University of Canberra director of Sport Carrie Graf sees that same mentality in male-dominated boardrooms. It overshadows everything good in sport, and there is plenty of good.
At a time when male-dominated codes stave off sex scandals and criminal charges, the Canberra Capitals’ demeanour on and off the court is a reminder of everything we love about sport.
The entire Capitals organisation – from the front office to the players and their fans – have been named the 2019 Canberra Citizens of the Year on International Women’s Day.
The groundswell of support as Canberra charged towards the finals was electric, with two venues in the AIS Arena and National Convention Centre providing a perfect storm when it comes to creating an atmosphere.
The club drew more than 12000 through the gates for their 10 regular season home games, 2212 watching a home semi-final and a combined 8937 witnessing their two grand final triumphs in Canberra.
Their on-court prowess certainly helped, but perhaps of equal importance is the brilliant fan engagement experience the players grant fans after games.
Win or lose, the players stay on court to sign autographs, hug inspired kids and pose for photos. The sight of Kelsey Griffin being mobbed by elated fans after the championship decider was something to behold.
“It is an honour for Capitals to receive this award in the city that has embraced us with open arms. Canberra has shown the nation that world-class athletes with grace and sportsmanship are valued and supported,” Capitals general manager Lucille Bailie said.
But for every stunning achievement, for every Canberra Citizen of the Year award won by the Capitals, fundamental challenges remain for women in sport.
Of the 63 sports funded by Sport Australia, only 15 have a female chief executive. More dour is the number of female coaches in elite sport. The dial is not shifting fast enough.
Sport Australia chief Kate Palmer says “we will not turn a blind eye to what is an unacceptable and systemic imbalance” having launched a talent program aimed at changing those numbers.
Graf is so adamant there is a gender bias that she might even give one of her six WNBL championship rings to anyone that can show her where the X or Y chromosome is in coaching.
Look at Bec Goddard. She pulled two groups of players together from South Australia and the Northern Territory to inspire the Adelaide Crows to the first AFLW premiership in 2016. She can’t get a full-time gig in football.
Goddard says “sporting industries need to stop following a parked car and keep hiring the same type of coach”. She is by no means calling for every male coach to be scrapped, just for equal opportunity.
Overlooked for football jobs, Goddard made a leap to the hardwood and linked up with the Capitals as an assistant in the WNBL. The club can’t speak highly enough of the impact she had on their championship run.
Selfishly, the Capitals want her to stay around next season – but deep down Canberra coach Paul Goriss wants to see Goddard coaching in the AFL.
The Capitals’ community engagement is something Cricket ACT are looking to replicate, with the ACT Meteors set to have a component in their WNCL contracts which will see them deliver coaching activities in schools and clubs.
Cricket ACT has announced a four-year female development plan to align with Cricket Australia’s strategy to be the leading sport for women and girls.
CA is itching to ensure those dreaming of playing a cover drive like Ellyse Perry, claiming a stumping like Alyssa Healy or taking wickets like Megan Schutt have an avenue to do so.
Officials are looking to bringing in more junior girls programs, dedicated female cricket coordinators on club committees, sessions dedicated to coaching women’s cricket, and add more senior teams.
It comes after the ACT government turned its back on the men’s tournament to invest in securing elite women’s teams – including defending champions Australia – for next year’s Twenty20 World Cup.
Women’s soccer teams are hitting the nail on the head. Canberra United remain one of the most dominant clubs in W-League history, while Sam Kerr has become a household name in Australian sport as the Matildas pack out stadiums.
Then of course there are burgeoning pathways for rugby through the ACT Brumbies and University of Canberra sevens program, as well as rugby league through the Canberra Raiders as they eye an eventual move into the NRLW.
It takes less than a second to get a shot off in basketball, why is it taking so long to ditch archaic mentalities? Sport needs depth and diversity to thrive.
Caden Helmers is a sports reporter for The Canberra Times