Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews today formally announced that international basketball will return to Rod Laver Arena for the first time in 15 years on 15 August. The Australian Opals and Boomers are set to take on the New Zealand Tall Ferns and Tall Blacks as a double-header in the first leg of the 2015 FIBA Oceania Championships.
Doubling as the qualification event for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, the series against the trans-Tasman rivals is of paramount importance for basketball in Australia, especially given the widespread participation at grassroots level despite the struggles experienced by the NBL.
Credit: Damian Arsenis
Basketball Australia CEO Anthony Moore was excited about the series being held at the home of basketball in Australia.
"Basketball provides the opportunity to play at the Olympic games," stated Moore.
"We think that a big event such as the FIBA Oceania qualifiers and the opportunity to represent this country in Rio 2016 deserves a platform and stage that Rod Laver Arena provides. This is an opportunity for us to put our biggest stars on a big stage and the opportunity to represent Australia at the Olympic games is an enormous opportunity."
As a boon for local basketball fans, the Boomers will be bolstered by as many as 6 current NBA players, with Andrew Bogut (Golden State), Patty Mills (San Antonio), Aron Baynes (San Antonio), Matthew Dellavedova (Cleveland), Dante Exum (Utah) and Cameron Bairstow (Chicago) all indicating that they will be available to play. At no stage in Australian basketball history have the Boomers boasted as many NBA players, with only Joe Ingles (Utah) taking a well earned break in between seasons. When 2014 FIBA World Championship representatives that include the likes of Ryan Broekhoff (Besiktas, Turkey), Brad Newley (Gran Canaria, Spain), Chris Goulding (Zaragoza, Spain) and Nathan Jawai (Andorra, Spain) are also likely to be available, the Boomers may well be assembling the most talented group in their history.
As 2014 FIBA World Championship bronze medalists, the Opals are not short of talent either. Melbourne's Elizabeth Cambage is on track to make a return from injury, as is superstar Lauren Jackson, and together would prove to be a formidable front court set to cause New Zealand nightmares. While as many as 5 Opals that won bronze in 2014 are likely to be available for selection, with the series clashing with the 2015 WNBA season, a host of stars are expected to be unavailable for selection due to contractual obligations.
Opals coach Brendan Joyce was buoyed by the chance to return back to his home town of Melbourne to coach at Rod Laver Arena.
"This is a magnificent opportunity," shared Joyce.
"We are going to probably have 4 or 5 girls that played in the 2014 (FIBA) World Championships play in the Oceania series."
With a host of NBA stars expected to be at his disposal, Boomers coach Andrej did not understate the importance of the series against New Zealand and the chance for his team to play in front of their home fans.
"It is a wonderful opportunity for the Australian public to see our guys play live," outlined Lemanis.
"From a Boomers perspective, it is really pleasing on the commitment of the players to each other and to Australian basketball."
"Everyone has indicated they are playing, we have to get through a couple of months of basketball and hopefully nobody gets injured."
For the games being played on 15 August, the Opals will get things underway against the Tall Ferns at 6:00pm, followed by the Boomers against the Tall Blacks at 8:30pm. Tickets go on sale to the public via Ticketek at 12:00pm, 6 May local time, however an exclusive Basketball Australia family pre-sale commences from 9:00am on 4 May local time.
"To get the opportunity to see the likes of Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellavedova, Aron Baynes, Patty Mills, Lauren Jackson, Liz Cambage and Dante Exum, all in action on one night in the one place is as good as it gets," enthused Eddie McGuire who hosted the announcement as Director of the Victorian Major Events Company. "We have them right here, in our own backyard."
The Australian basketball community will need to get in quick to secure their tickets, as the 15,000 seat Rod Laver Arena is sure to sell out quickly.
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