By Jessica Robinson.
Steph Talbot is one to let her game do the talking. A hustler on the court, she rarely lets her game face slip, unless she pulls off her favourite play, then it would be hard to miss that gleaming smile wiped across her face.
Casting your mind back to Australia’s quarter-final against Belgium, Talbot had been subbed in and quickly got basketball fans buzzing as she executed a perfect spin dribble reverse layup, becoming a World Cup highlight.
“Anybody that knows me, especially in the WNBL, knows that’s my move!” Talbot told BA Media.
“I came off to the bench and I said to Anneli (Maley) sitting next to me about the player on the other team “c’mon that’s my move” so I was having a bit of a laugh after I did it, everyone on the team knows that’s my thing.”
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A regular feature of the green and gold over the past seven years, it was Talbot’s dominant performance across September’s home soil FIBA Women’s World Cup that put her name at the front of everyone’s mind.
“Last year at Tokyo, I felt ready to go and have a good tournament but obviously I had an injury. I felt like I let the team down in a way, we didn’t perform well for multiple reasons but this year I felt like I wanted to have a good tournament for both me and the team. I was ready to go.”
And that she did, across all eight World Cup games, Talbot averaged 8.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists, highlighted with a stand-out double-double performance (12 points, 10 rebounds) in that gut-wrenching semi-final loss to China and as she flirted with a triple-double in the Opals’ group phase game against Belgium (11 points, nine rebounds, eight assists). Her strong individual performances led to a FIBA All-Star 5 nod.
Her first official series on the leadership team, alongside Captain Tess Madgen and Sami Whitcomb, Talbot- quieter in nature- knew that her actions would speak louder than words.
“It was a good experience for me, Tess and Sami are naturally more vocal leaders, I guess my way of leading was on the court. Especially coming in a bit later after the WNBA, I made that my focus, I hoped the players looked up to me on the court, when I went, they went, especially defensively.”
Off the court, Talbot was really impressed with the way the Australian team went about their business throughout the series. Overcoming a game-one shock loss, injuries and being pushed to the brink, the Opals’ return to the podium was a true testament to the culture built.
“It was an awesome week, we really gelled as a team off the court and as the tournament went on it really showed on the court how much we had each other’s back.
“Darcee (Garbin) was amazing, every time her number was called, she was ready to go and impacted the game which is not easy to do. Anneli has obviously improved a lot over the past two years, as shown by her WNBL season last year, and she’s continuing to grow. Sara (Blicavs) stepped up when Bec (Allen) got injured, she was huge. Everybody did their role, it was amazing. Then Jadeos (Jade Melbourne), the future, she was happy to be a part of it, be around us and learn and grow herself. They’re really special”
And Steph’s thoughts on playing alongside Lauren Jackson for her final green and gold appearance?
“We all know she’s the GOAT, but we never would’ve pictured it to end like that. Bronze medal, 30 points, she dominated that game and that’s how she performed over her whole career. It was really cool for me to be a part of that, be her teammate, learn from her and the way she goes about her business.
“It was epic, to go out on a win in front of our home fans”
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Basketball fans can now catch Steph Talbot as she returns to the WNBL and continues her captaincy at Adelaide Lightning, with the 22-23 WNBL season tipping off on November 2.