The excitement is tangible around the Jayco Australian Opals, with some of the squad’s biggest stars thrilled by the young talent coming through the ranks.
Jayco Opals Head Coach Brendan Joyce brought together a 24-player squad for this week’s training camp in Canberra, giving some of the country’s top young talent a chance to experience the women’s national team program.
Rebecca Allen, Alex Bunton, Sara Blicavs, Tessa Lavey, Stephanie Collins, Stephanie Talbot and Carley Mijovic are among the core of players aged 21 or under that are getting the chance to impress the Joyce and his coaching staff.
Jayco Opals centre Liz Cambage (only 22 years of age herself) said she was particularly excited to see the emergence of a new brigade of talls adding to the European-based front court players.
“In Alex Bunton and Carley Mijovic we’ve got some great up and coming talent coming through – along with the likes of Marianna Tolo, Cayla Francis and Abby Bishop overseas – so we’ve got even more players to come back into the squad,” Cambage said.
The Canberra Capitals pair impressed in their first WNBL season together, with many predicting the pair to make a splash in the nation’s capital and for the Jayco Opals in the years to come.
Returning to her first Jayco Opals domestic camp in almost four years, Penny Taylor said the first thing that struck her was the quality of young talent on display.
“It’s exciting to be back and to see the well of talent we have in Australia,” Taylor said.
“It’s great to see 19 and 20-year-olds here with such great talent and athletic ability – I’ve been really impressed so far.”
Taylor missed the 2012 London Olympic Games due to a serious knee injury and is currently working her way back to full fitness ahead of the start of the WNBA season in mid-May.
The quality of the youngsters has not gone unnoticed at the WNBL level, with Allen the reigning Robyn Maher WNBL Defensive Player of the Year, while Mijovic (2012) and Talbot (2013) have Betty Watson WNBL Rookie of the Year trophies in their possession.
The Jayco Opals are in Canberra at the Basketball Australia National Centre of Excellence until Friday, with the squad next coming together on the Gold Coast from 13-18 April.