The Road to Rio: Opals and Boomers to play New Zealand in Melbourne

The first leg of the FIBA Oceania qualification series against New Zealand for the Australian Opals and Boomers will be played in Melbourne on 15 August 2015 as announced by Basketball New Zealand.

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With the possibility of boasting as many of 6 of the current 7 NBA players plus a number of returning European stars, the Boomers could facilitate a sell-out crowd - as many as 15,000 fans - if the game is played at Rod Laver Arena as part of a likely double-header. The second leg of the tw0-game series for the Opals will be played on 17 August in Tauranga while the Tall Black and Boomers will play on 18 August in Wellington.

For Victorian NBA Andrew Bogut (Golden State), Dante Exum (Utah) and Matthew Dellavedova (Cleveland), it is a chance to play in their home state in front of family and friends, as is the case with European stars David Andersen (ASVEL Lyon Villeurbanne) and Ryan Broekhoff (Besiktas Integral Forex Istanbul). Rising star Ben Simmons who recently was named the best player in US High School basketball is also a possibility of making the final team of 12.

“New Zealand is legitimate competition for us — they’re a very good team” - Boomers head coach Andrej Lemanis.

New Zealand's Tall Blacks are expecting to field NBA star Steven Adams as their national team undergoes a transformation with a number of players have retired from international competition, with head coach Paul Henare handed a huge task ahead of him.

"This will be a great series between two very good teams," expressed Basketball New Zealand CEO Iain Potter. "The Australians will feel they have a point to prove after what was for them a disappointing World Championship last year and already many of their overseas and NBA stars are showing a strong willingness to be involved in this series, they are potentially the strongest Australian team we have ever seen play here."

When the second game of the series between the Opals and Tall Ferns heads to Tauranga, the final of the FIBA Oceania U17 Women's World Cup Qualifying Tournament will be played as a curtain raiser. The teams likely to feature in that game are the highly favoured Australian and New Zealand teams in what is likely to be a great advertisement for the game in New Zealand where netball is currently the most popular sport amongst women. The Opals are likely to be without a host of stars due to the series clashing with the WNBA season.

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With both the Boomers and Opals expected to field strong lineups including a host of stars making themselves available, the games in Melbourne present Basketball Australia with a massive opportunity to provide a positive profile boost to the sport locally in the wake of uncertainty surrounding the men's and women's national leagues.