England netball triumph gives women's sport another boost
2013 is shaping up as big year for women's sport as England win series against Australia
ENGLAND'S netballers pulled off the biggest win in their history on Wednesday as they beat Australia at a packed O2 Arena in London to secure their first-ever series win against the world champions.
It was only the fourth time England had ever beaten Australia, but it was also their second victory in a week. England triumphed 58-53 in the series opener in Bath at the weekend, and by winning the second match of the three-match rubber they took the series.
Australia took a 15-11 lead in the first quarter but England battled back to edge the match 51-49 in front of an excited crowd. England were "relentless" in the second half, said the BBC, with goal attack Joanne Harten and goal shooter Kadeen Corbin both finding their range.
The result sent spectators "into raptures of high-decibel celebration and some of the England players into spontaneous floods of tears," reported the Daily Telegraph, while the Daily Mail said the historic win meant England were now targeting Commonwealth gold in Glasgow in 2014.
England "may now be ready to challenge Australia's dominance at the top of the world rankings," claimed the BBC.
Netball is growing rapidly in popularity and, after the match, England captain Pamela Cookey said she expected the high-profile win to boost the sport's profile even more. There is some way to go until the game commands the respect and popularity it is given in the southern hemisphere, but after this win it seems 2013 could be a watershed year for netball and women's sport in general.
"These are heady days for women's sport," noted the Telegraph, which adds that the latest success comes after an impressive showing by female athletes at London 2012.
So far this year, Britain's two main female tennis stars, Laura Robson and Heather Watson, have made waves by reaching the third round of the Australian Open. And in cricket England wicketkeeper Sarah Taylor has threatened to break down the gender barrier after being lined up to play county cricket for Sussex, albeit at second XI level.
Earlier this week Culture Secretary Maria Miller, who has attacked the BBC for "burying" its coverage of women's sport, hosted what the Telegraph described as "a summit of senior media executives and sport experts to discuss how best to sustain the level of interest in female sport during the London Olympics".
If that wasn't enough, BT, which launches two sports channels this summer, has announced that it intends to challenge Sky as Britain's premier sports network and says it wants to build its offering around women's sport.
In 2011 there were no women on the Sports Personality of the Year shortlist. In 2012 five of the 12 nominees were women, and Jessica Ennis came second. This year could see even greater recognition for female sports stars.