Canberra Capitals unveil Club’s first GM

The Canberra Capitals have announced the Club’s first ever General Manager, with Lachlan Searle unveiled in the position this week. 

The position is another step along the pathway to becoming Australia’s first elite women’s professional sporting Club, which Coach and Sports Wizard® Head of Basketball, Carrie Graf, has presented as her future vision for the Capitals.

Searle has spent the past five years in communications and marketing with Swimming Australia and also has experience with the ACT Brumbies and Wallabies.

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New Canberra Capitals general manager Lachlan Searle wants the club to ”captivate Canberra” on and off the court as it looks to boost its presence in a crowded sporting marketplace.

Searle will be unveiled as the WNBL club’s first general manager on Tuesday after five years in communications and marketing with Swimming Australia.

He has also had stints as media manager of the ACT Brumbies and the Wallabies, and plans to use that experience to help the Capitals take advantage of basketball’s publicity boom.

Having just returned from the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Searle was attracted most by the Capitals fledgling partnership with the University of Canberra, which he believes will take them to the next level.

Searle plans to touch base with the Brumbies to gauge what benefits they have garnered from a similar partnership.

“The relationship with the university gives the team some stability,” he said. “What can we do now to raise the bar and turn it into a more professional environment?

“In swimming, athletes are professional, but very few are paid accordingly. But the way they train and conduct themselves is purely professional. I see the Caps already at that point, it’s a matter of stretching it.”

Canberra basketball is in the midst of a boom following local product Patrick Mills’ NBA title run, the emergence of Dante Exum and Lauren Jackson’s return to the Capitals this season.

“There’d be tens of thousands of people in Canberra who know who the Capitals are, but have probably never been to a game,” Searle said.

“That’s fine, let’s engage with them and say why don’t you come along and have a look and get behind this team.

“I want the Caps to captivate Canberra, but we want to have some fun with it as well.

“The Boomers and Opals are always coming into town and we have to leverage into that.”

The war for bums on seats in Canberra sport during summer is getting more competitive, and includes baseball’s Cavalry and soccer’s Canberra United jostling for their piece of the pie.

Capitals crowds have dropped in recent years after the team has failed to make the play-offs the past three seasons.

The Raiders and Brumbies are also battling to attract crowds, and Searle is keen to boost the Capitals’ already strong community presence.

“In Canberra people are quite proud and parochial about their sporting team, but sometimes it takes a bit of nudging and pushing to get that out,” he said.

“For the Caps to do well on the court and off the court, winning’s part of it, but maximising this new partnership with the Uni is also important.

“It’s a challenge, but I don’t think it’s unachievable. Let’s have a crack and let’s have some fun trying to fill the stadium up.”

The University of Canberra took over the Capitals’ licence from Basketball ACT in May, and Searle will ensure a strong relationship exists between the organisations.

“I see that as a key relationship we have to maintain and improve on,” Searle said.

“We have to make the Caps relevant to those under 10s or under 12s running around. There’s 6000 BACT members, there’s a good core market.

”You’re in sport to win but the community side is just as important, getting kids involved and having fun and enjoying the game is crucial.”

Searle wants the Capitals to rely less on Jackson’s profile and stand on their own two feet.

The star Opals centre will play the next two seasons in Canberra on a big-money deal.

“We talk about creating that tribal culture of wanting to see the Caps play, promoting a team isn’t about one player,” Searle said. “She might break the ice because of the profile she has and introduce fans to the team, but it needs to be built beyond Lauren.”

This story first appeared in the Canberra Times titled ‘New Canberra Capitals boss Lachlan Searle has big plans for basketball in ACT‘, on 11 August, 2014.