This story was first written for and published by The Roar.
The Women’s Rugby League World Cup has finally arrived, with the first three matches taking place yesterday.
With teams from Australia, Canada, the Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and England competing, there is representation from all over the rugby league-playing world.
We all know the significance of this World Cup – it is the first time the men and women’s tournaments have been played concurrently and the first time the Women’s Rugby League World Cup has been broadcast in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
Here’s what happened in the three games yesterday.
Kiwi Ferns versus Canada Ravens
At half time of this game with a score line of 16-4 in favour of the Ferns, you could have been forgiven for thinking this game would end closely.
However in the end, the experience and physicality of the Ferns was too much for the Ravens and they were victorious 50-4.
Coming into this tournament, no one knew what to expect of the Ravens – they were very much an unknown at the international level.
However, they did play some exciting footy, clearly influenced by the number of women in their squad who play other sports like rugby sevens.
While the Ravens were able to keep up with the Ferns for the first half, in the end they were simply outclassed and struggled to match the Ferns physicality for the full 80 minutes.
Surprisingly, however, the Ferns were far from their best – plenty of dropped balls and several kicks that went dead.
I expect the Ferns to improve as they progress through the tournament – by the time they have the opportunity to face the Jillaroos I am confident that the dropped balls we saw today will no longer be present in their game.
Australian Jillaroos versus Cook Islands
The Jillaroos crushed the Cook Islands in this game 58-4.
It was all over by the halftime break with the Jillaroos making ten line breaks in the first half alone and leading at the break, 36-0.
Every woman that made her debut for the Jillaroos yesterday managed to score a try.
My favourite thing about this game though was that even in the final minutes, when the game was well and truly won, the Jillaroos maintained their intensity. It was clear that they did not want the Cook Islands to score.
When the Cook Islands did score in the dying moments of the game, I could sense disappointment.
The Jillaroos are hungry – they want to win this World Cup.
A couple of players were rested this game including Ruan Sims, Sammy Bremner and Corban McGregor – expect each of these women to feature in the Jillaroos next game against England.
England v Papua New Guinea Orchids
After watching this game it was clear to me that everyone has a soft spot for the Orchids in this World Cup. Each time the Orchids scored the crowd would roar – they have clearly won plenty of hearts and minds in this first week of the tournament.
This game was close – England only prevailed by ten points.
There’s no doubt that Papua New Guinea are a team to watch – they play an entertaining brand of football and their passion for the game is infectious.
This is a team that was training on-fields covered in litter a couple of months ago. To see them competing on the world stage is truly something special.
The tournament continues on Sunday when Australia play England, New Zealand play the Cook Islands and Papua New Guinea take on Canada.
If you are in Sydney, make sure you get down to Southern Cross Group Stadium.
Today the Australian Women’s Cricket Team will continue their fight to retain the Ashes.
After a drawn Test match at North Sydney Oval last weekend, the score remains 6-4 in favour of Australia.
Three T20s remain in the series – the first to be played tonight at North Sydney Oval followed by another two T20s at Manuka Oval in Canberra – one on Sunday and the other on Tuesday.
For England to regain the Ashes they must win each of these three games, while a win for Australia will seal the series.
A 13-player squad has been named for this format of the Ashes. Sarah Aley, Delissa Kimmince and Molly Strano have been added to the squad which drew the Test. These additions have seen Nicole Bolton, Lauren Cheatle and Tahlia McGrath left out.
There were some complaints in the media about the quality of the Test match. Some people criticised the lack of intent in the first two days, as well as a run rate on days one and two which was just about 2.57.
The reality is that women do not have the opportunity to play Test cricket very often. In fact, the last time Australia played a Test was over two years ago. It is unreasonable and unfair to expect a similar quality to the men when the women are simply not experienced in this format.
But the good news is, is that thanks to the Women’s Big Bash League, the T20 format is one that the Australian team has plenty of experience with. I am expecting an exciting contest tonight – we all know how dangerous Ashleigh Gardner can be with the bat and she will be playing with plenty of her Sydney Sixers teammate s like Ellyse Perry, Sarah Aley and Alyssa Healy.
The atmosphere at North Sydney Oval was friendly and enthusiastic last weekend. If you are in the Sydney area, head down to North Sydney Oval tonight to watch the game – selectors are expecting well in excess of 5,000 people.