You don’t have to listen too carefully to hear the ever-increasing sound of the sporting waves being made by women’s sport.
A sea change is well and truly underway as the penny continues to drop women’s sport is the entertainment equal of its male counterparts. And after the recent marking of International Women’s Day what better time to take a tour of spectator landscape in Scotland with a look at just some of the rich crop of talented sportswomen ready to entertain from the world of basketball, curling, football, GAA, netball, roller derby, rugby, shinty & volleyball. Read on for the sporting lowdown and to ensure you don’t miss a moment of the action subscribe now to our free weekly newsletter.
Netball was a revelation at Glasgow 2014 drawing sell-out crowds in excess of 30,000. Since then the national side, the Scottish Thistles, has gone from strength to strength recently climbing to 9th in the world rankings ahead of next month’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and the Netball World Cup in the summer of 2019.
The success of the national side has taken place in tandem with the growth of the domestic game – the Scottish Cup Finals gaining record audiences – however it’s in late 2016 the sport in Scotland experienced what may prove to be its ‘game-changer’ moment. Led by its visionary CEO Claire Nelson, Netball Scotland made the bold move of entering a club side into the Vitality Superleague, the UK’s premier netball tournament.
The story behind signing on paper and putting a side together within six weeks is for another time, however UWS Sirens stepped on court February 2017 to open the new season in front of the Sky TV cameras and a packed crowd at the Emirates Arena. That inaugural match against Wasps had the feel of a landmark occasion and fast forward to the present day the Sirens – with their mantra #ChangingTheGame – are now a fixture in the Superleague and with the new 2018 campaign underway there are plenty of home match opportunities, between now and June, to witness the Sirens in action at the Emirates Arena. And in between times has come recognition of the fast-track progress made by Netball Scotland when their Under-21 team and the Sirens scooped the Team Scotland Team of the Year and Brand Oath Campaign of the Year award respectively at the 2017 Scottish Women in Sport Awards.
To less of a fanfare but likewise strong on innovation Caledonia Pride are intent on putting Scotland on the map where women’s club basketball in the UK is concerned. The brainchild of basketballscotland Caledonia Pride became Scotland’s first ever women’s professional basketball team on entering the Women’s British Basketball League (WBBL) in 2017, and a baptism of fire in their inaugural season didn’t stop Pride finishing strongly only to just miss out on the play-offs.
This year the team have continued to make a mark out of their home base at the National Performance Centre in Oriam, currently in good shape to make the end of season WBBL league play-offs after Pride also made it through to the Cup Final in January at Arena Birmingham only to lose out 70-66 to Nottingham Wildcats. You can catch the Caledonia Pride at Oriam in the knockout stages of the Trophy tournament versus Team Northumbria on 1st April ahead of the final home league match of the regular season on 28th April when Durham Palatinates are the visitors.
There’s also a flourishing domestic scene in the women’s game which recently reached a finale at Oriam with the SBC Playoff Finals – Edinburgh University taking the senior women’s title with a 75-51 win against City of Edinburgh Kool Kats. The 2018/2019 SBC season starts in September.
Volleyball is another sport flourishing in Scotland and one we featured in these pages back in 2015 when Lynne Beattie – GB captain of the indoor team at London 2012 and now working at Scottish Volleyball – gave an insight into both the sport and her role to develop it in Scotland.
Fast forward to 2018 and with beach volleyball a welcome addition to the Commonwealth Games Beattie – along with playing partner Mel Coutts – has secured a place to represent Team Scotland at the Gold Coast next month. A perfect taster to the Scottish Beach Volleyball Tour that will run over the summer at various locations including West Sands and Portobello beaches; a great opportunity to watch the sport at the highest level. And before that in April the weekend of the 21st/22nd April will see the indoor domestic season reach a conclusion with the Scottish Volleyball Association Finals taking place at University of Edinburgh.
From hands to feet the traditional heartland of Scottish sport, football, is also seeing a steady uptick in the women’s game. On the home front Glasgow City have been the pioneers, led by former player and now manager Laura Montgomery, City have risen from humble beginnings to become the standard-bearer in the domestic game winning 11 Scottish titles in a row.
Last season City upped the ante with a new away kit proclaiming “You can’t be what you can’t see” as they strive for more coverage on behalf of the women’s game. That aim is now being aided and abetted by Hibernian Ladies who have pushed the Glasgow side hard in the SWPL1 for the last two seasons (while winning plenty of cup silverware) only to fade in the run-in. Joelle Murray, the Hibernian captain, has made no secret of the Edinburgh side’s desire to usurp the champions and with both sides having made perfect starts to the 2018 season excitement is already building ahead of their first league clash of the season at Ainslie Park on 15th April. And with Celtic one a number of teams who on their day are capable of giving the top two a fright, expect a few twists and turns until the business end of the season at the end of October.
For the national side the focus is squarely on qualification for the 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup in France. Having won both their opening Group 2 matches, next up for Scotland is a double-header against their main rivals for qualification starting with a trip to Switzerland on 5th April followed by a match against Poland at Paisley 2021 Stadium on 10th April.
From a round to an oval ball women’s rugby may not yet have establihsed itself in the same way as its football counterparts, however the sports rate of development in the last few years is an exciting development. The announcement by Scottish Rugby in June 2016 that then Hillhead/Jordanhill captain, Jade Konkel (pictured below), had become the nation’s first full-time female rugby player was undoubtedly a seminal moment for the game in Scotland. Konkel committed to life as a stage three player in the BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy which she remains having subsequently moved on to play her domestic rugby with French Top 8 side Lille Metropole Rugby Club Villeneuvois, in 2017.
That three more players, Chloe Rollie, Lisa Thomson and Sarah Law have joined Konkel by becoming full-time players – with Rollie and Thomson also plying their trade in France’s elite women’s rugby competition – is further evidence of the strides being made by women’s game and the consequent interest was demonstrated by the record crowd of 3,278 that watched Scotland take on England at Scotstoun Stadium in the recent Women’s Six Nations. After a long barren spell the national side have secured three wins in their last two editions of the Six Nations and their long term sights are now set on climbing the world rankings (the Scots are currently 11th) and qualification for the World Cup in 2021.
The domestic league may have suffered a little of late with the top players playing their trade oversees, but that looks to be a temporary issue with the women’s game likely to get stronger in the long term as more players turn full-time. This season Hillhead/Jordanhill clinched the BT Women’s Premier League title and the Sarah Beaney Cup Final (along with the Women’s Plate and Bowl finals) form part of Silver Saturday a gala day for Scottish club rugby taking place at BT Murrayfield on Saturday 28th April.
From playing fields to ice the sport of curling has for centuries been a favourite in Scotland that can be traced – courtesy of our friends at Scottish Curling – as far back as 1541 (yes, seriously!) when the first written history of curling involved the notary John McQuhin recording a challenge about throwing stones across the ice between a monk at Paisley Abbey and a relative of the abbot.
Fast forward to the present day and Scotland is blessed with some of the best female players in the world, inspired atthe turn of the century by Team GB’s famous gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City when Ayrshire’s Rhona Martin delivered the coup de grâce delivering what has become known as the ‘stone of destiny’ to lead the team to victory. The current generation are led by Eve Muirhead (pictured) who has been a world champion and was Team GB’s skip when they won bronze at the 2014 Winter Olympics and came so close to repeating the trick at Pyeongchang earlier this year with an all-Scottish team featuring Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray and Kelly Schafer.
While often travelling the world there are numerous opportunities to see Scotland’s finest players on home soil. The highlight of the domestic calendar is the Scottish Curling Championships held each year in February at Dewars Centre in Perth, while events such as the Glyhill Ladies International (taking place in January at Braehead Curling Rink) and City of Perth Ladies International (March/April at Dewars Centre) both form part of the annual Champions Tour. Added to that in March next year Stirling will play host to the 2019 World Wheelchair Curling Championships – featuring ten mixed gender teams including one from the hosts Scotland – and there’s plenty to look forward to on the curling calendar.
Shinty is a another game intertwined with Scottish history however it wasn’t until 2001 a women’s league structure was implemented with the establishment of the Women’s Camanachd Association. Fast forward to 2018 there are now five leagues including a Development League West and East, North and South Division 2 with the pyramid headed up by the WCA Marine Harvest National Div 1 featuring the top 8 sides in the country.
Skye were the 2017 champions and will be looking to successfully defend their title when the new season gets underway on the weekend of 24th/25th March running all the way through until October. The premier cup competition is the WCA Valerie Fraser Camanachd Cup won last year by Skye who completed a league and cup double beating Lochaber 6-1 in the final.
Another sport rich in heritage is Gaelic Football however it may surprise some to hear of the buoyant scene that has made its way over the Irish sea. Dunedin Connollys have been stalwarts on the GAA landscape scene for a number of years winning the Intermediate title (the highest level played in Britain) in 2014 and 2015 having won the Junior title in 2013, the latter resulting in promotion. More recently Glasgow Gaels have emerged as another hotbed of the game in Scotland, having been promoted to Intermediate in 2017 just three years after they were founded. And in a major boost for the sport Gaels will become one of the tenants at Clydebank Community Sports Hub – a new £4m state-of-the-art sports facility – when it opens for business later this year.
This year Dunedin Connollys and Glasgow Gaels will both feature teams in the North of Britain Intermediate Champs as they aim to become British champions and proceed into the All-Ireland competition, home to the best teams in the sport. Connollys and Gaels will also take part in the Scottish League comprised of a number of teams around the country all looking to be take the top prize on a national level. The new Gaelic Football season has recently got underway and runs until September.
If Gaelic sport has made a relatively short trip to establish itself in Scotland then roller derby has come considerably further. Born in the USA roller derby – an exciting all-action contact sport played by two teams of 5 who roller skate around a track in a series of set plays known as ‘jams’ with points scored if a team’s ‘jammer’ passes the ‘blockers’ on the opposing side – has garnered an enthusiastic fan base this side of the water and in Auld Reekie Roller Girls and Glasgow Roller Derby Scotland boasts two of the top sides in the UK.
Regularly packing out venues such as Meadowbank Sports Centre and the ARC respectively the teams have got their skates on where progression is concerned. And with other teams such as Dundee Roller Girls and Aberdeen’s Granite City Roller Derby hosting regular events there’s plenty of spectator choice, not to mention an international flavour with Scotland team formed in July 2016.