Carrie Graf backs 'seismic shift' to boost the WNBL: TV a game-changer

Basketball coaching guru Carrie Graf has implored WNBL officials to pushing for a free-to-air broadcast deal to ensure the sport keeps pace with its rivals.

The WNBL is working to finalise a television deal for the 2019-20 campaign, which is hoped will include an increase in the amount of games broadcast on streaming services and free-to-air channels.

Former Capitals and Opals coach Carrie Graf says free-to-air broadcast is crucial for the WNBL. Picture: Rohan Thomson

Former Capitals and Opals coach Carrie Graf says free-to-air broadcast is crucial for the WNBL. Picture: Rohan Thomson

Graf believes the competition can thrive if it gets the exposure it deserves after watching the AFLW, cricket, netball and women's soccer enjoy a popularity boom off the back of bigger audiences.

The WNBL is celebrating its 40th season this year and has been Australia's most stable women's sporting competition. But television coverage has diminished in the past 10 years, opening the door for other sports to expand.

It's understood the WNBL is still working with SBS to broadcast games this season, which is expected to be similar to the deal from the Capitals' title-winning run for the 2018-19 championship.

"One of the challenges is still the chicken or the egg thing. Let's take broadcasting [for example] of women's sporting leagues," Graf said.

"But we've seen the seismic shift that happens when someone takes that on, like in the AFL, where they've said, 'we're going to back this thing, make it happen and invest in broadcast this game'.

"Spending money to make it happen, market it and put it in the media. We've seen what happens and the statement is right there.

"When it's invested in, it reaps the returns. Women's sport is in the spotlight at the moment and is riding a wave.

"But what we're seeing is when female athletes and coaches are seen on all forms of media represented as true athletes, not a good body in a bikini, we're seeing the impact that has. Being able to see women doing elite things. We've seen [free-to-air] with the AFL and the Big Bash ... to have more people having access to elite women's basketball would have a massive impact."

Graf will be part of a panel to discuss coverage of women's sport in the media when she joins Capitals star Kelsey Griffin, Virginia Haussegger and The Canberra Times at a University of Canberra event on Thursday night.

Griffin starred in her first season in Canberra last year, winning the club, grand final and league most valuable player awards.

"I give a lot of WNBL clubs a lot of credit. When we didn't have media coverage of a broadcast deal, we resourced our own way and found streaming services to get it out there," Griffin said.

"That way we could show we were a national brand. Now that Fox Sports is on board, it's great. But we're also competing with AFLW."

Graf now oversees the University of Canberra sports programs, which includes the Capitals. The club is hopeful of attracting a near sell-out crowd to its round-one game next month to build momentum for the season.

WNBL 2019-20 FIXTURE

Round one - October 13: Canberra Capitals v Adelaide Lightning at AIS Arena, 5pm.

Round two - October 20: Canberra Capitals v Townsville Fire at Convention Centre, 2pm.

Round three - October 25: Melbourne Boomers v Canberra Capitals at Geelong Arena, 7.30pm.

Round three - October 27: Sydney Flames v Canberra Capitals at Sydney Uni Sports Centre, 2pm.

Round four - November 2: Canberra Capitals v Sydney Flames at AIS Arena, 5pm.

Round five - November 7: Southside Flyers v Canberra Capitals at Dandenong Basketball Stadium, 7.30pm.

Round five - November 9: Melbourne Boomers v Canberra Capitals at State Basketball Centre, 5pm.

Round six - November 24: Canberra Capitals v Perth Lynx at National Convention Centre, 5pm.

Round seven - November 30: Canberra Capitals v Townsville Fire at National Convention Centre, 5pm.

Round eight - December 6: Bendigo Spirit v Canberra Capitals at Bendigo Stadium, 7pm.

Round nine - December 15: Canberra Capitals v Southside Flyers at National Convention Centre, 5pm.

Round 10 - December 21: Canberra Capitals v Bendigo Spirit at National Convention Centre, 5pm.

Round 11 - December 27: Adelaide Lightning v Canberra Capitals at Adelaide Arena, 7.30pm.

Round 11 - December 29: Perth Lynx v Canberra Capitals at Bendat Basketball Centre, 4pm.

Round 12 - January 3: Bendigo Spirit v Canberra Capitals at Bendigo Stadium, 7pm.

Round 12 - January 5: Canberra Capitals v Perth Lynx at AIS Arena, 2pm.

Round 13 - January 10: Townsville Fire v Canberra Capitals at Townsville Stadium, 8pm.

Round 14 - January 17: Canberra Capitals v Melbourne Boomers at National Convention Centre, 7pm.

Round 14 - January 19: Southside Flyers v Canberra Capitals at Dandenong Basketball Stadium, 5pm.

Round 15 - January 26: Canberra Capitals v Sydney Flames at National Convention Centre, 5pm.

Round 16 - February 1: Canberra Capitals v Adelaide Lightning at National Convention Centre, 5pm.

Semi-finals: February 15-27

Grand final: March 1, 5 and 8

This story Can a 'seismic shift' boost the WNBL? first appeared on The Canberra Times.