Women’s sport weekly wrap: What Channel Ten’s woes mean for the WBBL

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By , Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    There have been rumblings for some time now, but this week it has become very clear that the future of Channel Ten is in jeopardy.

    Unless the network can find new debt facilities, cut costs and get license fee relief from the federal government, its first half loss of $232.2 million dollars might be too much for the network to bear.

    I must admit I don’t watch too much television on Ten. I’m not a fan of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and working a full-time job means I’m not home at midday to watch The Biggest Loser. But during summer, Channel Ten becomes the soundtrack to my family’s summer as we watch the coverage of the Big Bash and the Women’s Big Bash.

    Should Ten lose the rights to the Big Bash, I have grave fears for the coverage which, in my view, is not just entertaining, but has also been a leader and advocate for diversity, particularly when it comes to commentary.

    The Big Bash is a unique beast in that it’s more than just sport – it is an entertainment concept.

    Elements like Dwayne Bravo’s ‘Champion’ song, the catchy music during play, having players mic’d up, the flashing wickets and the Zooper Dooper dance all add to a festival-like atmosphere which is engaging for people at the game, but also people at home.

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    Another big part of the package is the Channel Ten commentary team. Freddie Flintoff was one of my highlights in the 2015-16 season. Brendon McCullum provided insightful commentary this year as one of the in-form players of the tournament and Ricky Ponting singing one of the Barmy Army’s many songs – much to the displeasure of Mark Waugh – went viral in a matter of minutes.

    Not only is the commentary team entertaining, but it’s also diverse. It is one of the only commentary teams which regularly includes female voices to commentate on men’s sport. Mel Jones is a key part of the commentary and is thoroughly enjoyable to listen to.

    As someone who represented Australia in cricket at the top level, she has the ability to provide that extra layer of insight which often comes when someone has a deep love and understanding of the sport they are speaking about.

    Several networks include women as part of their broader coverage of particular sports. Think of Yvonne Sampson and Lara Pitt as part of the NRL coverage for Fox Sports, Lucy Zelic on SBS as part of the A-League and Tara Rushton on Fox Sports, also part of the A-League, but women commentating on men’s sport is still one of the final frontiers we need to cross.

    This is why I have genuine fears about the quality of coverage should the WBBL rights be lost to Channel Nine.

    Watch this space.

    WNBL

    Earlier this week it was announced that a new three-year partnership has been entered into between Fox Sports and the WNBL which will see one game a week and the finals broadcast on Fox Sports, along with a commitment from the network to assist the WNBL to find sponsorship and improve its community engagement.

    You can’t be what you can’t see, so getting the WNBL back on television was crucial for the game’s survival and ensuring that young women continue to see a future in playing basketball.

    The great news didn’t stop there though. Yesterday, Australian Opal Elizabeth Cambage announced that she would be playing for the Melbourne Boomers in the upcoming season, which will begin in October.

    Elizabeth Cambage Basketball Australia Opals Rio 2016 Olympic Games

    The WNBL is the longest running elite female competition in Australia so I am exceptionally pleased to see this new partnership announced.

    But it should also serve as a warning to the WNBL to lift its game and never take its broadcast rights for granted again.

    Following budget cuts in 2014, the ABC announced that it was dropping its coverage of the WNBL. The WNBL was one of the first women’s sports to have the opportunity to be telecast and to see it in a position now where it is lagging behind cricket, AFL and netball is a shame.

    I’m confident the opportunity to work with Fox Sports will mean that the WNBL works with the broadcaster to improve its offering which will hopefully mean more eyeballs and more people turning out to watch the games live.

    With talent such as Liz Cambage in this year’s season, the next generation of young women might begin dreaming about careers as professional basketballers again very soon.

    Southern Stars

    The summer of cricket never ends, with Australia’s preliminary 21-player squad for the women’s cricket World Cup announced yesterday.

    It’s a credit to the WBBL and the exposure that it has given our female cricketers that I am familiar with every player in the squad and in particular the four uncapped players which have been named – Sarah, Aley, Pippa Cliery, Belinda Vakarewa and Molly Strano.

    I’m particularly excited to see veteran Sarah Aley named after her stand-out performances for the Sydney Sixers over the summer.

    This World Cup will see the Southern Stars pushing for their seventh title and begins against the West Indies on June 26.

    Australian Jillaroos

    The Australian Jillaroos are now in camp in preparation for the game against the Kiwi Ferns next Friday night in Canberra.

    If you are based in the nation’s capital, I strongly encourage you to get out to the game because once you get a taste of women’s rugby league, I promise you’ll be left wanting more.

    The biggest news out of the squad named by coach Brad Donald is that co-captains Ruan Sims (my favourite Sims) and Steph Hancock both return following injuries.

    Earlier this year at the Auckland Nines, the Jillaroos defeated the Kiwi Ferns in their three-game series for the very first time. This game will be the next step toward the Jillaroos successfully defending their World Cup Title in November this year.

    I’m also hearing whispers that there will be a key announcement about the women’s World Cup next week, so I hope to bring you that news next week.

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.