Women’s Sports Column 18-24 May 2019

speedometerWelcome to this week’s column.  Not for the first time, last week’s offering was full of FA frustration.  Hopefully this week’s will be a bit calmer (stranger things have happened, although I can’t think of many).

News and results this week come from netball (didn’t see that result coming), motor racing, cricket, taekwondo, tennis, basketball, hockey, rugby league and football.

Let’s crack on……

Motor Racing – on the Track

It was Round Two of the W Series last weekend.  Dutch driver Beitske Visser took the win with Jamie Chadwick and Alice Powell in second and third respectively.

Visser dominated the race, leading from start to finish.

There were two safety car periods; one when Sarah Tovy’s car got stuck on the grid at the start and one when Gosia Rdest and Esmee Hawkey collided.

Chadwick started on pole, but was overtaken by Visser at the start.  The Briton is still top of the leaderboard after this weekend’s result.

The third round is in Misano, Italy on 8 June.

Motor Racing – Off the Track

It was also confirmed this week that Jamie Chadwick has been offered a role as development driver with the Williams Formula 1 team.

Of course, Williams already have form for promoting women in motorsport.  Susie Wolff was a development driver for the team before she retired in 2015 and, of course deputy team principal is Claire Williams who said of the move,

“Promoting women in motorsport is extremely important and having a female role model as part of our driver academy will hopefully inspire young girls to take up racing at a young age.

“We hope to show that motorsport is inclusive and exciting, be that as a driver or on the engineering side. Jamie is a great talent and I look forward to working with her.”

Football

Champions League

Olympique Lyonnais 4-1 Barcelona

Yet another emphatic win for Lyon as they produced an exceptional first-half performance to mean that even in this season of ridiculous comebacks, the deficit was just too much for Barcelona to overcome after the break.

Ballon d’Or winner and now BBC Women’s Footballer of the year (see below), Ada Hegerberg, hit a hat-trick in the first-half.

If Toni Duggan had hit the target early on, rather than shooting wide, perhaps it would have been different.

Shanice Van de Sanden also starred, setting up the first two goals for Dzsenifer Marozsan and Hegerberg with excellent crosses.

Hegerberg then scored two more – a hat-trick in just 16 minutes and Lyon were four up by half-time.

Asisat Oshoala pulled one back for Barcelona late on, but it was a meagre consolation.

Nikita Parris

And it appears Lyon will only be stronger next season as it was announced this week that England’s Nikita Parris has signed for the French champions.  She will have to prove herself to make a place in such a successful side, but if anyone can, Parris can.

BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2019

Ada Hegerberg has been named BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2019.

As we already know, she has had yet another excellent season, culminating in her Champions League final hat-trick.  This season she scored 29 goals in 33 games for Lyon and the team won the French league (again) and French Cup as well as the Champions League title.

Pernille Harder was second and Sam Kerr third.  It is Hegerberg’s second title, having also won it in 2017.

It is just a shame that we won’t get to see her playing for Norway in the World Cup.

England

Talking of which, there are two warm-up matches coming up for England as they continue to prepare for the World Cup:

England v Denmark (25 May, Banks’s Stadium, Walsall, 1pm kick-off, live on the BBC)
England v New Zealand (1 June, Amex Stadium, Brighton, 1pm kick-off, live on the BBC)

Scotland

Scotland also play a warm-up:

Scotland v Jamaica (28 May, Hampden Park, Glasgow, 7.35m kick-off)

Wales

Wales play New Zealand in a friendly before they begin their 2021 Euros qualification campaign:

Wales v New Zealand (4 June, Leckwith Stadium, Cardiff, 7pm kick-off)

Netball – on the Court

Manchester Thunder 57-52 Wasps Netball

Well I can honestly say I didn’t see this result coming.  Wasps have been so dominant this year, I thought it was practically a foregone conclusion that they would win the Grand Final, but that, without hopefully sounding too sententious, is the beauty of sport.

Wasps started well and were leading throughout the first quarter. In fact, Thunder didn’t come into their own until half way through the second quarter, when they took the lead for the first time.

At the beginning of the third quarter Wasps roared back and went back into the lead, but couldn’t hold it and the lead changed hands almost with every goal.

It looked as if Wasps had regained their equilibrium towards the end of the third quarter, and going into the final period they had a lead of 45-39.

But it was the Thunder who took the initiative in the fourth and final quarter.  They achieved two turnovers in the first few minutes and from that point never looked back, scoring 19 goals in the last quarter as they secured their third Super League title.

Team Bath 62-56 Loughborough Lightning

By half-time Lightning had a five-goal lead at 30-25, but were unable to maintain their form until the final whistle.

But Bath came back in the third, scoring 18 to Loughborough’s 14 and reducing the deficit to just one.

But it was in the fourth quarter that Bath took control, scoring 19 goals to Loughborough’s 12, giving them a six point victory and a third place finish.

Netball – off the Court

England Roses Squad

Tracey Neville has named her squad of 12 for the World Cup in July.  One person who will not be there is captain Ama Agbeze who has been left out due to ongoing injury.

Unsurprisingly Agbeze is devastated to be missing out.  In an interview with the BBC she said,

“I think I’m dealing with it quite well but I’m really disappointed.

“I feel like I’m at peace with the decision, which I never thought I would say because I’m usually a wreck.

“It wouldn’t be fair for me to go not to my full capacity. I did think I had time but obviously that has been taken out of my hands.”

Agbeze has been a star for England, leading them to the historic Commonwealth gold medal last year.  Let’s hope she can come back from injury and fight her way back into the team.

The squad in full:

Defence
Geva Mentor, GK
Eboni Usoro-Brown, GK/GD
Fran Williams, GK/GD
Layla Guscoth, GD/WD

Centre court
Jade Clarke, WD/C
Serena Guthrie, WD/C
Natalie Panagarry, WD/C/WA
Chelsea Pitman, WA

Shooters
Natalie Haythornthwaite, WA/GA
Helen Housby, GA/GS
Jo Harten, GS/GA
Rachel Dunn, GS/GA

It is a squad combining youth and experience with Geva Mentor, Rachel Dunn and Jade Clarke, all into their mid-thirties.  Eight of the squad played in the Commonwealth Games with just two making their big tournament debuts, Layala Guscoth and Fran Williams.  There is also a well-earned place for Loughborough Lightning captain Nat Pangarry.

You realise the strength of English netball when you realise who won’t be there; Agbeze, Sasha and Kadeen Corbin and Jodie Gibson all miss out.

Hockey – FIH Pro League

Great Britain 2-0 Belgium

The first-half was goalless, but Great Britain took the lead in the third quarter through Grace Balsdon.  Lily Owsley bagged the second.

Great Britain are now sixth in the table.

Next up is Germany at the Lee Valley Centre on 6 June.

Basketball – WBBL

Sevenoaks Suns won the play-off title for the second year running on Saturday, beating Leicester Riders in the final at the 02 Arena 60-55.

It was a tight game throughout and with four minutes to go the two sides were locked at 50-50.  But Sevenoaks stretched ahead to win the tie by five.

Suns’ top scorer was Janice Monakana with 23 points, while Riders’ was Brea Elmore with 17.

Tennis

Rome Open

Jo Konta got through to the Rome final with an excellent comeback against sixth seed Kiki Bertens in her semi-final, 5-7 7-5 6-2.

In the other semi-final, fourth seed Karolina Pliskova beat Maria Sakkari 6-4 6-4.

However, Konta fell short in the final, losing to Pliskova 6-3 6-4.

Konta’s performance at the Rome Open has earned her a seeding in the French Open, which starts on 26 May.

Strasbourg Open

We are at the semi-final stage of the Strasbourg Open.  Top seed Ash Barty withdrew at the round of 32 stage with an arm injury.  Hopefully she will be fit for the French Open.

The semi-finals look like this:

Dayana Yastremska (6) v Aryna Sabalenka (2)
Chloe Paquet v Caroline Garcia (4)

We are also in the midst of qualifying for the French Open.  Katie Swan is one win away from making the main draw and will face Slovakian Kristina Kucova in the final round, but Heather Watson is out, falling to world 193 Valentini Grammatikopoulou 7-5 6-7 7-6.

In the first round proper, Katie Boulter is scheduled to play 23rd seed Donna Vekic, although Boulter may still be nursing a back injury and the match could be in doubt.  Jo Konta is scheduled to play a qualifier.

There are some fascinating first round match-ups in prospect, including Jelena Ostapenko v Victoria Azarenka (both unseeded), Aryna Sabalenka v Dominika Cibulkova, Barbora Strycova v Sam Stosur and Venus Williams v ninth seed Elina Svitolina.

Taekwondo

Great Britain’s top two, Bianca Walkden and Jade Jones, duly claimed gold in their respective categories at the World Championships in Manchester last week – but in very different circumstances.

Bianca Walkden claimed her third successive world title after a bout mired in controversy.  She was 21-10 down to Olympic champion Shuyin Zheng of China, when Walkden forced her opponent into conceding penalties, aggressively getting her off the mat.  Eventually Zheng was disqualified.

Although Walkden fought within the rules, there was booing when she was declared champion and more boos when she received her medal on the podium.  Zheng refused to acknowledge the Briton’s win and then collapsed in tears on the podium when she received her medal.

Jade Jones finally secured the world title that had eluded her, after previously winning two Olympic golds.  She beat defending champion Lee Ah-reum of South Korea in the final 14-7.

A big shout-out too, to Aaliyah Powell, who became Britain’s youngest taekwondo medallist when she won bronze in the -53kg category.

Rugby League

I managed to miss the rugby league results last week, so here they are:

Super League – 12 May
Wigan Warriors 4-12 Leeds Rhinos
Castleford Tigers 30-14 St Helens
Wakefield Trinity 8-40 Featherstone Rovers
York City Knights 4-40 Bradford Bulls

So after four rounds of fixtures, Castleford Tigers are top with four wins from four and eight points. Then follow Bradford, St Helens and Leeds all on six points, but in this order on points difference.

Cricket – County Championship

Last weekend’s County Championship results:

Division One
Kent 235/7 (47.4 overs) 16 points beat Hampshire 233/6 (50 overs) 7 points
Nottinghamshire 207/9 (50 overs) 18 points beat Warwickshire 203/9 (50 overs) 8 points
Sussex 176/7 (50 overs) 5 points lost to Surrey 177/5 (47.2 overs) 16 points
Yorkshire 160/5 (48.3 overs) 17 points beat Lancashire 158 all out (46.2 overs) 5 points

Division Two
Cricket Wales 163/8 (50 overs) 12 points TIED with Middlesex 163 all out (47.4 overs) 11 points
Devon 203/5 (48.1 overs) 9 points ABANDONED Berkshire 22/2 (5 overs) Revised target 213 from 50 overs 7 points
Durham 152 all out (47.4 overs) 17 points beat Worcestershire 121 all out (43.4 overs) 6 points
Essex 124/9 (49.3 overs) 16 points beat Somerset 123 all out (45 overs) 6 points

England v West Indies

As I’m not here next week, I’d thought I’d just remind you of the upcoming England fixtures.  Tickets are still available, so if you’re in the vicinity, get out and watch the women in action.

West Indies have suffered a blow before the series starts with the withdrawal from the squad of Deandra Dottin through injury.  Her place is taken by Britney Cooper.

West Indies squad: Stafanie Taylor (capt), Shemaine Campbelle, Britney Cooper, Afy Fletcher, Chinelle Henry, Stacy-Ann King, Kycia Knight (wk), Kyshona Knight, Natasha McLean, Hayley Matthews, Chedean Nation, Karishma Ramharack, Shakera Selman.

There are three ODIs, all of which qualify for ICC Women’s Championship points.  There are also three T20s.

ODIs
First ODI, Thursday 6 June, Grace Road Leicester, 2pm start
Second ODI, Sunday 9 June, New Road Worcester, 11am start
Third ODI, Thursday 13 June, County Ground Chelmsford, 2pm start

T20s
First T20, Tuesday 18 June, County Ground Northampton, 7pm start
Second T20, Friday 21 June, County Ground Northampton, 7pm start
Third T20, Tuesday 25 June, County Ground Derby, 7pm start

And Finally,

It’s not just the FA that sets the bar high in incompetence.  It seems that FiFA too (are we surprised) are excelling themselves once again.  There have been reports – and it is a number, not just one or two – that groups or families just receiving their World Cup tickets, have been split up and are sitting in different places.  Are these people who have ordered at the last minute and are picking up the odd one?  No, these appear to be people who have been in from the start.  Let’s just hope the problem isn’t as widespread as it first appears and that everyone has a fabulous experience in France.

No column next week as I’m out and about. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 4-10 May 2019

golf

Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get through yet again this week.  So here we go.  Stories and news this week come from football, tennis, netball, squash, cricket, golf, rugby league, motorsport and cycling.

Let’s crack on.

 

Motorsport – the W Series

History was made last weekend as the women-only W Series began in Hockenheim.

Britain’s Jamie Chadwick won the first race with compatriot Alice Powell in second with Marta Garcia of Spain in third.  Chadwick had been on form all weekend; she was fastest in both rounds of qualifying and took pole by two seconds.

Races to come:

Round 2 – Belgium
Zolder, 17-19 May

Round 3 – Italy
Misano 7-9 June

Round 4 – Germany
Norisring, 5-7 July

Round 5 – Netherlands
Assen, 19-21 July

Round 6 – UK
Brands Hatch, 10-11 August

Tennis – on the Court

Prague Open

Jil Teichmann defeated Karolina Muchova in the final of the Prague Open.  It went to a deciding set and the final score was 7-6 3-6 6-4.

Rabat Open

Meanwhile in Rabat, Jo Konta missed out on a first title of 2019, losing in the final to Maria Sakkari of Greece 2-6 6-4 6-1.  Konta was a set and a break up, but Sakkari came back and in the end was too strong for Konta in the final set.

Madrid

This week the tennis world moves to Madrid.  Sam Stosur went out in the qualifiers.  Caroline Wozniacki retired during her first round match.  Fourteenth seed, Anett Kontaveit, went out Aliaksandra Sasnovich in three sets after taking the first set 6-0.  Thirteenth seed Madison Keys was also defeated in the round of 64, losing to Sorana Cirstea 3-6 6-4 6-1.

We are now at the semi-final stage.  Number one seed and world number one Naomi Osaka crashed out at the quarter-final stage, losing out to Belinda Bencic in three sets 3-6 6-2 7-5.

Bencic faces third seed Simona Halep, while in the other semi, Sloane Stephens (8) plays Kiki Bertens (7).  More news on how it all panned out next week.

Tennis – off the Court

Britain’s number two, Katie Boulter, has withdrawn from the French Open.  She will miss the rest of the clay court season with a back injury.

Football – World Cup

Phil Neville has named his squad for the World Cup which begins on 7 June.

Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Man City), Mary Earps (Wolfsburg), Carly Telford (Chelsea)

Defenders: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Alex Greenwood (Man Utd), Steph Houghton (captain, Man City), Abbie McManus (Man City), Demi Stokes (Man City) Leah Williamson (Arsenal)

Midfielders: Karen Carney (Chelsea), Jade Moore (Reading), Jill Scott (Man City), Lucy Staniforth (Birmingham City), Georgia Stanway (Man City), Keira Walsh (Man City)

Forwards: Toni Duggan (Barcelona) Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Beth Mead (Arsenal), Nikita Parris (Man City), Jodie Taylor (Seattle Reign), Ellen White (Birmingham City)

No sign of the Scotland squad announcement as yet.

FA Cup Final

Manchester City 3-0 West Ham United

In the end West Ham were well beaten, but they gave Manchester City a few scares along the way, fighting with every breath until the final whistle.

The first-half was tight with the underdogs matching City in every department.

But the pace and pressure told in the second-half as West Ham tired and Manchester City took advantage.

Keira Walsh hit City’s first from outside the penalty area on 52 minutes.  Georgia Stanway doubled the lead on 81 and Lauren Hemp hit the third two minutes from time.

With their win, City completed the domestic cup double, having won the Continental Cup final against Arsenal on penalties in February.

West Ham can certainly take great heart from their performance.  They competed well for the majority of the match and they have come a long way from those uncertain days when then manager Julian Dicks had to plead for every scrap of kit, every resource and any recognition at all.

One disappointment was that the crowd, although a good one at 43,264, was nearly two thousand down on that at last season’s final.  Not quite sure what went on there – I had heard 52k being bandied about in the days leading up to the match.

Nikita Parris

One player Manchester City will not have next season it seems is Nikita Parris.  She is out of contract at the end of the season, and the word is she is looking to follow England stars such as Lucy Bronze and Izzy Christiansen in a move abroad.  Both Lyon and Bayern Munich are thought to be interested in signing her.

FAWSL

Just one result to report and what a score!

Yeovil Town 0-8 Chelsea
England 4’ 27’ 47’, Cuthbert 16’ 51’, Engman 28’, Kirby 84’ 87’

Chelsea are now up to third in the table.  Bristol City have played their 20 games, everyone else has one game left to play, which takes place this Saturday, 11 May at 12.30pm.

FAWC

The final round of Championship matches also take place on Saturday, 11 May and start at 5.30pm.

Netball

After the eighteenth and final round of the regular season we now know the final four teams contesting the semi-finals this Saturday, 11 May.

Final round results:
Loughborough Lightning 67-56 Celtic Dragons
Saracens Mavericks 50-45 Strathclyde Sirens
Team Bath 72-50 London Pulse
Severn Stars 45-60 Wasps Netball
Surrey Storm 55-60 Manchester Thunder

Wasps finished six points ahead of the field with 45 points from 18 games.  Manchester Thunder, Team Bath and Loughborough Lightning all finished with 39 in second, third and fourth respectively on points difference.

As I said, the semi-finals are this Saturday and both are live on Sky Sports

Wasps Netball v Loughborough Lightning (5pm, Warwick University Sport & Wellness Hub)
Manchester Thunder v Team Bath (7pm, Wright Robinson College)

The third-place play-off and grand final are on Saturday 18 May, at the Copper Box.  Both Games live on Sky Sports from 3pm.

I know it’s a bit redundant to say this to you knowledgeable sports-lovers out there, but don’t forget this is not the end of the netball for this year.  The World Cup is coming!  It all begins in Liverpool on Friday 12 July.

Cycling

Tour de Yorkshire

Marianne Vos ended the two-stage Tour de Yorkshire as overall victor as she won the second stage from Bridlington to Scarborough.

Lorena Wibes, also of the Netherlands, had won the first stage.  Christine Majerus of Luxembourg was second, with Alison Jackson (Can), Roxane Fournier (Fra) and Lisa Brennauer (Ger) third, fourth and fifth respectively.

Vos led a three-rider break with Mavi Garcia and Soraya Paladin during the second stage.  She eventually outsprinted them to take the stage and the overall title.

Second stage result: 1. Marianne Vos (Ned) 3hrs 59mins 16secs, 2. Mavi Garcia (Spa) Same time, 3. Soraya Paladin (Ita), 4. Christine Majerus (Lux), 5. Amanda Spratt (Aus).

This led to a final classification of:

  1. Marianne Vos (Ned) 7hrs 34mins 27secs
  2. Mavi Garcia (Spa) +7secs
  3. Soraya Paladin (Ita) +9secs
  4. Christine Majerus (Lux) +1min 28secs
  5. Amanda Spratt (Aus) +1min 35sec

Of the British riders, the top three finishers were Hannah Barnes in eighth, Elizabeth Banks ninth, and Georgi Pfeiffer eighteenth.  Lizzie Deignan, in her first competition since giving birth in September, finished twenty-ninth.

Rugby League

Coral Challenge Cup

It was the first round of the Challenge Cup at the weekend, with the big sides yet to enter the competition.  The results from Sunday were:

Rochdale Hornets 12-56 Barrow
Halifax 24-14 Hull KR
Featherstone Lionesses 18-48 Stanningley
Widnes Vikings 16-14 Oulton Raidettes
Keighley Albion 26-22 Hull FC
Army RL 34-12 Huddersfield Giants
RAF Ladies 28-18 Leigh Miners Rangers Ladies

The next round is on Sunday 26 May and we are back to league action this weekend.

Cricket

County Cricket

I hope you all took advantage of the Bank Holiday to get out and see some women’s county cricket.  Last weekend’s divisions one and two were as follows:

Division One
Hampshire 131 all out (6 pts) lost to Yorkshire 190 all out (17 pts)
Kent 233/3 (18 pts) beat Warwickshire 232 all out (5 pts)
Surrey 241/7 (8 pts) lost to Lancashire 242/9 (17 pts)
Sussex 127 all out (6 pts) lost to Nottinghamshire 150 all out (17 pts)

Division Two
Berkshire 296/4 (18 pts) beat Worcestershire 77 all out (2 pts)
Devon 136/7 (17 pts) beat Cricket Wales 132 all out (5 pts)
Somerset 269/6 (18 pts) beat Durham Cricket Board 103 all out (4 pts)

For all fixtures please check out here.

T20 Challenge

Three from four of the matches in Jaipur have been played with the results so far:

Trailblazers 140/5 (20 overs)
Supernovas 138/6 (20 overs)
Trailblazers won by two runs

Trailblazers lost Suzie Bates for just one but Smriti Mandhana showed her class to put on 90 from just 67 balls, ably supported by Harleen Deol, who scored 36 from 44.  Deol fell in the nineteenth over and Trailblazers suffered a mini-collapse, suffering the loss of three wickets in the last over.

Radha Yadav took 2/26 from her four overs.

Supernovas started equally poorly with Priya Punia falling for one in the second over.  Chamari Atapatthu and Jemima Rodrigues steadied the ship and the lower order all contributed except Nat Sciver who was out for just one.   Sophie Devine scored 32 from 22 balls.

Supernovas needed 19 from the last over and Harmanpreet Kaur was not going down without a fight.  She hit the first four balls, off Jhulan Goswami no less, for four.  They needed three from the last ball but Tahuhu was run out attempting a bye and Trailblazers had won by two runs.  Sophie Ecclestone contributed with a fine 2/11 from her four overs.

Trailblazers 112/6 (20 overs)
Velocity 113/7 (18/20 overs)
Velocity won by three wickets with 12 balls remaining

Although Bates this time got a start, it was Mandhana who failed on this occasion, falling for 10 in the third over.  Deol batted well again, top-scoring with 43, but there was little contribution from anyone else in the lower order and Trailblazers subsided to just 112 off their 20 overs.

Ekta Bisht and Amelia Kerr took two wickets each.

In response, Velocity lost Hayley Matthews early, for just five.  Shafali Verma (34) and Dani Wyatt (46) took it on before, I’d love to say it, the curse of Nelson struck and they lost no less than 5 wickets on 111.  Somehow they managed to sneak over the line though with two overs to spare.  Deepti Sharma took 4/14 off her four overs, including three in the eighteenth.

Supernovas 142/3 (20 overs)
Velocity 130/3 (20 overs)
Supernovas won by 12 runs

Rodrigues top-scored with 77 not out for Supernovas as they put a good score together against Velocity.  She was supported by Atapatthu who scored 31 and Punia 16.

Velocity fell well short.  Matthews went early for 11 and Shafali Verma for 2.  Despite Wyatt (43), Raj (40) and Krishnamurthy (30) scoring well, they could not overhauls the Supernovas’ total.  However, it has been suggested that Velocity played to up their net run rate to get themselves into the final, rather than aiming to win the match.

This they achieved and so the final will be between Velocity and Supernovas on Saturday 11 May.  News of how this went in next week’s column.

Golf

 Sei Young Kim of South Korea won the LPGA Mediheal Championship after a play-off with England’s Bronte Law.  Law came from 10 shots back to get herself into a three-way play-off with Kim and Jeongeun Lee, also of South Korea.

Final round leaderboard:
-7 S Y Kim (Kor), J Lee (Kor), B Law (Eng); -5 C Hull (Eng), L Thompson (US), EH Ji (Kor), A Yang (Kor)

Kim won the tournament with a par on the first play-off hole, while Law and Lee made bogeys.

Squash

Former world champion Laura Massaro will retire from squash at the end of this season.

In her distinguished career, Massaro became World Champion in 2014.  She won three Commonwealth Games silvers, two in doubles and one in singles and was world number one in January 2016.

She won the World Series Finals in 2016 and 2017, the US Open twice and the British Open twice.

More news and views next week. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 26 January – 1 February 2019

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  So much to get through – where to start, that’s the question!  Stories this week come from cricket, basketball, tennis, football, rugby union, motorsport, cycling and netball.

Better crack on…

Motorsport – W Series

As previously reported, opinion is divided on the new W Series, but whatever you think of it, more than 100 women applied to be a part of it.  The list has been whittled down to 28:

Sarah Bovy (Bel), Jamie Chadwick (UK), Sabré Cook (US), Natalie Decker (US), Marta García (Esp), Megan Gilkes (Can), Grace Gui (Chi), Esmee Hawkey (UK), Jessica Hawkins (UK), Shea Holbrook (US),  Vivien Keszthelyi (Hun), Emma Kimiläinen (Fin), Natalia Kowalska (Pol), Stéphane Kox (Ned), Miki Koyama (Jap), Francesca Linossi (Ita), Milou Mets (Ned), Sarah Moore (UK), Tasmin Pepper (SA), Vittoria Piria (Ita), Alice Powell (UK), Gosia Rdest (Pol), Naomi Schiff (Bel), Shirley van der Lof (Ned), Beitske Visser (Ned), Alexandra Whitley (Aus), Fabienne Wohlwend (Lie), Caitlin Wood Aus).

The 28 will be reduced to a final 18 and two reserves after a four-day test in Formula Three cars in Almeria, Spain in March.

When the W Series finally starts, there will be six rounds:

  1. Hockenheimring, Germany (4-5 May)
  2. Circuit Zolder, Belgium (18-19 May)
  3. Misano World Circuit, Italy (8-9 June)
  4. Norisring, Germany (6-7 July)
  5. TT Circuit Assen, Netherlands (20-21 July)
  6. Brands Hatch, GB (10-11 August)

The eventual winner will pick up $500,000 although there will be prize money right down to eighteenth place.

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s Premier 15s results were:

26 January
Worcester Valkyries 0-24 Loughborough Lightning
Wasps 13-17 Harlequins
Saracens 17-14 Bristol Bears
DMP Sharks 14-8 Firwood Waterloo

27 January
Richmond 26-26 Gloucester-Hartpury

So Saracens go ploughing on and are top with 74 points from 16 games.  Harlequins are second on 67 and Lightning third on 65.  At the bottom, Worcester still have no wins and are on four points.  Firwood Waterloo are above them with 15.

We now break until towards the end of March for the Six Nations.

Six Nations

Happily, the Six Nations is upon us!  Round one is this weekend and the fixtures are as follows:

Friday 1 February
Ireland v England (5pm, Energia Park), Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Scotland v Italy (7.35pm, Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow)

Saturday 2 February
France v Wales (8pm, GGL (Altrad) Stadium, Televised on S4C and France Televisions)

England’s new era of professionalism will bring with it the burden of being favourites to win the championship – they will be expected to perform.   It also means that the other five teams will be all the more determined to beat them.

France will be the biggest threat, without a doubt.  They had a great autumn, beating world champions New Zealand in the process.   But Jessy Tremouliere and Caroline Drouin will be unavailable for selection against Wales, having played in Sevens in New Zealand last weekend.

Scotland will be without Jade Konkel and Wales without Sioned Harries – two big losses.

Italy also had a good autumn with wins over Scotland and South Africa.

New Ireland coach, Adam Griggs, has rung the changes with former captain Niamh Briggs left out of the squad.

Whatever happens, it will be fiercely contested.  This is a tournament that deserves more; more media coverage, bigger audiences, more recognition.  If you can find a commentary or broadcast please tune in.  Reports next week.

Volleyball

Women’s Super League Top 5

The first fixtures of the Top 5 took place last weekend:

Malory Eagles UEL 1-3 Durham Palatinates (19-25, 25-16, 22-25, 20-25)
Team BU Wessex 0-3 London Orcas (12-25, 16-25, 24-26)

Palatinates are top with nine wins from nine games and have 26 points.  London Orcas are second with 20 points from nine games.

Basketball

WBBL Cup

Sheffield Hatters won the WBBL Cup for the first time at the weekend, beating Sevenoaks Suns in the final 62-60.

Although the Hatters had led for most of the game, including being 12-points ahead in the third quarter, it took a three-pointer in the last throes to win the game.

With just 0.9 seconds to go, Helen Naylor hit the three-pointer to take it from 59-60 to 62-60 to the Hatters.

Netball

It was the third round of the Netball Super League last weekend:

Friday 25 January
Saracens Mavericks 64-51 Loughborough Lightning
Severn Stars 57-40 Celtic Dragons

Saturday 26 January
Manchester Thunder 70-45 Strathclyde Sirens
London Pulse 50-61 Wasps Netball

Monday 28 January
Team Bath 50-56 Surrey Storm

At this early stage, there are four teams with six points at the top; Wasps and Thunder from two games and Mavericks and Bath from three games.  Wasps have the best goal average.  All of the other teams have three points, having won one game each.

It’s round four this weekend and the fixtures are:

Friday 1 February
Team Bath v Severn Stars (7.30pm)

Saturday 2 February
Surrey Storm v Wasps Netball (6pm)
Loughborough Lightning v Strathclyde Sirens (6pm)

Monday 4 February
Celtic Dragons v Saracens Mavericks (7pm)
Manchester Thunder v London Pulse (7pm – Live on Sky Sports)

Cycling

At the National Track Championships in Manchester last weekend:

Katie Archibald won the women’s pursuit title, her third in a row, beating Neah Evans in the final.  Ellie Dickinson took bronze, beating Manon Lloyd.

Sophie Capewell took the sprint with Jess Crampton taking silver and Katie Archibald the bronze, ahead of Blaine Ridge-Davies.

On the second day of competition, Laura Kenny took the scratch race.  Elinor Barker took silver and Katie Archibald, bronze.

Jess Crampton retained her keirin title, taking gold ahead of Ellie Coster (silver) and Joanna Smith (bronze).

Team Breeze also defended their team pursuit title.  The team, comprising Jess Roberts, Jenny Holl, Becky Raybould and Anna Docherty, beat Team Velotec (Molly Patch, Anna Morris, Sophie Lankford and Jennifer Holden) in the final.  The bronze went to Liv CC – Halo Cycles (Ella Barnwell, Eluned King, Elena Smith and Amelia Sharpe).  They defeated RST/Cycle Division RT by just over a second.

On the final day of the championships, Neah Evans took gold in the points race.  Emily Nelson came second and Katie Archibald claimed another bronze.

Possibly the biggest news of the day came in the team pursuit.  Shanaze Reade, former BMX stalwart who initially retired from the sport in 2017 and has only been back in training for four months, took her first National Track Championships title with partner Blaine Ridge-Davies.  They beat Sophie Capewell and Milly Tanner to take the gold.  Vicky Williamson and Lusia Steele took bronze.

Finally, Ellie Coster (35.311) won the 500m time trial, ahead of Jess Crampton (35.509) and Lucy Grant (35.749).

Tennis

Australian Open

Singles Final

It was a spectacular, emotional final between Naomi Osaka of Japan and Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic.  It was always going to be so; Osaka going for back-to-back Grand Slams after the mixed emotions of her US Open triumph, and Kvitova in a Grand Slam final for the first time since the knife attack in 2016 which saw her tennis career hanging the balance.  There was also the little matter of the world number one ranking to play for.

And what a match it was.  The first set was a tight affair, going to a tie-break.  Osaka took the initiative in the tie-break and took it 7-2.

Kvitova hit back in the second, going into a 2-0 lead, but Osaka broke back and missed three championship points before Kvitova broke to take it 5-5.  The Czech then won 12 points in a row to take the set.

Osaka cried tears of frustration as she missed her chance for a straight sets win and went off for a bathroom break.

She returned with determination and focus and eventually took the match on her fifth championship point, with the final score 7-6 5-7 6-4.

It was an exhibition of power hitting and a fitting final to an entertaining and impressive women’s Australian Open.

Doubles

Sam Stosur and Zhang Shuai beat defending champions and second seeds, Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic, to win the women’s doubles title.  The unseeded pair won in straight sets, 6-3 6-4.

The mixed doubles title went to third seeds Barbora Krejčíková and Rajeev Ram, who defeated the unseeded Australians, Astra Sharma and John-Patrick Smith 7-6 6-1.

Thailand Open

We now know three of the four semi-finalists in the Thailand Open.

Tamara Zidanšek defeated Viktorija Golubic 4-6 6-1 6-2

Magda Linette beat Yang Wafan 6-2 6-3
Ajla Tomljanović (6) defeated Zheng Saisai (4) 6-1 6-3
Garbine Muguruza (1) plays Dayana Yastremska (8) later today.

St Petersburg Open

We are also at the quarter-final stage in St Petersburg.

Aryna Sabalenka (4) beat Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-3 6-4
Donna Vekic (8) beat Petra Kvitova (1) 6-4 6-1

Still to come:

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova v Kiki Bertens (2)
Daria Kasatkina (3) v Vera Zvonareva

Cricket

Women’s Big Bash League Final

Brisbane Heat took the fourth WBBL title on Saturday 26 January, beating defending champions, Sydney Sixers by three wickets.

Sydney Sixers 131/7 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 132/7 (19.2 overs)
Heat won by three wickets with four balls to spare

A sell-out crowd of 5,386 at the Drummoyne Oval saw the Heat overcome the favourites with just four balls to spare.

But the damage was done in the first innings, when the Heat managed to restrict the dangerous Sixers top order of Alyssa Healy, Ellyse Perry, Ash Gardner and Erin Burns, with only Healy scoring at better than a run a ball.

Perry top-scored with 33 but it took her 37 balls to score it and Dane van Niekerk 32.  Grace Harris took 3/23 from her four overs and Delissa Kimmince 2/25.

In response, Harris was run out in the second over for just one from four balls, but Beth Mooney took it on in what was to be a match-winning knock of 65 from 46 balls.  The only other Heat player to get into double figures was captain Kirby Short who hit 29.  Mooney was out in the fifteenth over, but somehow the lower order kept it together with Laura Harris hitting the winning runs with a boundary.

The Sixers used eight bowlers with van Niekerk and Burns picking up two wickets each.

The tournament has really benefitted from being longer this year, with the teams playing each other home and away.   There has also been quite a lot of comment that this year’s WBBL has been more exciting than the BBL.  I couldn’t possibly comment, oh go on then – I’d have to agree.  There have been very few tight games in the BBL this year with the bowlers largely coming out on top.  I have no time for never-ending slog-fests, but for some reason, the balance has definitely tipped toward the bowlers this year and the batting has been poor.

T20 World Cup 2020 Draw

The group draw for the T20 World Cup was made this week.

England will face holders West Indies, Pakistan, South Africa and a qualifier.

England’s group fixtures:
v South Africa (23 February, Perth)
v Qualifier (26 February, Canberra)
v Pakistan (28 February, Canberra)
v West Indies (1 March, Sydney)

The other group comprises hosts Australia, New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka and a qualifier.

The competition begins on 21 February and the final is at the MCG on 8 March.

Football – on the Pitch

WSL

Last weekend’s WSL results were as follows:

Sunday 27 January

Reading 0-3 Arsenal
Miedema 2’, Little 80’ (Pen), McCabe 94’

Chelsea 2-3 Birmingham City
Cuthbert 13’ 83’
Follis 36’, Quinn 61’, White 93’.

Manchester City 3-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
Parris 3’ (Pen) 40’, Bonner 31’

Bristol City 2-1 Yeovil Town
Graham 56’ (pen), Ayane 72’
Heatherson 46’

Monday 28 February

Liverpool 1-0 West Ham United
Sweetman-Kirk 49’

Manchester City are top with 34 points from 14 games.  Arsenal are second, a point behind having played one game fewer.  Chelsea are third on 28 from 14.  At the bottom, luckless Yeovil have three points and Everton are above them on six.

WC

Last weekend’s WC results were:

Sunday 27 February

Sheffield United 2-3 Charlton Athletic
Rayner 64’, Salmon 90’ (Pen)
Graham 26’, Agg 57’, Clifford 78’

Lewes 0-2 London Bees
Nunn 64’, Littlejohn 67’

Aston Villa 0-0 Leicester City

Millwall Lionesses 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Clarke 44’, Lumsden 91’
Wiltshire 36’, Beckett 84’, Dean 95’

Crystal Palace 0-2 Durham
Roberts 4’, Gears 49’

Tottenham top the Championship with 33 points from 13 games.  Charlton are second on 29 from 13 and Durham are third on the same points, having played one game more and with the same goal difference.  At the bottom, Millwall have just two points from 13 games.  Crystal Palace lie above them with seven.

Football – Off the Pitch

Charlton v Manchester United

Charlton have been fined £500 for failing to provide oxygen during their Championship match against Manchester United on 13 January.

As I understood it, the club ran out of oxygen while they were waiting for the ambulance arrived to take Charlotte Kerr to hospital.  But now it is being reported that Charlton did not have any oxygen and they had to use Manchester United’s supply.

The FA has charged Charlton with breaching competition rule 14.5: “Clubs shall ensure emergency sports first aid equipment is present and in full working order at each competition match.

“Such equipment to include as a minimum a spinal board, cervical collar, fracture splints, crutches, stretchers, oxygen and a defibrillator.”

There still seems to be some confusion as to whether this was actually the case and Charlton are considering an appeal.

More FA obfuscation?  Possibly.  This story obviously has some way to run yet.

More news and views next week. 

Women’s Sports Column 6-12 October 2018

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

So let’s crack on.

Boxing

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

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

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

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

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

Tennis

China Open

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

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

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

This week sees tournaments in both Hong Kong and Tianjin.

Hong Kong Open

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

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

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

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

Tianjin Open

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

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

Quarter-finals:

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

Pliskova meets Bacsinsczky in the semi-final

Still to play:

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

Tennis – off the Court

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

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

More news as it happens.

Football

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

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

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

Lionesses

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

England 1-0

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

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

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

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

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

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

England 1-1 Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Cup Play-offs

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

First leg – 5 October:

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

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

Second leg – 9 October

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

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

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

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

Doncaster Rovers Belles

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

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

Belles Chair, Faye Lygo told the BBC,

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

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

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

Rugby League

Woman of Steel

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

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

Talking of which….

Super League Play-offs

Leeds 24-10 Castleford Tigers

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

Wigan Warriors 10-6 St Helens

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

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

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

Rugby Union – Off the Pitch

Liza Burgess

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

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

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

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

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

Rugby Union – On the Pitch

The Premier 15s are back in action this weekend:

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

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Results from 6 October were as follows:

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

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

This weekend’s fixtures:

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

Netball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cricket

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

Winter Sports

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

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

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

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

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

And Finally – motor racing W Series

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

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

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

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

Competitors will be chosen by assessment of their capabilities.

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

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

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

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

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

More news and views next week.