But it’s not going to happen.

Even worse there is now a photo of me in action – cheers Emma, I’m so glad you took that…….

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Back to netball – after 30 years (part 3)

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We had a week off for half-term (good job as I needed the recovery time – yes, honestly), but it was back to work this week. No messing about, no conversation – well not much – just plenty of hard work.

I had to get to the venue via public transport this week and the only stop was about 15 minutes walk away from the sports centre. So I was somewhat hot and bothered by the time I arrived with just two minutes to spare (already warmed up was how I put it, hoping it may cut me some slack, but nothing doing).

A quick jog around the court and it was off we went.

It was all about passing and footwork this week.

Some good passing drills in pairs to start. All well and good. Then getting into thinking about passing. Discs set in outside and inside rings. One of the pair runs to a spot, the one without runs to one and if the player without the ball is on an inside spot the ball is chest-passed short and if they are on an outside spot the ball is over-armed long.

Adding to that, thinking about footwork – jumping and landing on the disc and moving the correct foot. Not so easy.

Then we did a drill specifically designed to help with footwork. The instructor, Val, stood at one end with the ball and we all queued up in single file in front of her. We ran towards her and Val threw the ball. We had to jump – realise what foot we landed on – step back with the moving foot, forward again and pass the ball back to the instructor.

We made several rounds. I felt quite happy with this and was pleased with getting my footwork right – the only time I messed up was when I didn’t jump, therefore didn’t know which foot I’d landed on!  I know I’m never going to get to the point where I can do it without thinking, but it’s a start.  Anyway, everyone got there in the end, and we all cheered and clapped at each successful set of moves.

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We then got into a half-court game again. This time we had to concentrate on getting the right pass and the right footwork.  I know this may sound obvious, but doing it in play is completely different from drilling – who would have thought that knowing what foot you’ve landed on could be so difficult?

I made one really good interception and went to pass the ball away.

“Which foot did you land on?” asked Val

I pointed to my right confidently.

“I think you’ll find it was the other one…”

Grrr. Looks like I can pass or make an interception or get the footwork right, but not all three in the same passage of play….. ho hum. Work to do.

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Finished off with a little warm-down jog and some stretching.

I managed to take a few photos in the first two sessions. Thanks to all for letting me publish them, especially to Jo for the shooting shot and Carol for the hands.

You also may be glad to know that although I worked really hard, I didn’t ache so much on Saturday morning.

Looking forward to next week! There’s still so much more to learn and practice!  I’m loving it!  I know I’m generally sports-obsessed, but this is generally watching and writing about it.  Now I can honestly say if I can do this, anyone can.  Truly #ThisGirlCan.

Thanks to Val and to Just Harborough for the brilliant coaching and introducing the scheme in the first place.

Back to netball – after 30 years (part 1)

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Thanks to the Just project, run by Harborough District Council, I have been given the chance to play netball for the first time in 30 years.

As a sports journalist, I’m always writing about the national and global stuff and rarely have the chance to make a difference locally. So I decided I wanted to do just that and approached my local council for advice and to offer my services – although I didn’t know in what capacity.

This was at the end of November. I met with SDOs Emma and Hollie and was glad to learn that in the New Year they were launching a new scheme aimed at girls 14+ and women and designed to get them into sport. Sounded just up my street.

My first idea was to sample each sport and blog about it – I said I would promote the scheme to as many people as I could. Unfortunately, the foot surgery (if you haven’t heard about this, read about it here) meant that some of the sports were out.

So I decided instead to concentrate on one sport and put my all into it. I had played netball for school – yes, I was the shortest goalkeeper in the history of goalkeepers – so netball it was.

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The date was set. Tuesday 19th January. It had just turned ridiculously cold and the snow from the weekend was still lurking around the edges of everything. Not to worry, I thought, nice warm sports hall, no bother. I found out the day before I was due to play that it was outside! OUTSIDE? But once I’ve decided to do something, I generally go through with it, so with woolly tights under the trackies and many, many top layers, I set out to Fleckney sports centre.

Unfortunately, everyone else obviously didn’t have “mug” tattooed across their foreheads and the instructor, Val, and I were the only ones who turned up. Val was not chuffed, unsurprisingly, but more displeased that we were due to play outside anyway! We discussed it with the lady who was looking after the sports centre and she outlined some times when the hall was free. At that point we gave up and Val went away to negotiate a change of day and time (and venue) with Emma.

I went home, all dressed up and nowhere to go…….

Don’t worry folks, it gets better. Tune in to part two of “Back to netball – after 30 years”, coming soon.

Women’s Sports Column

netball223 – 29 January

This week’s stories come from tennis, football, rugby union, netball and cricket.  There’s a mix of some of the best action of the week plus a look forward to what’s coming up in the next couple of months.

Firstly, if you haven’t got involved in Sport Relief as yet, there’s still time.  The This Girl Can campaign has released new short films to show how girls and women can get involved.  “Slow fundraising beats no fundraising” is the message.  There’s so much you can do and so many organised events on the weekend Friday 18 to Sunday 20 March.  For more information see sportrelief.com and www.thisgirlcan.co.uk.

Biggest cheer of the week must go to Britain’s Johanna Konta.  She reached the semi-final of the Australian Open Tennis in Melbourne.

Since the last column was published, Konta beat Denisa Allertova from the Czech Republic 6-2 6-2 and then dispatched 21st seed Ekaterina Makarova 4-6 6-4 8-6.

In the quarter-final Konta was up against the unseeded conqueror of Simona Halep, Zhang Shuai.  She eased past her 6-4 6-1 to become the first British woman to reach a grand slam semi-final since Jo Durie in 1983.

Her semi-final opponent was sixth seed Angelique Kerber.  It was just a match too far and she was beaten 7-5 6-2.  Kerber was always going to be a step up, but it didn’t help that Konta’s game was beset by unforced errors.   Konta’s recent form will see her jump from her current ranking of 47 in the world to 28.

Konta’s Australian run has been described as a “fairytale” in some media outlets, but this does not do her justice.  There was no element of luck or unreality – it was all down to Konta’s incredible hard work and mental toughness.  Let’s give her the credit and leave the “fairytale” out of it.

In the final on Saturday 30 January, Kerber will face world number one, Serena Williams, who smashed fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0 6-4 in their semi-final.

Britain’s wheelchair tennis ace, Jordanne Whiley, did not fare so well this week.  She lost in the quarter-final of the singles 6-7 6-4 4-6, and in the semi-finals of the doubles with her British partner Lucy Shuker, 6-7 6-4 3-6.

The women’s doubles title was taken by top seeds and current Wimbledon and US Open champions, Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza.  They beat the Czech pairing of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 7-6 6-3.

Along with the release of the 2016 FAWSL fixtures this week has come another raft of transfers.  Liverpool seem to be hottest in the market as they have made the surprise signing of winger Natasha Harding after she was released by Manchester City.  Harding only signed for City in March 2015.

City themselves have signed an immediate replacement in Swedish striker Kosovare Asllani.

Liverpool have, however, lost Asisat Oshoala to fellow title-hopefuls Arsenal.  The Nigerian player was named BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year in May 2015.

The new FAWSL One and Two season will begin on Wednesday 23 March.  It is set to be the most exciting yet with an expanded division one nine-team league.

The first week of fixtures looks like this:

Wednesday 23 March

FA WSL 1

19:00 Manchester City Women v Notts County Ladies
FC Academy Stadium

19:30 Liverpool Ladies FC v Birmingham City Ladies
Select Security Stadium

19:45 Arsenal Ladies FC v Reading FC Women
Boreham Wood FC

FA WSL 2

19:00 Bristol City Women v Yeovil Town Ladies FC
Stoke Gifford Stadium

19:00 Sheffield FC Ladies v Durham Women FC
Sheffield FC

19:45 London Bees v Watford Ladies FC
The Hive

Sunday 27 March 2016

FA WSL 2

14:00 Aston Villa Ladies FC v Oxford United Women
Sutton Coldfield Central Ground

14:00 Millwall Lionesses v Everton Ladies FC
Millwall Football Club

14:00 Watford Ladies FC v Yeovil Town Ladies FC
Berkhamsted FC

Monday 28 March 2016

FA WSL 1

14:00 Chelsea Ladies FC v Liverpool Ladies FC
Staines Town FC

15:00 Manchester City Women v Arsenal Ladies FC
Academy Stadium

FA WSL 2

12:00 Durham Women FC v London Bees
New Ferens Park

There will be increased broadcast coverage via the BBC and BT.  Let’s hope the print media follows suit (I’m available if anyone needs me).  Otherwise you can keep up with it all at www.fawsl.com.

The RBS Six Nations begins on Friday 5 February.  Defending champions, Ireland, will be confident of taking the title again, while World Champions, England, realise they must improve on their poor fourth-place finish of last year.

The first weekend’s fixtures are:

Friday 5 February

18:00 Scotland Women v England Women
Broadwood Stadium

Saturday 6 February

13:00 Ireland Women v Wales Women
Donnybrook

21:00 France Women v Italy Women
Stade Marcel Verchere.

England’s Roses suffered a series whitewash 3-0 against World and Commonwealth champions Australia this week.  After a close-fought first game, as reported last week, with England just losing out 52-58, Australia really piled on the pressure and rarely looked threatened in either of the other two games.

The second match, played in front of a sell-out crowd at the Copper Box in London, was tight for a while, with England holding a four goal lead in the second quarter, only to see it vanish by half-time and to be trailing by 25-23.  The second half was much more one-sided and the Diamonds went on to close it out 60-44.

The third game, also at the Copper Box, was, in truth, also somewhat one-sided.  Australia ran out convincing winners 53-41.

This is not to say that England were out of their depth.  It is a young squad and showed good maturity and determination throughout.  Sasha Corbin was my player of the series, although the official Roses player of the series was Goalkeeper Ama Agbeze.  Sharni Layton (also Goalkeeper) was the Aussie player of the series.

Netball’s popularity and fanbase just keeps growing.  The domestic season starts this weekend with Super Saturday at the Genting Arena in Birmingham.  All eight Superleague teams will be taking part and it will all be shown live on Sky from 2pm as part of their Netball Month.

 Two momentous events in women’s cricket occurred this week.

In the all-Sydney inaugural WBBL final the Sydney Thunder beat the Sixers by three wickets.

It was always going to be difficult for the Sixers as they posted a small total of just 115 for the Thunder to chase.

The Sixers won the toss and elected to bat.  They were the in-form team coming into the final – winning nine games in a row to go from also-rans to semi-finalists in the process.  They won their semi-final against the Hobart Hurricanes with ease and looked prepared to upset the favourites in the final.

But it was not to be.  As they regularly lost wickets the Sixers were unable to put together any meaningful partnerships.  Eventual player of the match, spinner Erin Osborne, did the most damage taking 3-21.

The response from the Thunder was not confident though and the Sixers must have thought they were still in with a chance when Captain Ellyse Perry took the wicket of Rene Farrell in the last over with the Thunder needing four to win.   In the end the Sydney Thunder took the game with three balls to spare.

The other event, which has somewhat shaken the world of women’s cricket is that India have gone 2-0 up in a three-match T20 series against Australia, in Australia.

In the first game, in Adelaide on 26 January, they managed their highest ever chase in a T20.  Australia had posted a decent 140 after their poor start left them 17-2 after four overs.  Indeed it wasn’t until Alyssa Healey came in that Australia really put their foot down – Healey hitting 41 off 15 balls, supported by Alex Blackwell with 27 off 22.

India’s reply started uncertainly when Mithali Raj was caught for just four in the second over, but a second wicket partnership of 55 between Smrti Mandhana and Veda Krishnamurthy steadied things for the tourists.  Three quick wickets later India looked in trouble again at 91-4 off 14 overs.  Enter Harmanpreet Kaur.  She scored 46 including one six and six fours, ensuring her team’s victory with eight balls to spare.

The second game, at the MCG, was spoiled by rain.  Australia batted first again and managed 125 for 8 off 18 overs.  Meg Lanning made a creditable 49 but after she was run out at the non-striker’s end Australia went on to lose 5-10 in 14 balls.

India had reached 52-0 in their chase when the rain started again and when it stopped and the D/L total was revised again to just 66, India had no problem in knocking off the extra 14 runs.  Mithali Raj and Smriti Mandhana were unbeaten on 37 and 22 respectively.

India had won their first ever series against Australia.  The third game takes place at the SCG in Sydney on Sunday 31 January.  Both teams may take the chance to try out some new names in preparation for the World T20, which takes place in India in March and April this year.

Happy to say no “and finally” this week.  There will be no column next week as I will be away, but I’ll be back on the 12th with two weeks of news!

Women’s Sports Column

8-15 January

So much going on!  Plenty of news this week from cricket, football, rugby union, darts, skiing, motor racing and tennis.  Phew!

But first, it’s a year since the launch of the This Girl Can campaign.  Figures released this week show that 1.6m girls and women between 14 and 40 have started exercise as a result of the initiative.  More than half a million follow the campaign on social media.  And though it’s not for me to advertise retailers, I must add that there is a great new range of sports clothing featuring the This Girl Can slogan now available at Marks and Spencer.  This is the second selection – the first having sold out in no time flat!

If you haven’t bought into it yet, I would encourage you to do so – whatever age, size or shape you are there is something out there that you can enjoy and even excel at.  Check it out.

In cricket, the ECB yesterday announced the six “hosts” (we’re still not using the word “franchises”) who have won four-year contracts for the new Women’s Cricket Super League, which begins this summer.

They are:

Hampshire Cricket with partners: Berkshire Cricket Ltd, Dorset Cricket Board, Isle of Wight Cricket Board, Oxfordshire Cricket, Southampton Solent University, Sussex Cricket, Wiltshire Cricket

Lancashire County Cricket Board with partners: Lancashire County Cricket Club, Lancashire County Cricket Club Foundation

Loughborough University

South West: Somerset County Cricket Club, Gloucestershire County Cricket Club, University of Exeter

Surrey County Cricket Club

Yorkshire County Cricket Club

The most surprising omission from the list is the combined MCC/Middlesex bid which did not get through.  At the moment there are no more details, but follow this column and details will be added as soon as they have been released.

WBBL is reaching its climax in Australia.  Numbers of games played has evened out somewhat and top of the pile at the moment is Sydney Thunder with eight wins from 12 games – 16 points.  Second comes Hobart Hurricanes on 14 points from the same number of games and third, behind on net run rate only, the Melbourne Stars.  The other Melbourne side, the Renegades is rock bottom on six points from 11 matches.

In international football, a new tournament was announced this week – the SheBelieves Cup It will take place in March in America and will be between the hosts, England, Germany and France.  England will play USA on 4 March, Germany on 6 March and France on 10 March.  No news yet as to radio or TV coverage.

Coach, Mark Sampson is keen to take part:

“The opportunity to compete against the three best teams in the world is a crucial step in providing more opportunities for the team to develop.

“Women’s soccer in the USA is on a real high since their World Cup success and we are excited to feel that sense of enthusiasm for the game in some wonderful football stadiums.

“We are thankful to the USA for their work in setting up the event which I am sure in years to come will grow into a stand-out tournament in the women’s football calendar.”

More good news for England this week as Mark Sampson signed an extended contract which will keep him as coach until 2019.

In more international news, the Ballon d’Or awards were held this week.   Unsurprisingly, USA national team coach, Jill Ellis was named 2015 FIFA Coach of the Year for Women’s Football.  Norio Sasaki (Japan) was second Mark Sampson (England), third.

The FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year was USA’s Carli Lloyd.  She scored a 13-minute hat-trick in the World Cup Final of 2015 against Japan.  Runners-up were Celia Sasic (Germany) and Aya Miyama (Japan).

 In domestic news, Millie Farrow and Jodie Brett have joined Bristol City from Chelsea on a season-long loan.

 And finally, as regards football, the FA have named Baroness Sue Campbell as the new Head of

Women’s Football.  Baroness Campbell was head of UK Sport from 2003-2013.

Kelly Simmons, the FA’s director of participation and development, called Baroness Campbell “one of the most influential people in British sport”.

Campbell’s priorities will be the encouragement of grassroots women’s football and the continued improvement of the England women’s teams.

The rugby Premiership final will be between reigning champions, Saracens, and Richmond.

There were contrasting semi-finals last weekend as Saracens had to fight hard to beat a tough Lichfield side 19-12 at Allianz Park.  The second semi-final saw Richmond take Worcester apart with a 35-0 win.

 The final, at the Twickenham Stoop, will be live on Sky Sports 5 on Sunday 17 January.  The programme begins at 17.25 and the game begins at 17.30.

 At the other end of the table, the relegation decider will be between Wasps and Aylesford.  This also takes place this weekend.

 Results and news in next week’s column.

Trina Gulliver duly triumphed in the BDO darts final last Saturday, to take her 10th title.  In an all-English final, she beat Deta Hedman 3-2.  It was yet another disappointment for Hedman, who lost her third Lakeside final.

It’s good to report on a bit of skiing and Lindsey Vonn is always worth a few words.  Vonn claimed her second win in two days this week at the Alpine Skiing World Cup event in Austria, when she won in the super-G.

 She had already won the downhill on Saturday, which equalled Annemarie Moser-Proll’s record of 36 World Cup downhill wins.

 Vonn is still some way short of the overall World Cup wins record, which belongs to Ingemar Stenmark with 86.  Vonn stands on 73.

Only two months after retiring from driving in Formula 1, Susie Wolff this week unveiled her new initiative to get more women into motorsport.

The new scheme, called Dare to be Different, aims to encourage women in motorsport but also to increase their confidence and knowledge in other areas, including the media, nutrition, fitness and diet.

According to Wolff it is not necessarily about finding the next female F1 driver, but to

“build an online community of women from all over the world.

“It will connect them through a shared passion and empower them to become the next wave of role models, while also providing access to some of the most successful female names in the sport.”

The women involved will also mentor each other and one outstanding candidate will earn a scholarship in karting.

 After Wolff’s somewhat discouraging experiences in this most male-dominated sport, it is good to see that she thinks progress can be made and even better that she thinks she is the one to take the lead.

The draw for the Australian Tennis Open has been made.  There are two British women in the draw with Johanna Konta up against it having drawn eighth seed Venus Williams in the first round.  Heather Watson will be more evenly matched as she comes up against Timea Babos of Hungary.  Watson is currently 53 in the world with Babos at 59.

Naomi Broady will not be in the draw, after having such a good run in Auckland a fortnight ago.  She was knocked out in the first round of qualifying, losing 6-3 2-6 6-3 to world number 166 Alize Lim.  According to ranking it was a match Broady, at 112 in the world, should have won.

And finally, at the risk of this beginning to turn into some sort of That’s Life misshaped carrot slot, I couldn’t resist this.  Is it an elaborate spoof?  I would like to think so, but I fear not.  Hilarity and outrage in equal measure (although I think outrage just about wins out….)

ladyball

The Ladyball. Yes, the Ladyball – see illustration above.  With tag lines like “Don’t break a nail, break boundaries” and “Play like the lady you are”, this Irish product is the most extraordinarily offensive thing I have seen in a while.  It is pink (of course), soft and smaller than the usual football and therefore “specially designed for the lady’s game”. It’s also advertised by scantily-clad “ladies” in 5-inch heels.  Not sure any sort of ball would be suitable for playing in them.  I’m still hoping someone will inform me that it’s a wind-up……

The Women’s Sports Column

rugby ball

12-18 December

This week’s stories come from tennis, cricket, badminton, cycling, rugby union and speed skating

But first!  It’s official – women are at the forefront of sports participation!  Sport England began their Active People survey in 2005/06 and in this time the number of people playing sport over a period of 12 months rose by 1.65 million to 15.74 million.  And the number of women playing sport is increasing faster than men.

7.01 million women aged 16 years or over played sport once a week this year, an increase of 703,800 since 2005/06.  The biggest winner seems to be running and athletics in general (must help that there are plenty of good role models).

The increase has also been partly put down to the success of the This Girl Can campaign.  This is good news for everyone who put so much effort into making this campaign so visible, widespread and popular.

Plenty of news from the women’s tennis world this week – not that you’d know it from the mainstream press.  British number two, Heather Watson has split with her coach of two years, Diego Veronelli.   Veronelli cited his inability to commit to the up to 40 weeks of travelling per year as the reason for the split.  He has returned to Buenos Aires to be with his young family.

Andy Murray will be employing Amélie Mauresmo as his number one coach again in 2016.  Mauresmo took leave to give birth to her first child this year and Jonas Bjorkman stepped in to fill the vacancy.  But Murray has decided that he wants Mauresmo back on his team in the New Year.  It is thought that she will be principal coach, working 22-24 weeks during the year, but Murray is still looking for an assistant.

Serena Williams was named Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year for 2015 this week.  She is only the third individual woman (i.e., not on a team) to be given the honour since its inception in 1954 and the first since Mary Decker in 1983.

Needless to say, the award has not gone without comment and controversy.  Firstly, apparently many were dismayed that a racehorse (!) American Pharaoh didn’t win the coveted title.

Brian Zipse, editor of Horse Racing Nation tweeted, “Very disappointed to see Sports Illustrated editors ignored the fans vote, and chose Serena Williams over American Pharaoh”.

But Serena fans have fought back.  One tweeted:

 “My bad. Since when did the definition of a ‘person’ constitute having four legs and cannot talk? #Serena.”

If that wasn’t enough, there was then controversy over the image of Williams enthroned on the front cover of Sports Illustrated.  Debate raged as to whether she had been airbrushed (particularly around her muscular thighs).  Both the magazine and Williams herself have denied it, but doubts remain.  Williams won 53 of her 56 matches this year and was world number one throughout.

She has been incredible all year, just failing to complete a calendar Grand Slam when she suffered a shock loss in the semi-final of the US Open to Roberta Vinci in September.  It’s an award long overdue and the very fact that a woman has won and appears in something other than the swimsuit issue is something to celebrate.

The ECB has announced that 19 players have been awarded central contracts for the 2016-17 season.  The only new name is Middlesex batter Fran Wilson, who has stepped up from the performance squad, where she has been impressive for the last 18 months.

2016 will be a busy year with overseas tours to South Africa, West Indies and Sri Lanka, as well as the World Twenty20 in India and a home series against Pakistan.

Gabby and Chris Adcock have become the first British badminton players to win a title at the World Superseries finals.   They beat third seeds Ko Sung-hyun and Kim Ha –na from South Korea, 21-14, 21-17 in Dubai.

This was their first win over the South Koreans in four attempts.

Chris Adcock said “The Koreans have been superb all year. We really wanted to try and put right what we didn’t do against them in the past so to come through with the win is amazing.”

Emma Pooley has announced that she is to return to cycling in order to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.  Pooley, 33, who retired in 2014, is aiming to be picked for the time trial. She may also support Lizzie Armistead in the road race.   Pooley recognises her selection is not a given.  Cycling is a sport in which Britain currently excels and with an abundance of talent, the competition will be fierce:

“If I can prove to both myself and the GB team selectors that I have the capacity to win the time trial in Rio, I’ll compete for selection for the Olympic team – I’m happy knowing I won’t get selected unless I really do have the potential to win.”

The RFU has announced that there will be two sets of play-offs in the Women’s Rugby Premiership at the end of the season.  Keep your wits about you as this is explained!

There will be one to decide the title, as is the case in the Aviva Premiership, but there will also be one to decide who is relegated.  Fifth plays eighth and sixth plays seventh.  The winners from the two ties will compete for a shield for the bottom half of the table (!).

The losers will play each other and the loser of this will play the Championship (second tier) winner to see who will finally be in the Premiership next year.  If you haven’t lost the will to live after reading that, the sports column will ensure that the results are brought to you in January.

And finally, British speed skater, Charlotte Gilmartin won 1500m bronze at the short track World Cup in Shanghai this week.  This was her first medal on the World Cup circuit in her first World Cup A final.

No column next week (Happy Christmas to one and all), but hoping to be back the week following.

Women’s Sport: there’s no time for back slapping – get beyond the bubble

free kick 4

I’m sorry if this sounds a bit bah humbug during this festive period, but I am not happy.

It’s awards time, nostalgia time, time for looking back at 2015 for the great progress made in women’s sport: more television coverage than ever before, more radio coverage than ever before, FA Cup at Wembley, Varsity Boat Race, Lionesses, EA Sports FIFA 2016 featuring women’s national teams,  and generally more recognition of women’s achievements in sport, etc, etc.

One of my favourite memories of the year is attending the FA Cup Final at Wembley and seeing numerous big beefy male Chelsea supporters cheering their female team onto the pitch – it actually brought a proud tear to my eye.

Several great campaigns started this year: This Girl Can, Cover the Athlete, What if…? and Women’s Sports Week.

But I fear we are bound, once more, to be looking back through rose-tinted spectacles.

This has also been the year when Mike Selvey, amongst others, seriously asked whether women should be playing test match cricket at all.  As I put it in my article for WSUK, when my indignation was at its peak,

“Women aren’t suited to the longer game, apparently.  They should give it up and stick to what they’re good at (I wasn’t sure if bed and kitchen had been edited out of the end of this theory, but let’s not be too cynical). “

It has been the year when Susie Wolff has had to give up her formula 1 dream, because

“There was very little opportunity to carry on in Formula 1.  My goal was to get on to the starting grid and that didn’t look achievable. So I had to call it a day.”

It has also been the year when Eva Carneiro was sacked by Chelsea after Jose Mourinho castigated her for going on the pitch to do her job.

And the year when Eugenie Bouchard was asked by an on-court interviewer at the Australian Open Tennis to “Give us a twirl”.

We are also back to a situation where gender testing hit the headlines again, including the new and worrying “normalisation” of female genitalia.  Women are being operated on so that they conform to someone’s idea of what genitalia should look like.  It’s as if all the campaigning going on around the evils of FGM are lost as it seems to be sanctioned in the name of sport.

And last but not least, the print media are still lagging way behind in covering women’s sport, even though most have been promising faithfully to improve and extend their coverage.

Progress has indubitably been made, but I still maintain that I, and most of the people I know in the business of women’s sport, exist in a “bubble” – a bubble that prevents them from seeing that outside it perceptions are moving at a glacial rate.

So – the bubble.  How do we get beyond it?

One way is to keep checking on the “mainstream” outlets.  Keep in touch with @WomenSportPress, who will tell us just how much (or little) coverage women’s sport is receiving.  But check it out yourselves – do a count of how much news actually gets reported and how it’s reported.  Look at the comments sections.  Report sexist and misogynistic comment.  How much women’s sport is featured in online news outlets?  Where does it come on the page?  What is the attitude?

But of course, it’s not just in the media and at elite level.  Keep an eye on your local sports facilities and local councils.  What are they offering for girls and women?  Could they do better?  How is it offered?  At what times of the day?  Do they assume all women must be stay-at-home mums so their classes are all during the day?  Do they have initiatives to get girls and women involved in sport?

And it’s everything in between!  We want women’s sport to be viewed as “normal”, as “mainstream”.  We want coverage to be second nature to all media.  We want girls to grow up thinking that doing sport is natural and fun.  I don’t actually want to write a weekly women’s sports column, because it should just be part of what everyone does, but until it is I’ll keep writing, so that women’s sport gets the attention it deserves.

So while we’re all patting each other on the back and saying what a good job we’re doing, giving out awards for this and that, we should still be looking at the even bigger picture.  You only need to look at the comments section of any online article about women’s sport to see the banal barrage of sexist, belittling and sometimes misogynistic responses.  And if anyone mentions the word “banter” to me, I’ll scream – because it’s not.

By all means let’s congratulate ourselves on the progress, but let’s also get beyond the bubble, because if we don’t we will inevitably end up failing in our mission to make women’s sport a part of everyone’s life.