When Basketball ACT president Allan Yates looks at the Canberra Capitals, he sees role models inspiring the next generation of women's basketball prospects.
Now he wants the Illawarra Hawks to be that benchmark for rising men's players in the region, adamant the investment in a deal with the NBL club would be worthwhile.
The Illawarra Hawks' push to pack the Palace brought 3344 through the AIS Arena doors for the NBL's return to Canberra in stifling conditions on Saturday.
It means 5556 hearty souls braved the stifling heat which has plagued the arena since the days of the Canberra Cannons across two bumper days of basketball in the capital.
The turnout was enough to convince NBL chief executive Jeremy Loeliger the league has a future in Canberra - welcome news for Basketball ACT as they begin the hunt for a new chief executive over the next week.
"There has always been a strong basketball community within in Canberra, from the inception of the Cannons onwards," Yates said.
"They’ve been looking for games to come and see, and it was great to see them support both games on both days. We’re keen to develop that relationship with Illawarra.
"Certainly having [Hawks coach and Canberra export Rob Beveridge] there helps, but we’ve had several illawarra players playing with the SEABL team over the past few years. We’re keen to develop that and give some of our younger players an opportunity.
"You can see just by the number of kids out there [at Capitals games], they are certainly great role models for the whole community. People are coming out and supporting them at the bigger venue, it was great."
Hawks rookie Daniel Grida says the Canberra crowd matched the decibel level of the parochial Wollongong crowd they usually draw at the Wollongong Entertainment Centre.
It's a rousing endorsement and backs up Capitals superstar Kia Nurse's claim that Canberra fans make for the best sixth-man in the WNBL.
"What you’re really fortunate to have in a place like this is the crowd is almost on top of you," Nurse said.
"They are cheering whether you’re doing really well or really bad, and that’s the best part of the Caps fans. They’ve come out and shown support every single game no matter who we were playing, no matter what the score was.
"They’ve come with the same energy and the same passion, and it makes a difference. There really is a sixth-man atmosphere."
More than 14000 fans flooded through the turnstiles for Canberra's 11 home games throughout the WNBL regular season and playoff campaign to give the franchise the WNBL's third-highest average attendance.
The Capitals have more than doubled their figures from last season's ill-fated campaign thanks largely to a dominant run on their home court - and it's not all down to their remarkable recruitment drive.
"We feed off the energy of the people," Capitals coach Paul Goriss said.
"That’s why we’ve got such a great home record, it’s not only that we’ve got such great players, it’s about our home fans coming out to support us and make noise and make it a hostile environment."
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