It has been a long nine years since the UC Capitals last won a WNBL championship and for a proud club that was used to winning championship after championship, the fall from grace was hard to take.
The Capitals’ rebuild this season has been nothing short of spectacular, losing only five games on their way to the minor premiership. With only one player in the current squad having tasted championship success as a Capital, coach Paul Goriss has been giving history lessons since day one of pre-season, sharing with his new playing group what it means to play for the Capitals and for Canberra.
A year after being rooted to the bottom of the ladder, the Capitals are now two wins away from claiming a record eighth WNBL championship and the nation’s capital is abuzz with excitement- none more so than former Capitals skipper Jess Bibby.
When Bibby signed with the Capitals from the Dandenong Rangers in 2006, she was aware of the rich 35-year history of the WNBL’s most successful side and was instilled with a passion to make the club proud. According to Bibby, that same desire to play for the UC Capitals is evident in the current playing group.
“The rich history of the Caps is worth playing for and you have to honour the club’s past. People tend to forget the history of who you are playing for and who came before you and it’s good to see it’s not lost on the current playing group,” she shared.
“It is the culture that has been built over the years that makes the Capitals who they are.
“Legacy, history and heritage are really important when it comes to building a successful team. When you honour those legacies and the people that came before you, you understand how important this club is and who you are representing and you just want to play for the club and not yourself.
“At the end of the day, you are playing for Canberra.”
Bibby said every winning team she has been a part of has had common factors – selflessness, sacrifice, hard work, and no egos, which the Caps have in abundance.
“You can clearly see that this is the recipe that has got the Caps where they are now,” she said. “It’s a team that is all about sacrifice and a team who genuinely care about each other.
“Every championship team I have played on has been about building a core group of players that you can rely on. History will tell us you will never win a championship just relying on one or two players and the Caps have not had to do that this year.
“Kelsey Griffin will most likely go on and claim the WNBL MVP this year but if it was just Kelsey Griffin and nobody else, she would have great numbers but the team wouldn’t be winning.”
It may have been nearly a decade since Canberra ruled the WNBL world but for the league’s record holder, the glory days feel like it was mere days ago. Bibby had a 20-year WNBL career, spending 10 years in the playoffs, playing in six grand finals and winning five championships, but she can still recollect the Capitals’ last championship.
“We weren’t favourites for the grand final because we had struggled towards the backend of the season and were coming up against a strong Bulleen side,” she said. “I remember in the last quarter, a massive storm broke out in Melbourne and it was raining so loud that you couldn’t hear yourself think in the stadium because the rain was so heavy.
“It came down to clutch performances from Nat Hurst, Marianna Tolo and Lauren Jackson who got us over the line in a five-point thriller. It just shows you that team performances win championships.”
2018/19 WNBL Grand Final Game 1
University of Canberra Capitals vs Adelaide Lightning
Saturday, February 9 at 5:30 pm
Live on FOX SPORTS Australia channel 503.