Supercoach Graf's call to arms for women's sport

NEWS - Carrie Graf will not be re-applying for the role of Opals coach, but will become the UC's first coach in residence, Bruce, Canberra.                                                                                                                                                                        14th  February  2013.                                                                                                                                                                   Photo by, Colleen Petch of The Canberra Times.
NEWS - Carrie Graf will not be re-applying for the role of Opals coach, but will become the UC's first coach in residence, Bruce, Canberra. 14th February 2013. Photo by, Colleen Petch of The Canberra Times.

The most successful coach in WNBL history says female athletes and administrators must "keep dreaming big" to capitalise on a women's sport boom.

Legendary Canberra Capitals mentor Carrie Graf will be inducted into the Basketball Australia hall of fame on Friday as a fitting recognition for a brilliant coaching career.

The former Australian Opals leader says she still has a desire to make a coaching comeback, but insists she won't be rushed into a return as she focuses on family life with her three children.

Graf was a pioneer for female athletes and women's sport when she was in charge of the Capitals, setting lofty professional targets and the architect of a historic $1 million deal for Lauren Jackson.

The WNBL is back on television this season after a two-year hiatus while the Australian Matildas, women's AFL and women's Big Bash are enjoying unprecedented success.

But Graf believes it's just the start, urging officials to make sure they don't settle for temporary success.

"Organisations have wised up - there is an appetite for women's sport," Graf said.

"Someone had to have the courage to put it on the television and they will watch. I think people see now little girls do have an opportunity to have professional athletes or administrators and there is a pathway.

Carrie Graf.

Carrie Graf. Photo: Stuart Walmsley

"In basketball we were ahead of it for a long time. But now you can do it in a variety of team sports, and I think it still has a way to go.

"Women's sport is riding a nice wave at the moment, but I'd hate to think that wave is going to crash and burn quickly. As much as good things are happening, we still don't have anything close to equal pay [with men].

"Those things will come. But the hard work has to be done to make it truly professional while this is on everyone's lips."

Graf will be one of six former players, coaches and administrators inducted into the hall of fame as Basketball Australia revives its awards functions.

Former Capitals captain, and one of Graf's closest friends, Lucille Bailie will also be inducted alongside Kristi Harrower, Karen Blicavs, Troy Sachs and Ken Madsen.

"To reflect on a career I've had so far and be nominated to be a part of the hall of fame is pretty special," a humble Graf said.

"[Bailie] is one of my best mates. She's a lifelong friend and when I saw her name there as well, that was cool. To be in the same class as her is amazing."

Graf is a seven-time WNBL championship-winning coach and has won more games than any other coach in the league's history.

She left the Capitals two years after after almost 20 years at the club to spend more time with her young family.

The Capitals are trying to lure Graf back into the club's inner sanctum as they prepare to start their season on Friday night.

Graf is keen to help out where needed, but she says she won't make a full-time coaching comeback until the timing is right.

"For me it's about timing. I'd love to coach again ... you realise you miss it when you do something different," Graf said.

"Once the kids are older and at school, if there's an opportunity or something that fits for family ... I'm certainly not lost to the game.

"I miss the team element. But I don't miss being away when I could be playing with four-year-olds and a baby. I was very fortunate and I'd look at engaging again when the timing is right family wise."

This story Supercoach Graf's call to arms for women's sport first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.