Feature: Bronzed Opals ready to roll as 2014-15 WNBL season tips off tonight

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Nine Wattle Valley WNBL stars have taken the World Championship by storm, helping the Jayco Opals to a bronze medal, and coach Brendan Joyce thinks they’ll be “on a real high” when the new season tips off.

By Paulo Kennedy, Pagemasters

“They’ll come back and play at a higher level of intensity,” he said.

“In international play, every second you’re out on the floor it can be costly if you’re not ready, and I think players develop that consistency of playing with intensity.”

Joyce believes that can be only a good thing for Wattle Valley WNBL players and fans.

“One thing I always tell the girls is, ‘Take back the experience and transfer that professionalism onto the other girls’,” he said.

“They’ve just experienced playing against the best athletes in the world, in particular the Europeans and the USA.

“You need a certain type of skill package, but you need to be at a certain level from a fitness and physiological point of view to compete with those players.”

With Lauren Jackson and Liz Cambage missing, many questioned whether the Jayco Opals could compete at the elite level.

“This is the first time I can remember us going in as underdogs,” Jayco Opals and Adelaide Lightning veteran Laura Hodges said.

“Maybe that’s why we didn’t care what other people thought and just went and did our thing.”

With those doubts well and truly dispersed, Hodges believes her younger teammates will now shine in the WNBL setting.

“Players like Bec Allen, Tessa Lavey and Nat Burton, who had their first Opals experience, they probably learned so much over these past nine months,” she said.

“I think they’re probably raring to go and confident, and they’ll be wanting to show what they’ve learned on the WNBL stage.”

Lavey, the “baby” of the team at just 21, needs to wake up from a dream first.

“I still can’t believe it’s really happened,” she laughed.

“To be standing next to Penny Taylor (on the dais) and be able to raise her hand up as well as mine, it was pretty crazy.

“Then to look up the line and see the calibre of players I was up there with, I was speechless.”

Hodges said there were “many great young players in the WNBL” who could emulate Lavey’s feat with hard work, and Joyce agrees.

“To the young girls out there, I just say keep improving. I’ve certainly got an open mind when it comes to giving players an opportunity,” he said.

The 2014/15 Wattle Valley WNBL season tips off tonight with the Melbourne Boomers taking on the University of Canberra Capitals at the State Basketball Centre, Knox.

Click here for a downloadable 2014/15 Wattle Valley WNBL fixture.

Click here to read the latest news, reviews and previews ahead of Round One.