Ashes triumph – but will women win your vote?

IAN COLE surveys the leading candidates for SJA members’ votes for the prized title of 2009 Sports Team of the Year
Can anyone stop the England cricket team being named Team of the Year in our annual SJA poll?

That need not automatically mean Andrew Strauss’s Ashes-winning side, whose leading rivals for the accolade are their women counterparts, under captain Charlotte Edwards, who are world ranked No1 now, having added the World Cup and World Twenty20 to the Ashes they successfully defended.

Strauss’s men’s team regained the Ashes with a hard-fought 2-1 series win over Australia, climaxing with a momentous 197-run victory at The Oval last month.

That ought to make them clear favourites to succeed Michael Vaughan’s Ashes winners, who won our coveted award in 2005.

When it comes to teams we haven’t had the greatest success in 2009.

The England football team…well, let’s hope next year ends 44 years of hurt, though at least Capello’s squad will be in South Africa in 2010, which is more than can be said for Scotland and Wales and, probably, Northern Ireland.

The England rugby union team, meanwhile, is still waiting to kick-start the Martin Johnson era. Tennis, golf…forget it.

There haved been success stories, though: England’s hockey men won the European championship for the first time, while England’s women footballers reached the European championship final.

There were a few successes for groups — we class them as teams — in other sports, too. In rowing, a consistent source of awards in recent years, the Great Britain coxless four of Alex Partridge, Alex Gregory, Ric Egington and Matthew Langridge were crowned world champions.

As were the GB cycling women’s team pursuit squad of Wendy Houvenaghel, Joanna Rowsell and Lizzie Armitstead.

With the Winter Olympics fast approaching, British pair Nicola Minichiello and Gillian Cooke (pictured) will be worth watching in Vancouver, where they will compete as the world bobsleigh champions, a title they won at the start of the year.

The choice is yours. However you cast your vote, the important thing is that you do. Voting forms will be sent to all SJA members with the next issue of the SJA Bulletin, or, if you prefer, you will also be able to cast your vote online.

One set of votes per SJA member, and we insist that you nominate your top three candidates, in order, in the Team, Sportsman and Sportswoman categories.

Click here to vote now.

The awards will be presented at our annual SJA British Sports Awards lunch, sponsored by UK Sport and Sky Bet, to be staged at the Brewery, in London’s Moorgate, on December 9.

Book your tickets for the glittering SJA 61st annual British Sports Awards – click here for details and a booking form

â–¡ UK Sport is the longest standing lead sponsor of the Sports Journalists’ Association, with a partnership that goes back more than a decade. Sky Bet is the SJA’s newest partner, the sponsorship being announced in October 2008.

Both partners support the SJA’s two prestigious annual awards events, including the presentation of a special UK Sport Award for excellence at the SJA’s Annual Sports Awards and the sports betting writer of the year at the SJA’s British Sports Journalism Awards.

The SJA Annual Sports Awards are the longest established of their kind in the United Kingdom, having been first staged in 1949.

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