Mary’s wonder women: Dates for your 2018 diary

This article was first written for and published by The Roar

New year. New diary. 2017 may have been a ‘watershed’ year for women in sport, but I am confident 2018 will be even better.

Here are some of the events underlined in my diary featuring women in sport this year.

WNBL Finals
Finals are here in the 2017-18 season of the WNBL. At the business end of the season, only four teams remain – the Sydney University Flames, the Melbourne Boomers, the Perth Lynx and the Townsville Fire.

The Melbourne Boomers beat the Perth Lynx in their first game 92-76 on Wednesday night, taking a 1-0 lead in the series, while the Fire burned the Flames 78-49.

The grand finalists will be determined by the winner out of the best-of-three series and the grand final will also be a best-of-three series to be played in the coming weeks.

The big question is, can the Flames go back to back for the first time?

Congratulations also to Fox Sports who are televising each game part of the finals fixture.

Sydney 7s 
A party is coming to Sydney on the 26th, 27th and 28th of January – will you be there?

In previous years, the Sydney 7s tournament has clashed with the Auckland Nines so I am thrilled to be heading along for the first time to what has been called a celebration of rugby in Australia.

For the first time in the Sevens World Series the men’s and women’s tournament will be completely integrated over the three days with both finals to be held on Sunday 28 January.

The AON University 7s series unveiled plenty of new talent in the women’s game like Cassie Staples and the Aussie Pearls will be looking to come home and replicate their success in the Dubai leg of the tournament.

I’m predicting a Pearls victory on home turf.

Charlotte Caslick of Australia

Season 2: AFLW
On Friday 2 February, the second season of the AFLW begins with a match between Carlton Football Club and the Collingwood Magpies.

One of the biggest (and only) criticisms about the inaugural season of the AFLW is that in some games, the quality of football was not as high as expected.

The reality was though, that some of the teams participating had only been playing together for six weeks when the season started. Some women had never even played AFL before!

With a complete pre-season under their belts, I’m expecting an improvement in standard from last year as well as the emergence of plenty more rising stars to add to a list already featuring the likes of Daisy Pearce, Stephanie Chiocchi, Erin Phillips, Moana Hope, Jess dal Pos, Sarah Perkins and Katie Brennan.

Mo Hope Brownlow Medal Red Carpet 2017

(Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Pyeongchang
This could be Australia’s best ever performance in the winter Olympics, with Australian winter athletes winning a record 39 world cup and world championship medals last winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

Who should you be keeping an eye on? World champion Britt Cox in moguls is the place to start.

Launch of Super W
Late last year, Australian Rugby announced a women’s competition – the Super W which will begin in March. The 6-week competition which will comprise of five teams is a positive step forward for women’s rugby in this country – particularly ahead of the announcement that backed by Josephine Sukkar, Australia is looking to put in a bid for the next Women’s Rugby World Cup.

Women’s Asia Cup
There are less than 100 days to the opening match of the AFC Women’s Asia Cup which starts on April 6 in Jordan. With the Matildas currently ranked fourth in the FIFA world rankings, anything less than victory at the Asia Cup would be a disappointment.

Out of the eight teams participating – Jordan, Japan, China, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam – the Matildas are the highest ranked, with their toughest opposition likely to be Japan.

The Matildas will play South Korea in their opening match of the tournament on 7 April 2018 with games against Vietnam and Japan to follow.

Tameka Butt Matildas Australia Football 2017 tall

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Suncorp Super Netball
For someone who had never watched netball prior to last year to already be looking forward to the second season of the Suncorp Super Netball competition is a testament to how professional, talented and entertaining netball in this country is.

The new season begins on April 28 when the Melbourne Vixens host the Collingwood Magpies as Hisense Arena.

My tip for the year? If you haven’t been to watch the netball, give it a go this year. I promise it will surprise you in pace, athleticism and genuine family entertainment.

Commonwealth Games
The future is female – at least that’s the case if you look ahead to the Commonwealth Games which will be held on the Gold Coast between 4 and 15 April.

There are still several months to go, but it’s clear that plenty of Australian medal hopes lie with women.

I’m looking forward to seeing women’s rugby sevens make its debut and watching the Aussie Pearls in action, Sally Pearson competing for a third consecutive Commonwealth Games gold medal in the 100 metre hurdles (and will become only the second female track and field athlete to do so if she succeeds) and seeing a sold-out stadium cheer on the Australian Diamonds in the netball.

There’s plenty more to come over the coming weeks to as more of the teams competing in the various sports are announced. Watch this space.

ICC Women’s World Twenty20
What a way to start off the summer.

As a lead in to WBBL04, the Australian Women’s Cricket team will compete in the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 in the West Indies from 3 to 24 November 24.

It’s been interesting to watch the performance of some our Southern Stars in the Big Bash so far. Ellyse Perry has been consistent with bat in hand for the Sydney Sixers, Rachael Haynes has scored four half centuries for the Sydney Thunder, there is plenty of buzz about Amanda-Jade Wellington and her leg spin and Beth Mooney recently fired for the Heat scoring 86* and 81* in her last two games.

I wonder how much this positive form comes off the back of the positive form these women demonstrated during the Women’s Ashes?

This World Twenty20 will lead straight into the WBBL and I’m looking forward to not only seeing the Southern Stars compete but also plenty of players who play for India, England, the West Indies and South Africa who we have come to know and love because of the WBBL.

Launch of WNRL
It is going to be a big year for women in rugby league which the new women’s competition set to get underway later this year. There are still plenty of questions – which clubs will have teams being the biggest, but I know plenty of people are already looking forward to this competition getting underway later in the year.

Add this to a stand-alone State of Origin game between the Blues and the Maroons, increased opportunities for the Australian Jillaroos to play representative football and the announcement that there will be 40 contracted Jillaroos and 2018 is going to be the biggest year for women in footy yet.