Cayla George is refreshed, rejuvenated and ready for action.
Written by Megan Hustwaite.
The Chemist Warehouse Australian Opal has never taken a break since turning pro and playing back-to-back seasons – between Australia, Europe or the US – was the norm.
But with the 30-year-old centre not returning to the WNBA, or Dallas Wings, in 2019 a break from hoops was not only unprecedented but perfectly timed.
“It’s actually my first time off in twelve years, I’ve played back-to-back seasons for twelve years,’’ George tells Basketball Australia.
“It’s been a bit of a blessing in disguise having that time off. Mentally, it’s been the biggest refresher. I didn’t know I really needed it, it was so welcome.
“I’ve been doing my own training, going to the beach with my dogs (Coco and Caesar) and having sprinting races to try and beat them, Caesar is a whippet – he’s fast as.
“I’ve loved just being a wife to my poor husband Kailou who’s been seeing me off at the airport the last few years so it’s good to have been home, cooking him some nice tucker, he gets leftovers for work the next day and it’s been really great.
“My sister is about to pop out baby number 3 so I’ve loved being around my niece and nephew all the time.”
George first represented the Opals in 2008, fulfilled her Olympic dream in 2016 and has been a part of medal-winning World Cup teams, and medals, in 2014 and 2018.
The Queenslander also claimed gold at last year’s Commonwealth Games in her own backyard.
At 193cm, George brings experience and skill in the post and adds valuable enthusiasm, energy, spirit and plenty of humour to the national squad. She’s taken the reins of Basketball Australia’s Instagram account while in Phoenix, sharing unique behind-the-scenes content from camp.
Now a senior member of the squad, she leads with pride.
“Camp’s been great so far. It’s always great to be back together working hard and having a giggle,’’ she says.
“We’ve had a bit of a mental refresher of some of the sets and got back into the rhythm of it all because it’s been a few months since our last camp, and everyone’s off doing their own thing, so it’s been good to get back and get some work done.
“I love being back with the girls. A few aren’t here, Liz (Cambage), Jenna (O’Hea) and (Marianna) Tolo, but we’ve incorporated some new faces into the Opals which is really important for me to make sure everyone feels that level of comfort and confidence because when you’re confident you play your best basketball which allows us in turn as Opals to get better together.”
And after a spell on the sidelines, and with a busy few months of Opals commitments ahead, George is champing at the bit.
“I’m actually missing the game, I’m itching to play. And my body feels good, I feel like a gazelle.”