Women’s sport weekly wrap: the countdown to The Ashes

This story was first written for and published by The Roar.

With the start of the Women’s National Cricket League (WNCL) last weekend, the summer of cricket has well and truly arrived.

We’re just two weeks away from seeing one of Australia’s most successful sporting teams, the Australian Women’s Cricket team, contest the Ashes.

The Australian Women’s Cricket team won the Ashes back in 2015, but England will be confident coming into the series after winning the World Cup in July.

England and Australia are currently the No.1 and No.2 ranked countries in the world.

This week, the Cricket Australia national selection panel named a 14-player One-Day International and 15-player Test squad for the Ashes and there are plenty of familiar faces including Rachael Haynes, Alex Blackwell, Elyse Villani, Ellyse Perry, Alyssa Healy, Kristen Beams and Megan Schutt.

Lauren Cheatle has also been named following a challenging last summer where she battled with a shoulder injury.

The most notable omission is, of course, Meg Lanning who will not feature given her ongoing shoulder injury.

Losing a batswoman as talented as Meg may make some Australian cricket fans nervy, but rest assured, there is plenty of experience in the Australian batting line out.

Five players who average above 30 in international cricket have been named in the squad. Ellyse Perry averages above 50 in one-day international cricket.

Ellyse Perry Australia Cricket Women's 2017

(AAP Image/International Cricket Council)

Plenty of women also demonstrated their batting prowess in the opening round of the WNCL. Each of Elyse Villani and Rachael Haynes scored centuries.

Alex Blackwell, Nicole Bolton, Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney also scored half-centuries.

No Lanning? I’m not worried. We certainly have the talent to manage without her.

In positive news, the first match of the series in Brisbane has already sold out. Let’s hope that Coffs Harbour and Sydney are not far behind.

Rugby League
As anticipated, this week Brad Donald has named his Australian Jillaroos squad for the Rugby League World Cup which kicks off on November 16 at Southern Cross Group Stadium.

Incredibly, the squad includes plenty of experience with five women who have captained Australia in the last year – Sam Bremner, Karina Brown, Steph Hancock, Renae Kunst and Ruan Sims.

While the squad has its share of veterans, Australia fans will also get the opportunity to see the next generation of talent in women’s rugby league with 16 World Cup debutants including Talesha Quinn, Kezie Apps, Vanessa Foliaki, Isabelle Kelly and Caitlin Moran.

There aren’t many World Cup games happening in Sydney, but every single women’s game (apart from the final on December 2) will be held at Southern Cross Group Stadium. So make sure you get down there – the best in the world are coming.

Another woman who will be making her Rugby League World Cup debut is Belinda Sleeman.

On Tuesday it was announced that Belinda will be the first female referee to participate in a Rugby League World Cup.

Touch Judge Belinda Sleeman

(AAP Image/David Rowland)

The next step for Belinda will be heading into camp with the other 255 officials on October 22 in Brisbane. The group is made up of referees from the NRL and English Super League.

While Belinda has the opportunity to make history during this campaign, it’s certainly not the first time she has refereed at the international level – Belinda also featured in the May Pacific Test between Tonga and Fiji.

We could be only a couple of weeks away from a woman making her refereeing debut.

Tickets are still available for all the women’s games at Southern Cross Group Stadium.

Rugby Sevens
And if that isn’t enough women’s sport for you, tickets also went on sale this week for the Sydney 7s which are happening on the 25th, 26th and 27th of January next year.

I’ve never had the opportunity to go before given that often this event clashes with the NRL Auckland Nines, but this year I’ll certainly be there for one of Sydney’s biggest parties.

After winning the gold medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016, the women’s 7s team finished fourth at the Sydney leg of the tournament this year. A strong showing, but one that I know the team was disappointed with.

The squad finished second in the 2016-17 World Series behind New Zealand, and no doubt the team will be pushing to reclaim that top spot.

With plenty of talent still remaining from the team that won gold at Rio and the potential for some fresh blood (many exciting players were on show during the AON University rugby sevens series), I’m confident that the squad can improve on their fourth-place showing this year.

The Sydney leg of the tournament will form part of a reduced five-leg series as part of a busy 2018 which also includes the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games.