The Canberra Capitals entered the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) in 1986, having won the Australian Women’s Basketball Conference the previous year. The Capitals team had its origins in the ACT local basketball competitions as the ACT’s representative team in the then the Australian Women’s Basketball Championships.
The Capitals first thirteen years in the WNBL were inauspicious, making the playoffs just once, in 1992, between the 1986 and 1998/99 seasons.
However, with the injection of the now legendary coach Carrie Graf, the Capitals began their path towards becoming the most successful WNBL club of the 21st century. Since, the team has achieved iconic status within both the sporting and general communities in Canberra, acclaim Australia wide as a leading women’s sporting organisation and are now five-time WNBL Champions.
The Capitals claimed their first WNBL title in Graf’s inaugural year at the helm (1999/00), defeating Adelaide 67-50, finished runners-up in 2000/01, won their second title in 2001/2002 also under Graf before becoming became back-to-back champions the following year under the guidance of Tom Maher.
Graf returned in 2003/04 where the Capitals progressed to the semi-finals. Maher returned the following year where they missed the playoffs before Graf and her team went on to win the club’s fourth championship in seven years, defeating Dandenong 68-55 after surviving 83-81 in OT against Adelaide in the semi-finals in 2005/06.
The club became back-to-back premiers for the second time in 2006/07 when Graf lead a team not expected to reach the dizzying heights of years gone by to the clubs fifth championship success in the past eight years with Graf deservedly being named Coach of the Year. The team has also been awarded Keys to the City of Canberra in 2000, 2002 and 2007.
In the club’s 26 year WNBL existence, some of the Australian Opals best ever players have called Canberra home including Tully Bevilaqua, Jenny Cheesman, Sue Geh, Lucille Bailie (Hamilton), Fiona Robinson, Shelley Sandie, Jenny Whittle, Eleanor Sharp and global superstar Lauren Jackson.
In her six years with the Capitals, Jackson dominated the league and developed into the best female basketballer on the planet. After leading the AIS to the 1998/99 Championship, Jackson joined the Capitals in 1999/2000 season where she was named league MVP for the first of three times (1999/00, 2002/03, 2003/04) and won the first of four WNBL titles with club. She developed a huge fan group and brought much attention to female sport, in particular basketball and has enjoyed a simply outstanding international career for the Opals and is a two-time WNBA MVP. Lauren returns to the fold for the 2012-13 season coming off a successful Olympics campaign.
She is three-time ACT Sportstar of the Year and four-time ACT Female Sportstar of the Year while Graf has taken out the ACT Coach of the Year award three times while the team have been ACT Team of the Year four times.
The Canberra Capitals are currently owned and managed by ACT Basketball Inc, through Basketball Canberra, the core organisation overseeing all basketball programs within the ACT. Emerging from the structure of local basketball, the Capitals continue to maintain a strong and productive relationship with grass roots basketball in the Canberra region. Their representation and success on national and international level has allowed them the opportunity to establish a national profile with a local focus.
Commercially, the club has had phenomenal success, regularly bringing in the largest crowds in the league and has is looking forward to working with their new major sponsor - The Tradies.