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Rio preparations ramp up in Europe

24 May 2016

BASKETBALL: The Australian women's basketball team will head out for a tour of Europe on Thursday with eight games to be played in a fortnight as they continue to prepare for August.

The European tour follows a three-game visit to Japan earlier this month where the Opals swept their opposition in a clinical performance.

“The Japan tour continued to help develop the cohesion of the team,” said head coach Brendan Joyce.

“We didn’t have a full team but the more that we are able to play together, the better we are going to be.

“Japan are a quick team which enabled us to build on our condition and fitness levels and we showed we are up to it with the results.”

There are two changes in the side from the 12-player squad that visited Japan with Laura Hodges arriving following a season with Bourges Basket in France while Marianna Tolo makes her return from an ACL injury.

“Laura is back and will play these games in Europe while Marianna is looking great. She slightly hurt her foot a week or so ago but she will be right for the tour.”

Tess Madgen will also be right after missing all three games in Japan due to an ankle injury while Sara Blicavs will continue to be invited to camps once the side returns.

Australia’s European schedule will see them land in Spain on Friday before facing Argentina and Spain on May 29 and May 30 respectively.

The team will then head to Italy where they will face Cameroon, Belgium and Italy from June 2-4 in a tough three night stretch.

From there, a stopover in France will see Australia play another trio of games in three nights, against China (June 7), Canada (June 8) and France (June 9) to culminate the tour.

“The number one thing for me on this tour is scouting,” said Joyce.

“We won’t have our full team but the teams we are playing are high quality and will be at full strength. For example, nobody from Spain or France has gone to the WNBA and alongside China, they are all looking to qualify.

“We still have to select a team as well so these games will come into play in assisting us in our decision making.”

Australia's tough schedule for the fortnight does not faze Joyce as he is looking to recreate an atmosphere that the team will face in August.

“We are following the same plan as the World Championships but we are in a better position as we are heading to Europe earlier than we did in 2014.

“It gives us a chance to see which players can back-up. We know we are playing a back-to-back on the first two days in August so it’s important to select players who can withstand that tournament style of play.”

Following the tour of Europe, the Aussies will finish their preparation for August with a camp in Canberra in late June and fourth and final camp on the Gold Coast in early July.

Squad: Rebecca Allen, Suzy Batkovic, Natalie Burton, Elizabeth Cambage, Katie-Rae Ebzery, Cayla George, Laura Hodges, Rachel Jarry, Tessa Lavey, Tess Madgen, Leilani Mitchell, Stephanie Talbot, Marianna Tolo 

Injured/unavailable:

  • Abby Bishop – Seattle Storm –unavailable
  • Erin Phillips – Dallas Wings – unavailable
  • Penny Taylor – Phoenix Mercury – unavailable
  • Sara Blicavs – Dandenong Rangers – injured

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