Capitals milk their elite status
They are going to miss the finals for the second year running, and their marquee player hasn't played a minute, but the Canberra Capitals have cemented their place in the local sporting landscape well enough to sign a new sponsor.
Canberra Milk finalised a deal this week that will link it to the Capitals until the end of the 2013/14 season at least, although managing director Garry Sykes said that's likely to be extended.
The company, once the naming-rights sponsor of the Capitals, already supports the two major Canberra football teams and Sykes puts the Caps into the same category of "well established" sporting teams.
"I think it took a little while for the Canberra sporting industry to settle itself down with the [now defunct] Cannons and Cosmos and so forth," Sykes said. "I think the three major guys - Raiders, Brumbies and Capitals - have established themselves now and have got a good foothold here in Canberra, so we thought it was time to get on board and support them."
Sykes was unconcerned about claims from captain Jess Bibby that Basketball Australia was not doing enough to grow the women's league, saying it didn't affect the decision to sponsor the Capitals.
"It's not all about where the WNBL think they fit - the Capitals represent Canberra, so do we," he said, noting the company declined an approach by the GWS Giants AFL team. "One of the criteria, too, is 'what's Canberra?' GWS is not Canberra; Raiders, Brumbies, Capitals are."
The Caps have posted a poor record on the court this season, with key player Lauren Jackson injured and unable to play, but Capitals coach Carrie Graf said sponsorship is the key to future success.
"It's about continuing to grow our off-court program so we can grow our on-court program, and I mean elite sports sponsorship's a big part of that.
''I think it shows that we want to grow, we want to get bigger and better," she said.
The team has more injury concerns ahead of Friday's game against Townsville, although in-form centre Brigitte Ardossi is to return after a week off following a concussion.
"Alex Bunton's been in bed crook, Nicole Hunt didn't practise last night, her Achilles flared up on the weekend … and Val Ogoke rolled her ankle last night, so she'll be doubtful. So we're a little light on," Graf said.