Canberra Capitals set their sights on going even bigger


First they must lock in off-contract head coach Paul Goriss, with all bar three of their star-studded roster entering free agency in the next fortnight.

Then they must figure out a way to keep the momentum rolling, to make sure the bulk of the 4817 fans that turned up for game three of the grand final series are there when the 2019-20 season tips off.


Capitals coach Paul Goriss still has the piece of paper upon which he wrote the team’s common goal during their first meeting.

The words «WNBL champions» were staring back at each player in the change rooms at every game. One week ago, Goriss finally returned to the rooms with the job done.

Matching it with the Capitals over a three-game series was going to be a tough task for any team in the league, such was the chemistry and talent of this Canberra outfit.

Keely Froling and Leilani Mitchell lapping up a tickertape parade.

Keely Froling and Leilani Mitchell lapping up a tickertape parade.Credit:Sitthixay Ditthavong

They will go down as one of the most talented teams in WNBL history, but anyone in the inner sanctum will tell you this was a championship built on a culture which no monetary figure could buy.

Goriss recruits players on character and ability — and the two don’t always go hand in hand. But he struck gold this season, with a little help from Lady Luck.


Kelsey Griffin took a gamble to join Canberra, Marianna Tolo mightn’t have been here if not for a major knee injury, and the Capitals struck gold with star import Kia Nurse, who they were once resigned to missing out on.

The contract was all but drawn up for another import but a meeting to iron out the finer details was cancelled. An hour later Nurse’s agent called and said the Canadian wants in.


The Capitals can explore the prospect of another return to the AIS Arena following the success of three home finals and two regular season games at the club’s spiritual home.

What they have in the AIS Arena and the National Convention Centre is a perfect storm — bigger games head to the Palace, and the rest in the heart of the city.

The atmosphere at both has proven to be electric when the Capitals are firing, with the club drawing more than 12000 through the gates for their 10 regular season home games — more than doubling their averages from last season.

The AIS Arena was packed in the decider.

The AIS Arena was packed in the decider.Credit:Dion Georgopoulos

Those numbers were dwarfed by the club’s returns in the finals series, with 2212 witnessing their home semi-final, 4120 turning out for game one of the grand final series, and 4817 watching Canberra clinch the title.



The standard of basketball is rapidly rising but something has to give or the WNBL risks seeing the standard of officiating fall well behind.

A «flabbergasting call» is followed by a blatant oversight and a controversial buzzer-beater to send the grand final series to a decider.

In the end it mattered little, as Canberra’s classy crop of stars outgunned Adelaide in game three to secure the championship in front of their home fans.

But it was another frustrating subplot to a season in which refereeing inconsistencies reared their ugly head.

Match officials were growing frustrated due to a lack of feedback, the Capitals were slapped with a $2500 fine for lashing out and league boss Sally Phillips said such criticism would not be tolerated.


The Capitals are champions again.

The Capitals are champions again.Credit:Dion Georgopoulos

Goriss says Canberra won a championship because they had Kelsey Griffin and no one else did. If that’s the case, the Capitals’ bid for back-to-back titles is looking rosy.

The league’s most valuable player is already locked in for the 2019-20 campaign, as are rising stars Keely Froling and Kristy Wallace.


Froling has emerged as a genuine player of the future in Canberra. She resembles a 22-year-old going on 27, such was the leap she took this season in playing a key role off the bench.

Wallace’s potential remains largely untapped after the promising guard tore her anterior cruciate ligament just two games after returning from an identical injury.

Veteran Kelly Wilson has expressed her desire to return in a move that could see her become the first person to shatter the 400-game barrier in league history, and the club has opened discussions with understudy Maddison Rocci about an extension.

Tolo is weighing up the prospect of going to Europe, while WNBA-bound Leilani Mitchell is considering what her next move would mean for her partner Mikaela Dombkins and their son Kash.

No team will suit up with the same group of players next year. But the Capitals at least have a successful blueprint.

Locked in: Kelsey Griffin (two year deal expires at end of 2019-20 season), Keely Froling (two year deal expires at end of 2019-20 season), Kristy Wallace (two year deal expires at end of 2019-2020 season)

Off-contract: Lauren Scherf, Leilani Mitchell, Maddison Rocci, Marianna Tolo, Kelly Wilson, Hannah Young, Kia Nurse, Kaili McLaren

Development players: Elizajane Loader, Abby Cubillo


Round 1 — Canberra Capitals 97 bt Sydney Flames 78 at Sydney Uni Sports Centre.

Round 2 — Canberra Capitals 72 bt Melbourne Boomers 65 at Geelong Arena.

Round 2 — Canberra Capitals 79 bt Adelaide Lightning 75 at National Convention Centre.

Round 3 — Melbourne Boomers 84 bt Canberra Capitals 78 at AIS Arena.

Round 4 — Canberra Capitals 84 bt Sydney Flames 79 at National Convention Centre.

Round 5 — Perth Lynx 71 bt Canberra Capitals 65 at Bendat Basketball Centre.

Round 6 — Canberra Capitals 77 bt Dandenong Rangers 65 at National Convention Centre.

Round 7 — Canberra Capitals 72 bt Melbourne Boomers 70 at National Convention Centre.

Round 8 — Perth Lynx 88 bt Canberra Capitals 84 at Bendat Basketball Centre.

Round 8 — Adelaide Lightning 91 bt Canberra Capitals 83 at Adelaide Arena.

Round 9 — Canberra Capitals 94 bt Bendigo Spirit 63 at National Convention Centre.

Round 10 — Adelaide Lightning 93 bt Canberra Capitals 73 at Adelaide Arena.

Round 10 — Canberra Capitals 92 bt Perth Lynx 60 at National Convention Centre.

Round 11 — Canberra Capitals 87 bt Dandenong Rangers 60 at National Convention Centre.

Round 11 — Canberra Capitals 81 bt Townsville Fire 55 at Townsville Arena.

Round 12 — Canberra Capitals 104 bt Townsville Fire 75 at National Convention Centre.

Round 12 — Canberra Capitals 86 bt Dandenong Rangers 43 at Dandenong Stadium.

Round 13 — Canberra Capitals 102 bt Bendigo Spirit 62 at AIS Arena.

Round 14 — Canberra Capitals 80 bt Townsville Fire 68 at Townsville Stadium.

Round 14 — Canberra Capitals 99 bt Sydney Flames 79 at Sydney Olympic Park.

Round 15 — Canberra Capitals bt Bendigo Spirit at Bendigo Stadium.

Semi-final 1 — Canberra Capitals 95 bt Perth Lynx 76 at AIS Arena.

Semi-final 2 — Canberra Capitals 91 bt Perth Lynx at Bendat Basketball Centre.

Grand final 1 — Canberra Capitals 88 bt Adelaide Lightning 67 at AIS Arena.

Grand final 2 — Adelaide Lightning 74 bt Canberra Capitals 73 at Adelaide Arena.

Grand final 3 — Canberra Capitals 93 bt Adelaide Lightning 73 at AIS Arena.

Caden Helmers is a sports reporter for The Canberra Times

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