Heal takes legal action as Flames confirm bullying investigation

Women’s National Basketball League club Sydney Flames has broken its silence on an investigation into their coach, Australian basketball great Shane Heal, over allegations of bullying.

Heal has not been courtside since he was a late omission from the Flames’ January 18 clash with Southside Flyers. Heal’s daughter Shyla was also a late withdrawal that night, and has since departed the Flames to join the Townsville Fire.

Shane Heal, pictured with daughter Shyla. The Flames launched an investigation into the coach.

The Flames launched an investigation into Heal, although the club and Heal – an Australian Boomers and National Basketball League great – had not commented until Tuesday, when the club released a statement.

Heal has sued the Flames, filing Federal Court proceedings last week. The Federal Court denied The Age and Sydney Morning Herald access to any affidavits.

“In early January 2023 multiple Sydney Flames players separately approached club officials with allegations of bullying by the head coach of the Sydney Flames, Shane Heal,” the Flames said.

Shane Heal and his famous run-in with Charles Barkley leading into the 1996 Olympics.

“After consideration of the allegations and the risk to the health and safety of players and the club’s obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act (2011), as well as the obligations we have under the Basketball Australia Member Protection Policy, it was determined by the Sydney Flames to carry out an independent, factual investigation of the allegations made and that Shane Heal be suspended whilst the investigation took place.

“Several players subsequently approached the Australian Basketball Players Association (ABPA) who have provided counselling and support to the players concerned, for which the club remains grateful.

“The club has remained resolute in allowing due process to be followed including limiting public comment to avoid any repercussions for the individuals involved. It will continue to adopt that approach.

“The Sydney Flames [have] since been provided with the factual findings of the investigation.

“What sits at the heart of this matter is player safety and welfare. That is our sole concern at this time, and we will always maintain focus on that. The Sydney Flames … will defend Mr Heal’s court proceedings vigorously and to its full extent.

“The Sydney Flames has issued this media release in circumstances where a number of media organisations have now obtained access to court documents filed on behalf of Mr Heal in his proceedings or have asked Sydney Flames to comment on those proceedings. No further comment will be made by the Sydney Flames at this time.”

Heal was contacted for comment. His manager David Wolf said a statement would be released on Tuesday afternoon. While Heal has not commented on the specific investigation, the former star guard has said daughter Shyla’s move was not related to his case.

Mediation between the Flames and Heal was due last Thursday, while a list of orders from the Federal Court says the case is headed back to court on Wednesday.

The court had also ordered: “Subject to the usual undertaking being given by the applicant’s counsel on behalf of the applicant, pursuant to s 545 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), the first respondent be restrained whether through its employees, agents or delegates from terminating the applicant’s employment with the first respondent before 5:00pm on 15 February 2023.”

Former Opal Shelley Gorman has been coaching the Flames on an interim basis.

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