The Womens National Basketball League (WNBL) will return to free-to-air television in Australia this year, with public broadcaster SBS announcing it will show selected regular season games on Saturday afternoons.
The news builds on the sport’s return to television last year with Fox Sports broadcasting games after a period when it had completely disappeared from the air following the 2014/15 season.
SBS will show nine regular season games and also stream these fixtures through its SBS On Demand platform.
The JCU Townsville Fire will return to free-to-air television next month after @FOXSportsAUS reached an agreement to simulcast the up-coming Chemist Warehouse @WNBL season! Check out full details —> https://t.co/dxUPXiDNGS #FireUpTownsville #WNBL19 pic.twitter.com/JA8ZcCaTje
— JCU Townsville Fire (@TownsvilleFire) September 10, 2018
Maddie Garrick on the league’s return to television
Sweet-shooting Melbourne Boomers guard Maddie Garrick told The CEO Magazine the broadcast deal is “absolutely fantastic”.
“To continue raising the profile of the game and have that exposure to all ages, it will really continue the movement,” she said.
Growing up in country Victoria, Garrick was only able to attend a single game in person when one fixture was played in nearby Shepparton. For her and many other players outside the cities, however, television coverage of the WNBL was no less than vital.
— Melbourne Boomers (@MelbourneBoomer) April 1, 2018
“It gave me something to look forward to as a young kid growing up, and it gave me role models and a dream to play in the league. To see it on tv always inspired me to keep going.
“The exposure and the opportunity to be role models and build the profile of women in sport that we get from tv is fantastic. The WNBL is the longest-serving elite women’s sport in Australia, so to be able to broadcast it to everyone is just awesome.”
— Sally Phillips (@SalLPhillips) September 11, 2018
“A truly great day for Australian Women’s Basketball”
On Twitter, two-time Olympian Jenni Screen said the game was back “where we belong”.
Head of the WNBL, Sally Phillips, said the announcement was “a truly great day for Australian Women’s basketball”.
“This is a strong and meaningful broadcast partnership and I am thrilled that basketball fans around Australia will now have greater opportunities to watch our world-class athletes hit the court each week,” she said. “It’s a game-changing deal.”
Ken Shipp, SBS Director of Sport, noted it will be the first time the acclaimed broadcaster has carried WNBL coverage.
He said the move “continues SBS’s commitment to making the best of domestic sport accessible to all Australians, as well as raising the profile of women’s elite sport.
“Basketball’s popularity continues to rise in Australia, it has an amazing ability to bring together diverse communities through the game.”
In an landmark moment for the @ChemistWhouse WNBL, @FOXSportsAUS has formed a partnership with @SBS that will see the league return to free-to-air television.
FULL STORY: https://t.co/FMmQKiPN2c#WNBL19 #ChemistWarehouse pic.twitter.com/Ggcv6dNEbh
— WNBL (@WNBL) September 10, 2018
A growing profile for women’s sport in Australia
The popularity of women’s sports in Australia seems to be on the rise with the women’s version of the blockbuster State of Origin rugby league clash drawing more than one million viewers and rave reviews earlier this year.
Ratings for the most recent season of the Women’s Big Bash League were also up a healthy 24% from the previous year.
“There’s so much momentum happening around women in sport and especially basketball,” Garrick says.
The WNBL is one of the strongest women’s basketball leagues in the world and one of the longest-running; the competition is entering its 38th year. Defending champions Townsville Fire are likely to start the season as favourites after bringing back most of last year’s roster, including six-time MVP Suzy Batkovic, though Garrick says there is a depth of talent across the league’s eight teams.
“I feel like it’s only building each year and the greater exposure is only going to attract more interest and attention around the world.
“From what I’ve seen of the signings and the word around the league, it’s definitely going to be a strong competition.”
The season begins with the University of Sydney Flames hosting the University of Canberra Capitals on 12 October.
Header image: Ryan Wick