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Go Big with the Caps this season

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“This is the most exciting time to be in women’s sport.”

It’s a sentiment that’s being shouted across the world of sport, and one that’s echoed by Lucille Bailie, the University of Canberra Capitals (Caps) General Manager.

Cradling a coffee at the University of Canberra’s (UC) Refectory, Lucille sits across from fellow Basketball Australia Hall-of-Famer, Carrie Graf, whose impressive list of accolades includes the title of UC Director of Sport, and former Caps coach.

“The WNBL’s most successful coach, in fact,” Lucille adds with a grin.

The formidable duo has taken the Caps by the reins, preparing for a season that promises to be unlike any other in the history of the league.

“People want the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), which I think it’s fair to say hasn’t necessarily been commercialised appropriately across the country, to have its day in the sun.

“People are dying to see this product promoted properly, engaging the community and delivering it as it should be” says Lucille.

IF ANYONE IS QUALIFIED to lead the Caps to success, both competitively and commercially, it’s Lucille and Carrie. Both have been involved with the WNBL since the mid-80’s and know the strengths—and the shortcomings—of the league.

“It’s been going since 1981,” says Carrie. “Women’s basketball is a well-evolved sporting piece. The talent and the way the women play basketball is super-high quality.”

Unfortunately, women’s basketball hasn’t always got the attention—and the financial backing—that its players and community deserve, a fact that Carrie and Lucille have been working hard to change.

The partnership between UC and the Caps was a key turning point for the team. With the support of the ACT Government there was signicant investment in converting the National Convention Centre into a stadium to host the Caps home games.

“Hearing firsthand what’s gone into converting an entertainment venue into a sporting venue is phenomenal,” says Carrie.

“It really speaks to the investment in women’s sport—to say ‘you know what? Our women are world class, and they deserve to play in an appropriate venue’.

“Especially when you consider that five years ago, we were playing in tin sheds with me using the tiles next to the urinal in the men’s change room as a whiteboard.”

BUT IT’S NOT JUST THE PLAYERS that will benefit from the upgrade—the spectators are in for treat.

“What we’re putting together is a really solid and engaging experience,” says Lucille. “We want it packed to the rafters.

“There’s amazing lighting, we’ve got a great court announcer in Joe Gleeson, and we want a court jester—someone who can entertain the crowd. It really is going to be the hottest ticket in town.”

There’s a lot of energy being invested in attracting more fans and spectators—including a refreshed membership experience.

“We’ve broken the membership package down and rebuilt it. It represents great value and gives people an opportunity to declare their support and their ongoing commitment to their team.”

The new packages cater to not just the “rusted-on” fans who will jump at the change to catch all 10 home games, but also a flexible three-game package.

The Caps enlisted the support of local advertising agency Coordinate to bolster their membership promotion. The result is a landmark campaign which can be seen on everything from Audi A1s from sponsors Audi Centre Canberra to our TV screens.

UC Capitals Memberships

Be a part of something BIG and join the UC Capitals for 2018/2019! #WNBL19 #UCCapsGoBIG https://bit.ly/2OUZeD8

Posted by University of Canberra Capitals on Thursday, 9 August 2018

The video campaign shows as much emotion towards our Caps as it does for our city—which comes as little surprise given that it’s delivered by the team behind the successful CBR campaign that sparked a movement in Canberra pride.

“It’s awesome that we can leverage the momentum that Canberra has,” says Lucille. “It’s great to have Coordinate on board to spread our message.

“Having worked in health promotion and being a Caps player and being engaged with this community, the motivation for me is that I understand the power and impact that this thing has, it will stay with me forever.”

“They [Coordinate] get it, but they haven’t put a girly flavour on it. It’s like ‘this is hoops. Chicks play hoops. Dudes play hoops.’ It’s just hoops, and you don’t have to wear a ribbon in your hair and put a skirt on—take the gender away.

“This isn’t girls playing sport. This is sport,” says Carrie.

RECRUITMENT OF TOP-LEVEL ATHLETES has been a priority for the upcoming season, with a line-up that includes Marianna Tolo, Kelsey Griffin, Leilani Mitchell and Kia Nurse.

“The talent of the team that we’ve got on the floor is one of the more talented teams that the Caps have had for quite a while” enthuses Carrie. “There’s a mix of star talent, international talent, veteran talent that knows how to win and then youthful talent that is on the rise.”

“Some of our players are on scholarships that rival—in fact, are better than—a scholarship in US college basketball. You live on campus, and your part-time job—instead of pulling coffees or beers—is being a professional basketballer.

“That’s pretty cool, and what makes it even cooler is that you’re a woman, and those opportunities haven’t been there for young women before. We’re doing it right here in an elite program in our city.”

SUPPORT FROM THE CITY is something that has set the Caps apart over the years, and engagement with the community continues to be a focus.

“We are really privileged to be able to work in this programme and to present this product and the athletes to the community on match day, but outside match day as well.

“When you see the impact that players have on young kids, on teenagers, on adults, on dads with tattoos from head to toe, on grannies and pas. When you see the positive impact that this can have, you really want it to succeed,” says Lucille.

While memberships will form one marker of success for the season, securing a championship is front of mind for the players, coaching and support staff and, of course, for Lucille and Carrie.

“One sports administrator said to me, ‘I think the Caps won a championship too early.’ You can never win one too early—you have to think and train and work like you’re going to win the championship every year.”

Regardless of whether that goal will come to fruition, the Caps are investing into making every game memorable—particularly the first.

“We need a game one sell out,” says Carrie. “What we need to create for game one each year is a grand final experience—that’s why people go.”

With a world-class venue, an all-star line-up of athletes and two powerhouse forces at the helm, The University of Canberra Caps look set to have a stellar season.

Purchase your membership and find out more at wnbl.com.au/uc-Caps.

This is a sponsored editorial. For more information on sponsored editorials, click here

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