Women's sport is set to rivet serious attention in New Zealand next year, with two high profile sporting tournaments being hosted on our shores.

Both the Women's Rugby World Cup and the Women's Cricket World Cup, which fell victim to Covid-19, have been rescheduled for the autumn and spring next year.

The 12th ICC Women's World Cup will hit Aotearoa in early March, concluding on April 3, 2022, with the grand final at Hagley Park in Christchurch.

Western Bay of Plenty will play a significant role in the tournament, with the Bay Oval hosting seven games, including the prized opening match with the White Ferns meeting a yet to be named qualifier.

All the heavy hitters of international women's cricket will be here, with England, Australia, India and South Africa joining the New Zealand White Ferns in paying a visit to the Western Bay of Plenty international cricket ground.

The Women's Rugby World Cup will be played out in October and November in Auckland and Whangarei.

Eden Park will make history in hosting the tournament title decider - to become the first stadium to have staged both the Men's and Women's Rugby World Cup Finals.

Women's sport has come of age in the new millennium with their achievements grabbing prominent media headlines and coverage.

This wasn't always the case with women's sports having to fight hard for serious attention.

It might surprise some, that the first official New Zealand Rugby Women's selection didn’t play their first match until 1989, going on to play in the inaugural Women's Rugby World Cup in the same year.

By contrast, women's cricket was alive and well in the 1930's.

The first inter-provincial women's cricket tournament was played in 1933, with New Zealand Women playing their first test against England Women in 1935.

A century ago, women were perceived as not strong enough to play strenuous sport.

A good example is athletics, where just the women's 100 yards was introduced at the 1926 National Championships.

It was 13 years until the women's 200 yards made its Nationals entrance, followed by the 400 yards (1956) eight hundred yards (1959) and the one mile (1968).

However, there were a few sports that broke the gender barrier in earlier times.

Golf crowned their first national women's champion, when an Ms Lomax-Smith from Christchurch won the New Zealand match-play championship in 1893.

Tennis goes even further back in crowning their first women's singles and doubles champions in 1887.

Fifteen-year-old Violet Walrond became New Zealand's first Olympic female athlete, when she competed at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp.

She was reported as finishing fifth in the 100m freestyle final and sixth in the 300m event.

Women faced a myriad of barriers to compete in sport a century ago.

Violet Walrond later stated that her and her younger sister retired from competitive swimming in 1923, on the orders of her father, who thought that the pair were too much in the public eye.

He also forbade them from cutting their long hair in a short style.

New Zealand’s top level Women’s sport today is highly competitive, vibrant and entertaining, with the athletes owing a big debt to the pioneers of their respective sporting codes who broke through the gender barrier in days past.

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian