Opals prepare for international campaign
10 April 2015
BASKETBALL: The Opals will convene in Gosford, north of Sydney later this month in preparation for a European Tour that will see the team play Serbia, Italy and World Championship silver medallists, Spain.
In Gosford April 27 to May 2, the camp is an important step in preparation for the FIBA Oceania Championships in August, where the Opals will face off against New Zealand’s Tall Ferns to earn the right to compete at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero, 2016.
Six members of the 2014 FIBA World Championship bronze medal-winning team feature in the squad of 18: Rebecca Allen, Nat Burton, Cayla Francis, Rachael Jarry, Tessa Lavey, and Belinda Snell. Meantime, London Olympic Games bronze medallists Suzy Batkovic and Kathleen McLeod return to squad.
Opals Head Coach Brendan Joyce said that the European Tour was key for the squad in the lead up to next year’s Olympic Games.
“It gives the Opals a great opportunity to play the teams we’ll play at the Olympic Games at full strength,” he said.
“That’s enormous for me as a coach, but also to get some of the younger player’s experience. We did a similar thing for our players in the lead up to the last World Championships. This is about the Opals maintaining consistent success.”
One of those players who will be keen to assert themselves, will be Maddie Garrick who joins a Opals camp for the very first time.
Garrick is a great example of the progression on offer for Australia’s basketballers, having played through junior representative levels with Victoria Country, the SEABL and WNBL. The camp is being made possible with the support of Gosford City Basketball Association.
On May 1, the squad will split with Opals Green facing off against Opals Gold at the Gosford City Basketball & Sports Stadium in Terrigal which will be open to the public.
Meantime, the Opals will do their bit for the game at the grassroots level by hosting junior clinics throughout the week.
Lauren Jackson and Liz Cambage continue their rehabilitation from injury with Joyce optimistic that pair will return in time for the matches against New Zealand, while pleased with the depth across the squad for Gosford.
“It’s created a healthy pressure within the playing group,” he said, with the Opals firmly focussed on the Olympic qualification process.
“There’s no Olympic Games unless we beat New Zealand. I don’t take anything for granted,” he admitted. “We are going to put the best team on the floor that we possibly can.
“We’re not getting ahead of ourselves; we still have to beat New Zealand.”
The Jayco Opals squad for 2015 Gosford Training Camp:
1. Rebecca Allen (Melbourne Boomers)
2. Suzy Batkovic (Townsville Fire)
3. Sara Blicvas (Bendigo Spirit)
4. Natalie Burton (Melbourne Boomers)
5. Aimee Clydesdale (Dandenong Rangers)
6. Katie Rae Ebzery (Sydney Flames)
7. Calya Francis (Townsville Fire)
8. Madeline Garrick (Bendigo Spirit)
9. Rachel Jarry (Melbourne Boomers)
10. Alice Kunek (Dandenong Rangers)
11. Tessa Lavey (Bendigo Spirit)
12. Tess Madgen (Melbourne Boomers)
13. Kathleen McLeod (Dandenong Rangers)
14. Elyse Penaluna (Bendigo Spirit)
15. Lauren Scherf (Dandenong Rangers)
16. Belinda Snell (Bendigo Spirit)
17. Stephanie Talbot (Canberra Capitals)
18. Kelly Wilson (Bendigo Spirit)