This article was first written for and published by The Roar.
On Sunday afternoon when the final of WBBL03 is played, it’ll be déjà vu for cricket fans, with the final being contested between the same two clubs as last year – the Sydney Sixers and the Perth Scorchers.
To book their place in the final, the Perth Scorchers beat the Sydney Thunder by 27 runs, largely due to the efforts of Nicole Bolton, Ellyse Villani and Emma King.
In what has become a familiar sight for WBBL fans, Ellyse and Nicole opened with a strong 65-run opening stand. Nicole Bolton’s 37 runs came off just 26 balls and included seven boundaries. This summer alone, Ellyse and Nicole have combined for 996 runs and with her 38 runs, Ellyse became just the third player to make more than 500 runs in a WBBL season, joining the likes of Ellyse Perry and Meg Lanning.
While spin has come roaring back into fashion in the men’s competition thanks to players like Rashid Khan and Fawad Ahmed, it’s still having the effect of bamboozling plenty of players in the WBBL. Off spinner Emma King ended up on figures of 3-17 off her four overs taking the key wickets off Alex Blackwell, Naomi Stalenberg and Nicola Carey.
This loss was a disappointing end to the Thunder’s summer, but their top-four finish again demonstrates the strength of cricket in New South Wales.
As for the second game between the Sydney Sixers and the Adelaide Strikers, it was the Sixers that proved that they were simply too good beating the Strikers by 17 runs.
There were standouts for the Sixers both with bat and ball in hand, but none more so than veteran Sarah Aley who claimed four wickets, finishing with figures of 4-18. Sarah took the key wickets of Suzie Bates (4), Tahlia McGrath (0), Amanda-Jade Wellington (0) and Tabatha Saville (0). Incredibly, at one point her figures were 4-1.
Ashleigh Gardner also returned to form with a bang, reminding everyone of that innings she scored to start the summer off, scoring 114 off 52 balls. In this game, she made her half century in 31 balls and ended up scoring 72 runs off 45 balls.
While its an exceptionally disappointing for the Strikers, the season must surely be labelled a success – with the team reaching the finals for the first time, largely thanks to consistent batting from Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine and tight bowling from the likes of Megan Schutt and Amanda-Jade Wellington.
One other issue which reared its head as we approached the finals, was home ground advantage.
At this stage, the women’s finals matches are played as double headers alongside the men and thus their location is determined by what order the teams finish in the BBL. This year was exceptionally difficult for Sydney fans to swallow.
After the Sydney Sixers finished on top, followed by the Sydney Thunder, the Perth Scorchers and the Adelaide Strikers, rather than the Sixers v Strikers game being played in Perth to mimic the men’s final, Cricket Australia decided to swap the venues so that the Scorchers and Strikers each got a home final.
I hope that in WBBL04 Cricket Australia consider playing the women’s games as stand alone finals or at least give some thought to some advantage for the teams that finish first or second. Otherwise there’s very little incentive to battle for the top two spots on the ladder.
I’m looking forward to an fitting finale to this WBBL season on Sunday. My tip? The Sixers to be the first team to win back to back WBBL finals and for the title to remain in Sydney.
If you’re wondering how to get your women’s sport fix now that the WBBL is concluding, then AFLW is starting at just the right time.
The second season began last night with a game between Carlton and Collingwood at Ikon Park.
The round continues today with games between the Melbourne Demons V GWS Giants and Adelaide Crows v Brisbane Lions.
Tomorrow, the Western Bulldogs will play Fremantle.
While there may have been slightly less media coverage heading into this new season, it was always going to be difficult to top the fanfare of last summer.
Just like the fans who attended the game last night between Carlton and Collingwood (with hundreds lining up outside the ground as early as two hours before kick off), if you are close to any of the other games this weekend, I urge you to head out and support the competition.
If you are in Sydney, you only have one more week to wait with the GWS Giants taking on Carlton next Friday night at Drummoyne Oval.
The AFL seem to have learnt from the scheduling mistakes of last year, which saw the Giants play one of their games at 5pm on Friday night at Blacktown International Sports Park (making it near impossible for many fans to attend). The game at Drummoyne Oval begins at 7pm and I’m looking forward to heading there after work.
The Aussie Stingers, who are Australia’s water polo team were in action last weekend, playing three Test matches against Italy. As part of the series, the Stingers also trained with the Italians too.
In what may surprise many people, Italy are actually very good at waterpolo. They won the silver medal at Rio 2016 and are known for their exceptional defence. The team that travelled to Australia also boasted seven of the women that won silver in Rio.
The Stingers blooded plenty of new players including Gabi Palm (Queensland) and Sophie Milliken (Queensland) in the three game series and ended up losing 10-12, 6-9 and 6-8.
Keesja Goders was the leading goal scorer for Australia, with nine goals.
Next for the Stingers is a training camp and some games with the USA ahead of the FINA World League Tournament that will be played in New Zealand in April.