The change of Prime Minister from Tony Abbott to Malcolm Turnbull this past week obviously had far-reaching consequences across the country. Even so, I was surprised to find it affecting the sporting landscape as well. And yet it accidentally did, coming just 24-hours into Turnbull’s reign as Prime Minister, when he attended an event honouring the Southern Stars (Australia’s national women’s cricket team) for their recent success in winning the Ashes series.
As Turnbull’s first official event as PM, and also the first appearance of Turnbull and Bill Shorten together (sparks flew), the event was packed with members of the press gallery who wouldn’t customarily have given coverage to the Southern Stars. And this was the first time Australia had won a series in England in 14 years. This Ashes series was the most covered in history, with matches broadcast live, and sell-out crowds with attendance up from 2013. The future is bright, and hopefully one day a leadership spill won’t be necessary in order to attract coverage.
In other exciting coverage news, ABC TV has announced a partnership with Fox Sports for the upcoming soccer season that will see them broadcast one live W-League ‘match of the round’ in a double-header with the Sunday afternoon A-League game. The match will be shown live both on Foxtel and on ABC TV, making one game a week available to everyone except those people who smugly say that they don’t own a television when you didn’t even ask them. Besides the W-League and probably Game of Thrones, pay television consumers will also be able to watch a lot of the upcoming netball ANZ Championship, with fixtures released this past week. Every game of the 14-round series will be broadcast live on pay TV, along with one game per round to be shown live on Channel 10 (presumably hosted by Grant Denyer, who is seemingly contractually obliged to host every event on that channel).
Along with fixtures, it was also announced that the grand final replay match between the Queensland Firebirds and NSW Swifts would be played at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, which has a capacity of 13,000. Several other teams around the country will also be playing in bigger venues, in the hopes of building on the excitement of the Australian Diamond’s 2015 World Cup victory.
Another Australian team inventively named after a precious gem, our women’s basketball team The Opals, are hoping that centre Marianna Tolo can recover from a torn ACL injury suffered recently while playing for the Los Angeles Sparks (named after Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbulls relationship) in time to play in next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Competition for spots in the Australian team is fierce, with several players indicating that they will give up lucrative deals in the American WNBA league in order to give themselves the best chance to make the Australian squad. The Opals have won a medal in each Olympics since 1996, but have never taken out the gold, because Team USA exists. Team USA will unfortunately exist again at Rio de Janeiro, but the Opals won their Olympic qualifying games without several key players, giving them confidence heading into next year.
Confidence is not an issue for American UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) competitor Ronda Rousey ahead of her title defence against fellow American Holly Holm, to be held in Australia in November, saying:
AFTER I beat Holly (Holm) in Melbourne, it’s going to be the most surreal and overstimulating moment of my entire life.
Rousey (or ‘Holly Hunter’ as she should be known for this match up) will be the headline fight in the UFC’s first ever Melbourne event. In all probability, the event will be as overstimulating an experience as she expects, even if she doesn’t win, as the fight will take place in front of an expected record-breaking crowd of 60,000 people at Etihad stadium.
Record-breaking seven-time World Surfing Champion Layne Beachley conquered yet another pinnacle in her sport this week after being appointed the new Chairperson of Surfing Australia. It is the first time an Australian female world champion athlete has been given the opportunity to become the national head of the sport she was a champion in. This is really ‘cowabunga’ news and definitely is not a ‘wipeout’.
In what is a major wipeout into the jaws of a some kind of hybrid monster shark whale blobfish creature swimming in a sea of bloody water (if I have my surfing terminology correct), the Iranian women’s futsal team will compete in the upcoming AFC Women’s Futsal Championship without their captain, Niloufar Ardalan. Under Iranian law, married women must have their husband’s permission to acquire or renew a passport, and her husband Mehdi Totounchi reportedly wants his wife home for the start of the school year, so has refused to allow her to travel for the tournament. Ardalan claimed the foreign media was ‘exaggerating her case’, while also acknowledging that she would indeed be missing the tournament, and that Iran’s laws regulating women’s travel should be changed.
Rules regulating women’s appearances in the extremely popular soccer video game FIFA have been changed for the upcoming FIFA 16 version (released Thursday), with women’s national teams appearing for the first time. Matildas and (newly-signed) Melbourne City player Steph Catley will appear as the first woman on the cover of the game alongside superstar Lional Messi. With women making up over 50% of the vídeo game playing population, it’s an encouraging step forward in this (soccer) field.