Rose Gold Fairytale: Jackson's comeback soars with storybook ending and World Cup bronze
The Aussie GOAT ensured that Opals career would end on a high, earning MVP honours in a 30-point dismantling of Canada.
Credit: Michelle Couling Photography
After two semi-finals that could not have been more disparate, an Australian Opals side that had fallen in a heartbreaker against China, came up against a Canadian outfit fresh off an utter dismantling at the hands of the United States.
Today, those results would mean nothing. Nor would Australia’s thrilling win over Canada in the group stage. Both teams’ entire tournaments would come down to the next 40 minutes on the court. At the end, one would stand on the lower step of the podium, whilst the other would make a solemn exit from Sydney Superdome through the roller door behind the mixed zone. But first, the Opals had to pick themselves up from that loss to China.
Fortunately, when you’ve built a culture like the Opals have, you have a family to help you through. “I think everyone was just so great at supporting each other,” Marianna Tolo told The Pick and Roll following the game. “We got around each other; I was in tears; a few other people were really upset.
“But we knew that we had a job to do tomorrow. We were allowed to feel it for the night. And then our focus switched today to winning that bronze medal, because we didn't want to go away empty handed. We worked too hard. Everyone supported each other so well and got around each other and that's how we did it.”
The atmosphere in the early moments was certainly intriguing. Any crowd would have sounded muted compared to the competing Australian and Chinese factions on Friday night’s semi-final, but the fans in attendance were certainly on edge in the early minutes. However, that didn’t translate to the players. Aside from an Opals backcourt violation to open the game, neither team showed signs of early jitters. The ball found the bottom of the net at both ends with regularity despite best efforts from both defences, which also brought the crowd into the game as the decibel level steadily rose.
Of course, the largest cheer of the opening minutes came as Lauren Jackson entered the game, in her official final appearance for the Opals. It’s a storyline that was impossible not to follow. Having returned from eight years out of the national team setup, the stage was set for the Opals to send the Aussie GOAT out with a medal. But that wasn’t the team’s focus.
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