A city is only as strong as those who forge ahead for its best interests despite the many obstacles in the way of progress. Fortunately for Townsville there are many big-picture thinkers we’re proud to call our own. In this series we celebrate some of the doers who’ve helped put Townsville and the North on the map.
Quiet achiever Mark Bragg helped bring the North to national attention by establishing the Townsville Suns.
NOT ONE TO BRAGG
Born in Townsville General Hospital on March 14, 1956, to “the best parents anyone could possibly hope for”, Mark Bragg spent the first six years of his life at Ahearne Street in Hermit Park.
“On my 6th birthday we moved to 11 Sargeant Street in Gulliver, which was the family home for almost 40 years,” Mark says. “Sport had a huge impact on myself, my brother Tave and my mates growing up. We just played sport anytime we could. Mornings, afternoons and all weekend. Cricket, basketball, tennis, golf, anything… we loved it.”
Mark also spent a lot of his time on Magnetic Island as his grandparents, uncle and cousins lived at Nelly Bay. “Every holiday we were on the island for most of my childhood so that island lifestyle has stuck with me,” Mark says. “Interestingly my wife Karen also grew up on Magnetic Island although we never met as kids.” Karen and Mark met in Townsville when she was 16 and he was 18 and have been together ever since. “More than any other person or event, Karen has shaped my life,” Mark says. “We’ve been together for 40 years and have two children – Marques (33) and Chanel (25). We’re a very happy, close family and it’s a privilege I cherish daily. I owe everything to Karen and honestly can’t express how grateful I am to her.”
As for Mark’s professional life, sport and the move to coaching were the defining influences and where Mark would go on to have a major impact on Townsville’s development. “I’ve coached pretty much my entire life – 20 years with basketball and 20 years with business through my company Bragg Australia Pty Ltd,” Mark says. “I’ve been very fortunate to have worked in 23 countries across multiple industries and businesses. I just enjoy the opportunity to help people improve.”
“There was no NBL and the best competition in Australia was in Melbourne. I was 17 when I left home to try and play for Australia.”
It was back in the late 1980s that Mark, a former Brisbane Bullets guard, began campaigning to bring a National Basketball League franchise to Townsville. The franchise adopted the name of Townsville’s State League team, eventually becoming the Townsville Suns. The NBL was ready to admit the Suns, along with fellow Queenslanders the Gold Coast Cougars, in 1990, but financial backing for the Suns’ venue fell through. Local government then got behind Bragg’s bid and the Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre was completed in time for the Suns’ debut in February 1993.
With Mark at the helm as head coach, it only took the Suns five games to record their first NBL win, a victory over the Newcastle Falcons. It was a project designed so young Townsville players could grow up, learn the game and, if they were good enough, represent Townsville at a national level. “This was very close to my heart because when I grew up I had to move to Melbourne to play at the top level,” Mark says. “There was no NBL and the best competition in Australia was in Melbourne. I was 17 when I left home to try and play for Australia.” So initially the NBL was to provide a path for young Townsville basketball players to reach the elite level and not have to leave Townsville. Once it got started, though, it became obvious that this was more than just a basketball exercise. “This was a chance to put Townsville on the map nationally,” Mark says. “The Cowboys hadn’t started yet and were two years behind us so this was the first opportunity for Townsville to compete in sports on a national stage.”
Although Mark hasn’t been in Townsville since 2001, he keeps a close eye on our sporting achievements. “The wins by the Cowboys and the Fire mean Townsville is now recognised nationally more than ever,” Mark says. “I know it’s just sport but that’s a reflection of the community as a whole.” These days Mark and his family are based in Sydney, although Mark spends most of his time overseas in San Francisco, Dublin and Hong Kong working with young Australian entrepreneurs. “The company I spend most time with is called Nitro, an Aussie start-up and success story based in San Francisco. To be honest it doesn’t really feel like working at all,” Mark says. “We do miss Townsville, especially Magnetic Island, but we’re very grateful for the hand we’ve been dealt.”