Basketball Australia has trimmed the Jayco Australian Opals squad down to 24 players ahead of their first training camp for the Rio Olympics.
The training camp will be held from 29 March to 3 April at Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence, and will provide the first opportunity for all of the Opals to unite since the 2014 World Championships. The squad features our best talent from overseas and at home in the WNBL.
Coach Brendan Joyce has made it known that there are positions up for grabs for those determined enough, with chemistry and cohesion being the major factors in determining who makes the final team.
“We believe these players that will attend the first camp have a legitimate opportunity to make it onto the final Jayco Opals team, including the players that are still injured or unavailable,” said Joyce.
Featuring 6 players that will have to sit out of the camp due to injury or unavailability, Laura Hodges is the only player not attending as she is still competing in France. Kelsey Griffin, Lauren Mansfield, Elyse Penaluna, Marianna Tolo and most notably, Lauren Jackson are all overcoming injuries and will not be able to participate in the first camp.
The first of the difficult decisions was announced today, and regrettably Belinda Snell, Kelly Wilson and Maddie Garrick were the first omissions.
Belinda Snell has competed in the past 3 Olympic Games and has been a noteworthy champion for Australian Basketball. Snell will be invited back to one of the camps later in the year to celebrate her achievements and commitment to the Jayco Opals.
Included in the squad are two naturalised players in Leilani Mitchell and Kelsey Griffin, with only one will be allowed to compete in Rio. Both providing dynamic capabilities in completely different positions; this will be a tough decision down the track for the coaching staff.
The squad similarly reflects the same one that won bronze at the 2014 World Championships, however the predicted starters in Liz Cambage and Lauren Jackson did not feature in that tournament due to injury. Adding these two twin towers into the lineup will be important in improving on that same form we saw at the World Championships.
Joyce’s game plan at the World Championships revealed a new fast-moving and dynamic Opals team with a strong, solid defense. Proving these abilities will be most important to selection, and ultimately, to winning.
The Opals have a reputation for their strong culture and chemistry as a team, and with a particularly interesting off season for the group it will be enforced right from the top.
“We are working hard on developing the team chemistry to maintain that special feeling we had at the World Championships. It was a very important ingredient in our success in Turkey and I believe it will be an integral part in us getting on the podium at Rio as new players can come in to the team and simply join the comradery that has already been established,” Joyce shared.
It will be a gruelling few months ahead for the squad, but there is no doubt that the sights are set on gold for Rio and that, if anything, is the biggest driving factor.
Jayco Opals Camp Squad
Rebecca ALLEN | SEQ Stars
Suzy BATKOVIC | Townsville Fire
Sara BLICAVS | Dandenong Rangers
Abby BISHOP | University of Canberra Capitals
Natalie BURTON | Perth Lynx
Elizabeth CAMBAGE | Shanghai
Stephanie CUMMING | Dandenong Rangers
Katie Rae EBZERY | Sydney Flames
Cayla GEORGE | Townsville Fire
Rachel JARRY | SEQ Stars
Alice KUNEK | Melbourne Boomers
Tessa LAVEY | Perth Lynx
Tess MADGEN | Melbourne Boomers
Carley MIJOVIC | Perth Lynx
Leilani Mitchell | Adelaide Lightning
Erin PHILLIPS | LA Sparks
Stephanie TALBOT | University of Canberra Capitals
Penny TAYLOR | Pheonix Mercury
Kelsey GRIFFIN | Bendigo Spirit
Laura HODGES | Bourges (France)
Lauren JACKSON | University of Canberra Capitals
Lauren MANSFIELD | SEQ Stars
Elyse PENALUNA | Melbourne Boomers