Women's sport took a giant leap forward this week.

And I'm not talking about Vicki Sparks becoming the first woman to commentate a World Cup match for the BBC, a landmark moment that prompted former Chelsea captain and infamous troglodyte John Terry to post on social media he was "having to watch this game with no volume".

I'm talking a little closer to home, where the fall-out from Football Ferns coach Andreas Heraf's curious comments continued to reverberate throughout the sport in this country.
Heraf's ill-advised post-match spiel has spawned a scandal that could and should result in New Zealand Football chief executive Andy Martin being forced from his post.

There's nothing charming about a bullying culture within the country's top team, and there's even less amusing about a toxic environment poisoning the game's governing body.


But - and this is unfortunate - there's no denying all the off-field drama has shone a brighter spotlight on the women's game than that neglected group has felt in years.

Which is, in a strange way, a good thing. Not the yelling and name-calling, of course. But the publicity. Sometimes it takes more than the mere games for a team to glean the attention they deserve on the pitch.

Just ask every men's team in every men's sport. Or, for that matter, ask every fan. Off-field storylines are often equally if not more enjoyable than the sport itself. Which is exactly what we have seen elsewhere this week in the beautiful game ...

Including at the World Cup. The magnificent action from Russia hardly needs to be bolstered by any sideshows. And yet, through the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), the football has been but one charm of the tournament.

Every conversation I've had during this World Cup, from the pub to the workplace, has inevitably turned to the VAR.

And while it's probably an issue that the majority of football fans struggle to explain the intricacies of the system, a bug that in some eyes spoils what has always been such a simple sport, the new replay technology has certainly added to the theatre.

There's been good — a penalty for Brazil being overturned after Neymar's outlandish dive against Costa Rica was quickly spotted on second viewing.

And there's been bad — like England's Harry Kane and Serbia's Aleksandar Mitrovic being denied stonewall spot kicks for tackles that wouldn't have looked out of place in rugby. Tackles, in fact, that were far more felonious than ...


Benjamin Fall's mid-air collision with Beauden Barrett during the second test against France, a tackle that earned a red card that was later rescinded by World Rugby.

What a delightful mess. As if rugby's byzantine rulebook didn't contain enough grey areas. On the other hand, the red-card-that-wasn't did provide great fodder for talkback and shameless columnists like me.

I mean, what else were we all going to talk about in the week before a dreary dead rubber?

Damian McKenzie v Richie Mo'unga? (Admittedly intriguing.) The fact Shannon Frizell once played goalkeeper for Tonga's under-17 football team and shipped a whopping 17 goals in a loss to New Caledonia? (Admittedly awesome.)

Controversy always wins. Still, if the French were really aggrieved, they could have gone on strike, an acceptable tactic if you listen to ...

Five-time Tour de France cycle classic winner Bernard Hinault. The French great this week expressed his disappointment that Chris Froome will compete at next month's Tour, shrugging off the cloud of suspicion that followed an adverse drug test at last year's Vuelta a Espana.

"The peloton should dismount," Hinault said, "and go on strike saying, 'If he's at the start, we're not starting'."

As a fan of both chaos and irony, please let this happen. The possibility of a group of professional cyclists, of all people, hopping off their bikes to show their dissent against doping is just too delicious to turn down.

It would be the world's least meaningful protest. In any case, if anyone really deserves to go on strike, it's the women's tennis players…

Who will head into Wimbledon next month knowing they are in all likelihood going to be consigned to the outer courts.

As if years of inequitable prize money wasn't enough to contend with, a study released this week showed that in the last 25 years women featured on Centre and No 1 courts only 39 per cent of the time.

I'm no mathematician, but it seems like that number should be closer to 50 per cent, given, after consulting my calculator, it appears women form half the tournament's field.

At least the likes of true GOAT Serena Williams has ensured what the women's game has lacked in court placement it has rarely wanted for in coverage. Unlike…

The Football Ferns. The last couple of weeks have come with the smallest sliver of a silver lining: by the time Heraf and Martin are, hopefully, cleared out, the team will return to the field with, hopefully, a public more eager to follow their progress.