Assistant coach of the Opals, Cheryl Chambers believes Australia have an exciting roster for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and as head coach of the Sydney Uni Flames, is proud that every member has either played or currently plays in the WNBL.
Following the announcement of the team by Commonwealth Games Australia, the Opals now have just under a month to prepare before their first game on April 6 with the tournament running until April 15.
11 members of the side played in the WNBL last season and they will be joined by Steph Talbot, who played for the Adelaide Lightning and UC Capitals from 2011-2016 before heading to the WNBA and Europe.
“It is fantastic to see such high WNBL representation in the team,” said Chambers.
“The league is a great product. It’s always nice to see our players go off-shore and earn some money but they often come back so it is very important that the league continues to develop players and get them to a high level.
“With 11 players from 2017/18 in the team, it shows that we are doing a great job and all the coaches around the WNBL are doing a great job too.”
While Talbot did miss the past two seasons at home, she has maintained a strong connection with Opals head coach Sandy Brondello due to her time with the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA.
“Sandy has been able to get a first-hand look at her development and I and Paul Goriss (fellow Opals assistant coach) have coached her in junior teams as well,” said Chambers.
“Steph has such grit and determination and she is very athletic which will be great to add back into the Opals.”
In addition, Australia’s leading scorer from the Rio Olympics in Liz Cambage will once again pull on the green and gold while the likes of Kelsey Griffin, who was named the tournament MVP at the FIBA Asia Cup last year in her Opals debut, and veteran Belinda Snell who competed at the 2006 Commonwealth Games will join her.
“It’s exciting to have the calibre of those players as well as shooters like Steph Blicavs and it is great to see Jenna O’Hea back in the national team as well.
“I also cannot wait to see Nicole Seekamp and Ezi Magbegor make their debuts for the Opals.
“In Ezi’s case, we have to keep pinching ourselves that she’s still young. There is such an upside to her and it will be great for the Australian fans to get a look at her and for Ezi to get a sense of what it means to be a national player.
“We have a really balanced team and hopefully we can play an exciting, fun style.”
While Australia have named their team, several countries are still unknown which has made the scouting process difficult for the Opals coaching staff so far.
“We have started to take a look at a few teams like Great Britain and Canada but it depends on what personnel they send. A team like New Zealand we have a better idea about because we got a look at them in the Asia Cup but they may play a bit differently now with Guy Molloy (Melbourne Boomers head coach) leading them.”
“We got the girls who were available together for a short training session after the announcement just to get their skills up, maintain the team’s comradery, go through some offences and run through some sets. We only have a couple of days in camp at Mackay right before the Games so we need to start getting prepared now.
“Once they announce their sides, we will have a better sense of where they are at and what we need to do.”
The Australian Boomers and Opals Schedule at the 2018 Commonwealth Games (all times AEST):
April 6: Boomers vs. Canada at 5.30pm
April 6: Opals vs. Mozambique at 9.00pm
April 7: Boomers vs. New Zealand at 9.00pm
April 8: Opals vs. Canada at 6.30pm
April 9: Opals vs. England at 5.30pm
April 9: Boomers vs. Nigeria at 9.00pm
April 13: Opals Semi-Finals at 6.30pm or 9.00pm
April 14: Boomers Semi-Finals at 10am or 12.30pm
April 14: Opals Bronze (6.00pm) and Gold Medal (8.30pm) Games
April 15: Boomers Bronze (9.00am) and Gold Medal (12.30pm) Games