Brisbane earmarked for next WNBL expansion team

It may have been something of a poisoned chalice in recent years, but Basketball Australia is once again looking to give South East Queensland an opportunity to gain a foothold in the WNBL with the announcement of a tender process for a licence to operate a club based in Brisbane by the 2020/21 season.

Basketball Australia appears keen to push for the league to expand from eight to ten teams, with Brisbane earmarked as the highest priority for the next expansion team.

Three key dates have been outlined by Basketball Australia; with expressions of interest from any suitors to be submitted by September 21, providing just a two week window of opportunity. Invitations to submit more detailed bids will be announced on October 3, with these tenders to be submitted no later than November 23 and a successful application to be announced in due course.

While the health of grass roots basketball in south east Queensland has never waned, the region has never been able to successfully support and retain a professional men's or women's team in the past. Yet with the Brisbane Bullets returning to the NBL over recent years, and the quality of the state-level QBL on a steady incline, a potential Brisbane-based women's national league team is clearly a major focus of Basketball Australia.

The women’s sport market in the area is fast becoming saturated given the recent addition of Super W, AFLW and NRL Women’s clubs in Brisbane. They have joined existing W-League, netball, and Big Bash cricket sides,b withat a national level in danger of being left behind if a presence is not faciliated sooner rather than later. The addition of a team in Australia’s third-largest city also brings potentially significant commercial benefits. Those who follow the NBL intently will remember that Fox Sports’ TV deal for that competition was contingent on a team being present in Brisbane; it also surely helped them reach an agreement to return to free to air TV with the Nine Network in 2018/19. With the WNBL returning to television screens as part of a three year deal with Fox Sports Australia for the 2017/18 season, a team in Brisbane my well aid their cause for a return to free to air TV in much the same way as the NBL.

There have been two attempts in the last decade to bring the WNBL back to south east Queensland, with varying degrees of success, but both ultimately ending in disappointment. The introduction of the Logan Thunder in 2008 saw the WNBL return to the Brisbane area for the first time since the demise of the long-running Brisbane Blazers a decade prior after 16 years in the league. The Thunder reached the playoffs just once in their six seasons in the league, despite featuring players of the calibre of Kristen Veal, Renae Camino, Cayla George, Emma Randall, and several other WNBL veterans -- incuding current Opals head coach Sandy Brondello. The Thunder also produced two WNBL Rookies of the Year with Sarah Graham and Gretel Tippett, but the team folded following the 2013/14 season due to financial difficulties.

Following a season without a team in the region, the South East Queensland Stars entered the league for 2015/16, coached by Boomers legend Shane Heal. The Stars put together a star-studded roster led by Erin Phillips [who would not play due to injury], Rebecca Allen, and Rachel Jarry, but the team barely survived its opening season, with only a last-minute injection of funds provided on the proviso that Heal be removed as coach allowing the team to complete its sole season. They reached the preliminary final before being defeated by Townsville to conclude the team’s solitary WNBL campaign.

Both of those teams were based out of the Logan Metro Indoor Sports Centre, a facility 45 minutes’ drive out of the Brisbane city centre, and each bid’s choice of venue may prove to be a major factor in which applicant is successful. With that in mind, several venues closer to the Brisbane CBD may be in play, including Auchenflower Stadium and Chandler Arena, with Basketball Australia no doubt looking to make the team accessible to as many fans as possible and retain a captive audience not only for the team, but for the league in south east Queensland.

Key Dates

  • September 21 – Expressions of Interest due to Basketball Australia

  • October 3 – Invitations to submit bids sent

  • November 23 – Bids due to Basketball Australia

Previous South-East Queensland WNBL Clubs

  • Brisbane Blazers (1982-98)

  • Logan Thunder (2008-14)

  • South-East Queensland Stars (2015-16)

WNBL Tender Application