Twenty four of Australia’s best female basketball players have been chosen as members of the 2012 Australian Opals basketball squad that will work towards selection for the 2012 London Olympic Games team.
Headlined by superstars Lauren Jackson and Penny Taylor, as well as veteran players Suzy Batkovic, Kristi Harrower and Belinda Snell, and rising stars Liz Cambage, Jenna O’Hea and Abby Bishop, the 2012 squad features a great mix of talent, athleticism, experience and youth.
Head coach Carrie Graf said that although there is a core group of star players who are likely to make up much of the London Olympic team, there are a number of spots available to members of the squad who can offer something unique to a team looking for success. It was this that aided selectors in bringing the talent pool down to the current group of 24.
“We can’t select 30 and we have to get down to the nitty gritty,” said Graf. “There are a core group of players who are going to clearly be in that Olympic team and then there are going to be a few spots open for players to battle it out and for us to see what is going to be the best fit for the team,” she said.
“There are some young athletes that weren’t selected that we feel are a part of the future, who have had very good WNBL seasons. But we’re getting to the pointy end of things now and it’s about the 2012 campaign and who can force their way into the group and who can help us in the process.”
The Jayco Opals London Olympic Games preparation schedule begins with a selection camp in March and then moves into the official pre-Olympic training camp which tips off in May at the AIS.
Coach Graf said that the March selection camp is a great opportunity for some of the emerging Jayco Opals players to show what they can do, while some of the more senior members of the group wrap up their European commitments.
“Six of the athletes are off-shore in Europe so they won’t be a part of that first selection camp, so it’s a really good opportunity for some of those other athletes to show their wares,” she said.
“Who are the specialists who are potentially going to fill one or two of three spots on that Olympic team? That’s what we’re looking for,” she said.
The Opals have claimed Silver at the last three Olympic Games as well as World Championship Gold in 2006. But after a fifth-place finish at the 2010 World Championship, the group is well aware of the strength of competition that awaits them in London, and the preparation that needs to take place if they are to achieve success at this year’s Olympic Games.
“Once we get the group together the focus will be about the team and what we are looking to do in our preparation in the lead up to the Olympics. But right now, it’s the first selection and once we get the group together we’ll address the group on what we’re looking to do and our preparation phase in our Olympic campaign,” said Graf.
2012 AUSTRALIAN OPALS SQUAD:
Name / Height / Position / D.O.B. / Current Club
- Suzy BATKOVIC / 192cm / Forward/Centre / 17 Dec, 1980 / Adelaide Lightning
- Abby BISHOP / 189 cm / Forward / 29 Nov, 1988 / Adelaide Lightning
- Elizabeth CAMBAGE / 203cm / Centre / 18 Aug, 1991 / Bulleen Boomers
- Rohanee COX / 182cm / Forward / 23 Apr, 1980 / West Coast Waves
- Rachael FLANAGAN / 170cm / Guard / 5 Apr, 1982 / Townsville Fire
- Cayla FRANCIS / 192cm / Forward/Centre / 1 May, 1989 / Logan Thunder
- Kristi HARROWER / 163cm / Guard / 4 Mar, 1975 / Bendigo Spirit
- Laura HODGES (nee Summerton) / 188cm / Forward / 13 Dec, 1983 / Bracco Geas Sesto, Italy
- Natalie HURST / 163cm / Guard / 8 Apr, 1983 / Aix-en Provence, France
- Lauren JACKSON / 195cm / Forward/Centre / 11 May, 1981 / Ros Casares, Spain
- Rachel JARRY / 185cm / Forward / 6 Dec, 1991 / Bulleen Boomers
- Kathleen MACLEOD / 168cm / Guard / 23 Oct, 1986 / Dandenong Rangers
- Jenna O’HEA / 185cm / Guard/Forward / 6 Jun, 1987 / Dandenong Rangers
- Elyse PENALUNA / 193cm / Forward / 23 Apr, 1988 / Bulleen Boomers
- Erin PHILLIPS / 173cm / Guard / 19 May, 1985 / TS Wisla Can-Pak, Poland
- Alicia POTO / 166cm / Guard / 28 May, 1978 / Sydney Uni. Flames
- Samantha RICHARDS / 168cm / Guard / 24 Feb, 1983 / Bulleen Boomers
- Jennifer SCREEN / 180cm / Guard / 26 Feb, 1982 / Adelaide Lightning
- Belinda SNELL / 180cm / Guard/Forward / 10 Jan, 1981 / Sydney Uni. Flames
- Penny TAYLOR / 185cm / Guard/Forward / 24 May, 1981 / Fenerbahce, Turkey
- Marianna TOLO / 196cm / Centre / 2 Jul, 1989 / Canberra Capitals
- Kristen VEAL / 176 cm / Guard / 24 Jul, 1981 / Logan Thunder
- Carly WILSON / 181cm / Guard/Forward / 8 Jul, 1982 / Canberra Capitals
- Hanna ZAVECZ / 183cm / Guard/Forward / 21 Aug, 1985 / Uniqa Euroleasing Sopron, Hungary
To read Liz Cambage's Diary about the journey to London click here>>>