Written by Kane Pitman.
“[The bone bruising] kept me out for a little bit longer than I was probably hoping but my new team, Southside Flyers, we have a great squad. Cheryl Chambers is the coach who is one of the Opals assistants, it’s been a really fun environment to be in and I’m just looking forward to the season starting,” O’Hea said, during training camp in Canberra.
The Opals camp in Canberra provides the squad with a rare opportunity to not only spend time together on and off the practice court but play in front of home fans against China at AIS Arena on September 19.
“It’s very rare to play on home soil, we had the Commonwealth Games last year but apart from that it’s a very rare to play a team such as China at home. It’s really great that we can showcase in front of our home fans how great the Opals are,” O’Hea said.
“I’m looking forward to playing in front of them in the green and gold, it’s always a thrill.”
The game against China will be preparation for the Asia Cup in India, which tips off a jam-packed period of international basketball leading up to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Coming off a brilliant 2018 FIBA Woman’s World Cup run that ended with a silver medal, the Opals will head into Olympic qualification and Tokyo 2020 with golden intentions.
“We went in to the World Cup last year supremely confident. Unfortunately, the gold medal game wasn’t our day, but when we play well, we are one of the best teams in the world. We have had a lot of success so that’s what we are bred for, that’s what we go into camps for, to be successful,” O’Hea said.
“It’s a very achievable goal, we are always looking to better ourselves and I think the experience of the World Cup last year put us in really good stead for the Asia Cup, then the qualifiers and leading into Tokyo as well.”
The bond between teammates in the Opals squad is unique, and something that fosters the mentality of togetherness and creates the successful habits required to build the chemistry required to compete against the world’s best.
“It’s a real sisterhood that we have, and we refer to each other as that. The World Cup and that silver medal last year was so special. I think the culture that Sandy [Brondello] has implemented is just so great, we all love coming in together for camps, playing games together, we gel so well both on and off the court and I think how well we get along off the court really translates to on the court.”
“Sandy gets everyone involved and there’s no cliques or anything, everyone just bonds really well. It’s a pleasure to be in the Opals environment and I just love being in camp and playing games with everyone.”
Making her Opals debut in 2009, O’Hea has been witness to the evolution of woman’s basketball, and the well overdue recognition and acknowledgement of the world class athletes playing the game.
“I think woman’s sport in general is gaining popularity and more respect which I just think is so great,” O’Hea said,
“People are understanding more that they are not the same, men and woman’s sports, but the things we have to offer are very unique. Just the way that we move the ball, the technical side of things, I think on the woman’s side is really great. The way we have to move and cut and speak to one another, I think it’s a different type of style to the men’s and I think basketball purists really respect that about us.”
The FIBA Woman’s Asia Cup will be held in Bengaluru, India, from September 24-29. The Opals will open the tournament against the Philippines, before facing New Zealand and China in group play
“The more games we have together the better and we have a lot of important games coming up, every tournament that we go to is a really great stepping leading into Tokyo and I’m really excited to be a part of it.”
ASIA CUP GROUP GAME SCHEDULE:
Tuesday, September 24 v Philippines – Tip-off at 5:45pm (AEST)
Wednesday, September 25 v New Zealand – Tip-off at 5:45pm (AEST)
Thursday, September 26 v China – Tip-off at 8:00pm (AEST)
ASIA CUP FINALS SCHEDULE:
Winner of group advances. 2nd and 3rd place teams to play on Friday, September 27.
Semi-final on Saturday, September 28.
Final on Sunday, September 29.