This story was first written for and published by The Roar.
New South Wales Blues fans – are there any of you out there? How are you feeling? Shattered. Tired. Distressed. Over it. All of the above?
After the Queensland Maroons’ dominant 22-6 win to seal the 2017 State of Origin series, I don’t blame any of you for being disappointed. I certainly was.
But I want to remind all of you that it’s not over.
While the men’s team may have lost 11 of the last 12 series, next Sunday the women’s team will play Queensland in the Interstate Challenge in Wollongong at 11am.
Queensland had won this fixture 17 years in a row (that’s every year since the game was first played), but last year, New South Wales won the Nellie Doherty Cup for the first time, outscoring Queensland 8-4.
This week the NSW team was announced ahead of the clash. For any of you that have taken an interest in women’s rugby league this year, you’ll notice a couple of familiar faces like Sammy Bremner, Kezie Apps, Maddie Studdon, Caitlin Moran, Nakia Davis-Welsh, Simone Smith, Ruan Sims and Allana Ferguson.
In particular, I want to congratulate Kezie Apps on her selection. Kezie returns from injury for this game after breaking her leg earlier this year at the Auckland Nines and will be a major boost after her break-out 2016, which saw her named Female Player of the Year at the Dally M Awards.
So while the men’s team may have dashed all our hopes again, the women still have the opportunity to go back-to-back for the first time in history.
This will also be a good opportunity to get familiar with plenty of the women that will represent Australia at the Rugby League World Cup later this year.
More details to come next week.
In case you missed it, Australia are through to the semi-finals of the ICC Women’s World Cup, having won five of their six games so far.
Since last week’s results, the team has played an additional two games – against England on Sunday night and India on Wednesday night.
Let’s start with the game against England, which was one of the most exciting games in the tournament so far.
After Alyssa Healy’s 14 off six and Ashleigh Gardner’s 11 off seven, Australia needed 16 off the final over, with Gardner and Jess Jonassen at the crease.
A single, a boundary and a single meant just ten runs were needed off three balls. Then a misfield resulted in a boundary. But Jonassen unfortunately could not find the boundary off the final ball of the game, the Aussies losing by three runs.
For England, the standout was Katherine Brunt, who made 45* from 43 deliveries, and ended with bowling figures of 2-42. You may remember her featuring for the Perth Scorchers during WBBL02.
There was less joy for the Aussies – particularly when it came to bowling and fielding. The 41st over stands out, when Australia had three consecutive opportunities to take a wicket and did not capitalise. Healy missed a stumping and dropped a catch on the next ball, then Australia watched the next ball go over Gardener’s head.
Kristen Beams deserves special mention. In a game where Australia gave away 32 extras (including 23 runs from wides), Kristen was the only bowler not to concede a wide, ending with figures of 2-44. Beamsy has one of the best appeals in the squad too.
Congratulations also to Alex Blackwell, who surpassed 5000 runs in international cricket during this game. Only two other Southern Stars had reached such a milestone – Belinda Clark and Karen Rolton.
It’s never great to lose to England, but it’s not a feeling our women have experienced recently. This is the first time England has beaten Australia in a World Cup match since 1993 – that’s certainly a long time between wickets.
There were plenty more positives following Australia’s eight-wicket win over India.
Just how good is Meg Lanning? While the pitch may have looked a bit slow, it didn’t stop Meg from getting to her half-century on from 55 deliveries. Meg ended up unbeaten on 76 and for the second game in a row, a Southern Star reached a major milestone – scoring 5000 international runs to join her teammate Alex Blackwell.
While Australia’s bowling may have been disappointing against England, the team demonstrated once again that ‘spin is queen’ in this tournament. After ten overs, India were 1-25 before watching their top order collapse, at one point losing 5-23.
The Australians aren’t the only team to have reached major international milestones during this tournament. Mithali Raj also became the highest run scorer in women’s one-day international history, reaching 6000 runs. The previous record holder was Charlotte Edwards, who racked up 5992 runs.
So what’s next?
While definitely through to the semi-finals, I would still like to see Australia finish at the top of the table, which they can do with a win against South Africa in their final pool game on Saturday night.
In what should be an exceptional clash, I’m particularly looking forward to watching Sydney Sixers Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy and Ellyse Perry face off against their teammates Dane van Niekerk and Marizanne Kapp.
So, once you’ve watched the Giants vs Swans game on Saturday night, be sure to tune into the cricket and cheer our women’s team through to the semi-finals.