So here it is – 2019! I’d like to wish a Happy New Year to all my followers and, if I might be so bold, suggest that this is going to be a mammoth year for women’s sport. I’m rather chuffed to say that my husband came up with the goods for my “big” birthday, giving me Netball World Cup tickets. We have one session that should, all being equal, include an England Roses game. So what with that, the football World Cup and Women’s Ashes coming up this summer, it’s going to be all systems go.
But there’s still plenty to get our teeth into this winter. Stories for the first column of 2019 come from football, cricket, rugby union, netball, darts and tennis.
So for the first time this year, let’s crack on…
After what seems a miniscule couple of weeks off, the WTA season has begun again with tournaments in the Far East and Australia, leading up the first Grand Slam of the season, the Australian Open, which begins on 14 January. This week sees two tournaments in Australia:
It has been a bad week for British number one Jo Konta who was forced to withdraw from the Sydney International twice in two days. She was working her way through qualifying when she had to retire in the second round with a neck injury. She still went through to the main draw as a lucky loser and was due to Kiki Bertens in the first round, but withdrew again.
World number one Simona Halep fared no better as she was beaten in the second round after a first round bye, losing to Ash Barty 6-4 6-4. It was Halep’s first competitive match in three months after she ended last season early with a back injury.
Petra Kvitova (5) beat Angelique Kerber (2) 6-4 6-1
Aliaksandra Sasnovich beat Timea Bacsinszky 6-3 6-3
Ash Barty beat Elise Mertens (10) 6-3 6-3
Kiki Bertens (7) beat Yulia Putintseva 6-2 6-2
Ash Barty is into the final, having defeated Kiki Bertens 6-7 6-5 7-5. Sasnovich v Kvitova is still to take place at time of publishing.
No better news for British number two Heather Watson as she crashed out of the Hobart International in the first round, losing in straight sets to Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania, 6-1 6-4.
Sofia Kenin beat Kirsten Flipkens (7) 7-5 7-5
Alize Cornet (6) beat Greet Minnen 6-1 6-4
Belinda Bencic beat Dayana Yastremska 7-6 6-3
Anna Karolina Schmiedlova beat Irina-Camelia Begu 7-5 7-5
Sofia Kenin beat Alize Cornet (6) 6-2 6-4
Anna Karolina Schmiedlova beat Belinda Bencic 7-6 4-6 6-2
The final is tomorrow, Saturday 12 January
Australian Open Qualifying
There are 16 spots up for grabs in Qualifying. Of the British players, Naomi Broady lost in the first round, beaten by Ysaline Bonaventure of Belgium 6-4 3-6 6-3. Gabriella Taylor also departed in the first round, losing to Kirstie Ahn of USA 6-1 6-1.
But Harriet Dart is through to the first round proper of the Australian Open. She beat her first qualifying round opponent, Chloe Paquet of France 6-3 4-6 6-2. She then defeated Ivana Jorovic of Serbia 1-6 6-3 6-1. No easy draw for Dart though. She now faces Maria Sharapova in the first round.
There are four British women in the main draw as Jo Konta seems to have declared herself fit: Konta, Heather Watson, Katie Boulter and Harriet Dart.
Heather Watson faces 31st seed Petra Martic, Katie Boulter also has a tough one against Ekaterina Makarova (all Monday 14 January). Jo Konta has an extra day to recover; her first match is on Tuesday against Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia.
Great Britain have named a full-strength team for February’s matches in Bath.
The team, along with their world rankings, is Jo Konta (38th), Heather Watson (93rd). Katie Boulter (99th), Harriet Dart (132nd) and Katie Swan (181st).
It is the first time in 26 years that Great Britain has hosted a Fed Cup event.
The Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 event will comprise eight teams. The teams will be in two groups of four, the draw for which is on 14 January. The winners of each group will then play each other to determine who will go into the World Group II play-off, which takes place in April.
The event from 6-9 February is at the University of Bath. Check out the ticket situation here.
Tottenham Hotspur defender Renee Hector used social media to allege that she was the subject of racist abuse by a Sheffield United player during their game on Sunday 6 January.
“Such a shame that racism seems to be rising up again in football. I received some monkey noises from an opposition player. The only reaction was to let football do the talking.”
Sheffield United Women have made a statement that they:
“are aware of the post on social media and have already begun an investigation to determine the full facts”.
Hector also reported the incident to the referee during the game and Tottenham reported it to the Football Association.
There will be more on this as the situation progresses.
FA Cup Third Round Results:
Billericay Town 3-4 Loughborough Foxes
Coventry United 1-2 Crawley Wasps
Derby 1-2 Stoke
Huddersfield 4-1 Leeds
Hull City 0-3 AFC Wimbledon
Keynsham 2-1 Fylde
Middlesbrough 2-7 Watford
Cardiff 2-0 Bolton Wanderers
Nottingham Forest 0-1 MK Dons
Oxford United 1-2 Blackburn
FA Cup Fourth Round Draw
The FA Cup fourth-round draw has been made. Crawley Wasps, AFC Wimbledon and Keynsham Town are the lowest ranked sides left in the competition – they all play in the fourth tier of women’s football. This is the point at which the Super League and Championship teams make their first appearance:
Loughborough Foxes v Sheffield United
Charlton Athletic v Huddersfield Town
Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester United
West Ham United v Blackburn Rovers
Stoke City v Aston Villa
Manchester City v Watford
Yeovil Town v Birmingham City
AFC Wimbledon v Bristol City
Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur
Millwall Lionesses v Lewes
Durham v Cardiff City
Everton v Chelsea
Crawley Wasps v Arsenal
Leicester City v London Bees
Reading v Keynsham Town
Liverpool v Milton Keynes Dons
Ties will be played on Sunday 3 February.
We now know the semi-final line-up after the quarter-finals were completed this week.
Manchester City 7-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
Parris 6’, Hemp 23’ 86’, Weir 59’, Emslie 88’, Stanway 90’, Beckie 92’
Manchester Utd 2-0 West Ham Utd
Sigsworth 17’ 53’
Arsenal 2-1 Birmingham City
Van de Donk 83’, Miedema 90’
Chelsea 4-0 Reading
Kirby 3’ 86’, Asante 37’, Riley 90+1
Sunday 6 January
Bristol City 1-1 Manchester City
Graham 62’ (pen)
Chelsea 3-0 Everton
England 6’, Spence 60’, Blundell 69’
Liverpool 0-2 Brighton & Hove Albion
Rafferty 34’, Umotong 49’
Birmingham City 2-1 Reading
Harrop 72’, Sargeant 89’
Hampton 88’ (OG)
West Ham Utd 2-4 Arsenal
Ross 11’, 43’
Williamson 26’, Arnth-Jensen 31’, van de Donk 59’ 65’
Arsenal are top with 30 points from 11 games. Manchester City are second, two points behind and having played a game more. Chelsea are third on 25 points from 12 games. At the bottom, Yeovil have three points from 11 games and above them are Everton with 5 points from 11.
Sunday 6 January
Sheffield Utd 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Schillaci 6’ (OG)
Dean 5’, Wiltshire 51’
Leicester City 4-0 Lewes
M Johnson 41’, Worts 50’ 55’, L Johnson 89’
Manchester Utd 9-0 London Bees
Devlin 2’ 57’, Toone 28’ 66’, Arnott 39’, Green 40’, James 68’ 73’, Zelem 80’ (Pen)
Crystal Palace 3-1 Millwall
Burr 6’, Mackenzie 52’, Bryan 63’
Charlton Athletic 2-2 Durham
Bailes 20’, Gurr 85’
Ness 42’ 45’
With their thumping win over the Bees, Manchester United are top by one point. They have 28 points from 11 games. Just behind them are Tottenham with 27 from 11 and Charlton Athletic are third on 26 from 12. At the bottom, Millwall Lionesses have just two points from 11 games and Crystal Palace have seven from 12.
The transfer window is upon us. Pick of the transfers so far:
Ann-Katrin Berger has signed for Chelsea from Birmingham on a contract which takes her up to 2022. Best bit of transfer business so far? Probably. Don’t forget Berger was still battling with thyroid cancer in November 2017. Her comeback has been nothing short of stunning and she is bound to be a real asset to Chelsea.
Danish winger Katrine Veje has signed for Arsenal from Montpellier. Veje has already won more than 100 caps for Denmark.
Jade Bailey has signed for Reading from Chelsea on loan until the end of the current season.
Scottish forward Abbi Grant has left Glasgow City to play for Anderlecht. Her aim is to make the Scotland World Cup squad and she believes the only way to do that was to leave Glasgow. So far she has just one cap.
I’m not one to repeat gossip (often), but rumour has it that Birmingham City head coach Marc Skinner has been approached by Orlando Pride with respect to joining them as their head coach. No confirmation or denial on either website, but just what I’ve heard from fans’ forums. If it does turn out to be true, this will be a massive loss for Birmingham. More news when I get it.
Finally, can I add my congratulations to Annie Zaidi, who has been named as the new Solihull Moors Ladies coach. I have met Annie on several occasions and she is a brilliant example to any woman wanting to become a football (or any sports) coach. In addition to the new role she will continue as the Under 16s boys. If you don’t know her story, check it out here.
Netball – off the Court
When are Benecos Mavericks not Benecos Mavericks? When they’re Saracens Mavericks, of course!
Having just got used to calling them Benecos Mavericks, as opposed to Hertfordshire Mavericks, they’ve gone and changed their names again. With good reason. Saracens Rugby Club have bought a 50% stake in the Mavericks.
In an interview with Sky Sports, Kathryn Ratnapala, Mavericks’ Director of Netball said,
“This has been a fantastic opportunity to join forces with Saracens and continue to push to be the standout, ultimate franchise within Vitality Superleague.”
“Saracens have proved to be role models and leaders in their field and merging with this high-performance culture and club is a great step forward for Mavericks.
“We would like to thank Benecos for their support for the last two years as we continue to work with them as our title sponsor this season.”
Tim Hunt, who oversees the commercial operation at Saracens said,
“Netball is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK and we are excited to be joining forces with Mavericks. Part of our growth strategy is to collaborate with others that share our ethos and help widen our audience reach.”
“To achieve this, the dual-priority is to create an environment where our elite teams continually strive for sporting excellence and to inspire our local communities to lead healthier, happier lives through the positive power of sport. Mavericks mirror our culture making them a perfect match for Saracens.”
Seriously, it is great to see another sport realise the potential that surrounds netball. I hope it’s a beneficial relationship for both clubs.
Netball – on the Court
The Vitality Netball Super League 2019 is underway in this huge year for netball!
Last weekend saw the Super 10 opening extravaganza at the Birmingham Arena. All ten Super League teams were in action over the course of the day. The scores were as follows:
Celtic Dragons 41-58 Team Bath
Wasps Netball 72-42 Loughborough Lightning
Severn Stars 49-51 London Pulse
Strathclyde Sirens 56-38 Surrey Storm
Manchester Thunder 58-61 Saracens Mavericks
The second round is this weekend and then there is a break for the Quad Series.
Strathclyde Sirens v Team Bath (7.30pm) (Live on Sky)
Loughborough Lightning v Severn Stars (6pm)
Surrey Storm v Saracens Mavericks (6pm)
London Pulse v Celtic Dragons (7pm)
Quad Series aka Vitality International Series
The latest Quad series takes place in Liverpool and London between 13-20 January.
Sunday 13 January (Liverpool)
South Africa v Australia (3.15pm)
England v New Zealand (5.30pm)
Saturday 19 January (London)
Australia v New Zealand (4.15pm)
England v south Africa (6.30pm)
Sunday 20 January (London)
South Africa v New Zealand (3.15pm)
England v Australia (6pm)
All games live on Sky Sports
England have already named a 12-strong squad. There is no place for captain Ama Agbeze as she is still recovering from injury.
Roses squad: Helen Housby, Chelsea Pitman, Geva Mentor, Jo Harten, Jade Clarke, Eboni Usoro-Brown, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Serena Guthrie, Layla Guscoth, Rachel Dunn, Razia Quashie, Fran Williams
We are at the semi-final stage of the BDO Darts Professional Ladies Championships at Lakeside.
The semi-finals take place today, Friday 11 January.
Lorraine Winstanley of England takes on doubles partner Anastasia Dobromyslova of Russia while Mikuru Suzuki of Japan faces Maria O’Brien of England.
More news next week.
With just one round of matches to go, Sydney Thunder are still on top with 19 points (nine wins). Both they and the Hurricanes have played 13 matches, one more than everyone else. Just behind them, on 18 points and also with nine wins are Sydney Sixers.
The other two finals day qualifying places are currently held by Brisbane Heat on 14 points and Melbourne Renegades on 13. At the bottom, the luckless Hobart Hurricanes still have only two wins from 13 and are on four points. Perth Scorchers are currently in fifth, just one point behind fourth place.
The two standouts over the past couple of weeks have both involved New Zealand all-rounder Sophie Devine. Her display with both bat and ball for the Adelaide Strikers on 23 December against the Melbourne Stars led them to a fine win and she was at it again as the Strikers triumphed in a Super Over win over the unlucky Hobart Hurricanes on 8 January.
Devine became the first WBBL player to hit a half-century and take five wickets in a match. She hit 95 off 66 balls (5 sixes, 8 fours) for the Strikers and was out in the penultimate over as they posted a total of 172/3. She then took the wickets of Lizelle Lee, Angela Reakes, Erin Osborne, Georgia Elwiss and Nicola Hancock as the Stars fell 19 runs short in their chase.
On 8 January, the Strikers posted 189/5 with Devine scoring 99 not out from 53 balls, an innings that included 10 fours and four sixes. Tahlia McGrath also made 63. In chasing 190, the Hurricanes always looked to be up against it. Smriti Mandhana made 52 at the top of the order, but she lost three partners in quick succession. The lower order took it on though and the Hurricanes managed to end on 189/8, which took it to a Super Over.
The Hurricanes could only post 12/1 from their one over, hampered by the wicket of Mandhana second ball. The Strikers, needless to say in the form of Devine, hit six, six, four to win the game and end as player of the match yet again.
I know I’m a bit late to this, but I think it bears repeating: the RFU have awarded 28 full-time 15s contracts. There are also seven EPS agreements where players will take part in camps and England training, but not the full-time programme.
England Women Elite Player Squad 2019
Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Sarah Beckett (Firwood Waterloo Ladies), Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears Women), Hannah Botterman (Saracens Women), Jo Brown (Loughborough Lightning), Rowena Burnfield (Richmond FC)*, Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins Ladies), Bryony Cleall (Saracens Women)*, Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women), Amy Cokayne (Wasps FC Ladies)*, Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins Ladies), Lark Davies (Worcester Valkyries), Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens Women), Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning), Justine Lucas (Loughborough Lightning), Cath O’ Donnell (Loughborough Lightning), Marlie Packer (Saracens Women), Ellena Perry (Saracens Women)*, Abbie Scott (Harlequins Ladies)
Jess Breach (Harlequins Ladies), Rachael Burford (Harlequins Ladies), Katy Daley-Mclean (Loughborough Lightning), Abby Dow (Wasps FC Ladies)*, Zoe Harrison (Saracens Women), Tatyana Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Claudia Macdonald (Wasps FC Ladies)*, Sarah McKenna (Saracens Women), Leanne Riley (Harlequins Ladies), Emily Scarratt (Loughborough Lightning), Emily Scott (Harlequins Ladies)*, Kelly Smith (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries), Lagi Tuima (Bristol Bears Women), Carys Williams (Loughborough Lightning)
* EPS agreement
It is great news and shows England Rugby’s commitment to women’s and girls’ rugby.
Premier 15s rugby is back this weekend. The fixtures are as follows:
Firwood Waterloo v Bristol Bears (1pm, Firwood Waterloo Rugby Club)
Worcester Valkyries v Gloucester-Hartpury (2pm, Sixways Stadium)
Richmond v Wasps (3pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)
Saracens v Harlequins (3.45pm, Allianz Park)
DMP Sharks v Loughborough Lightning (5pm, Northern Echo Arena)
Get out there and support them if you can.
That’s all for this week. More news and views next week.