In a thrilling overtime victory against cross-town rival Melbourne Boomers, Southside Flyers star and Australian Opals captain Jenna O'Hea suffered a wrist injury that will sideline her for up to 12 weeks.
The news is not only a blow for the ladder-leading Southside Flyers on the eve of the WNBL playoffs, but also the Australian Opals and their Olympic qualification campaign, with O'Hea the captain of both teams.
O'Hea will not only miss the rest of the WNBL season, but Australia's FIBA Olympic Qualifiers in Bourges, France from 6-9 February.
According to the Basketball Australia release, Opals Doctor, Greg Macleod, is expecting O’Hea to be sidelined for 10 – 12 weeks, being back to full competitive play by the 12-week mark, allowing O'Hea to fully recover and be available for selection for the Tokyo Olympics should the Opals qualify as expected.
“Not going to the Olympic Qualifying tournament is disappointing and of course missing the remainder of the season for Southside Flyers,” said O’Hea in the release.
“But my Opals teammates know that I will be watching and cheering them on, we are focused on Tokyo but there are games to win in France as a first step.”
Opals Head Coach Sandy Brondello appreciated that O'Hea was a big loss for the Opals.
“We will definitely miss her talent and leadership however, it offers all her Opal teammates a chance to step up and collectively absorb what her presence would normally deliver,” added Brondello.
Brondello has added O'Hea's WNBL team mate Sara Blicavs to the team of 12, with the the Southside Flyers star having previously represented her country at the 2015 FIBA Oceania Championships where they received gold, while also having been a part of the greater squad.
While O'Hea's loss is a blow for the Opals, Brondello's squad would still be favoured to qualify for the Olympics, however the Southside Flyer's WNBL championship aspirations have been dealt a massive blow.
O'Hea has been providing 14.1 points,4.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game while shooting the three-ball at a blistering 47.1%. With the Southside Flyers bench providing just 2.9 points per game. While O'Hea's absence will provide an opportunity for someone else, like Aimee Clydesdale, Anneli Maley or Kiera Rowe to step up, head coach Cheryl Chambers is going to have to weave some magic.
Opals Team for Olympic Qualifying Tournament
Rebecca ALLEN | Arka Gdynia (Poland) / New York Liberty (WNBA)
Elizabeth CAMBAGE | Shanxi Xing Rui Flame (WCBA) / Las Vegas Aces (WNBA)
Katie-Rae EBZERY | Perth Lynx
Cayla GEORGE | Deakin Melbourne Boomers
Ezi MAGBEGOR | Deakin Melbourne Boomers
Leilani MITCHELL | Jayco Southside Flyers
Lauren NICHOLSON | Adelaide Lightning
Sara BLICAVS | Jayco Southside Flyers
Nicole SEEKAMP | Adelaide Lightning
Alanna SMITH | Incheon Shinhan Bank S-Birds (WKBA) / Phoenix Mercury (WNBA)
Stephanie TALBOT | Adelaide Lightning / Minnesota Lynx (WNBA)
Marianna TOLO | University of Canberra Capitals
If you want to catch the games, FIBA will be live streaming the action on their YouTube channel on the following dates (AEDT):
7 February | 4:00am vs France
9 February | 5:30am vs Puerto Rico
10 February | 12:00am vs Brazil