Opals look to rebound quick

Opals look to rebound quick

The Opals plan to wash their mouths out of the bitter taste of the 2010 world championship as quickly as possible before plotting a return to the podium at the London Olympic Games.

Australia's 74-62 win over France on Sunday left them in fifth place in the Czech Republic, their worst finish in a major tournament in 20 years.

The last time Australia finished so low at an Olympics or world championship was when an Opals side still finding its feet at international level came sixth at the 1990 world titles.

An inspired host nation stunned Australia in the quarter-finals on Friday and the Opals are still struggling to deal with the sudden end of their title defence.
"It tastes bitter right now, it has for the last two days and it's not going to go away," coach Carrie Graf told AAP.

"It's like any championship you lose, you remember those.

"You've got to learn from it and taste it and make sure it fuels this team and me for the next two years to make sure that we learn from that experience.

"We couldn't buy a basket and there's obviously strategic things we can change.
"It is a bitter pill, but it's in our mouth and we've got to taste it."

A golden generation including Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor and Belinda Snell, who have ended their first major events without a medal, will still be in their prime in London, while Graf will try to convince point guard Kristi Harrower to continue for one more Olympics.

But the most exciting element of the Opals' future is centre Liz Cambage. After a slow start to her first senior tournament, the 19-year-old ended it averaging a team-high 13.6 points per game, plus 5.4 boards and one block.

"Her growth over the last 18 months has been monumental and she's still got so much to learn," Graf said.

"Look at her earlier in the tournament and she learned how to cope with the style and the referees and she evolved - with opponents and with our team.

"She'll continue to grow if she does the work and it's a long road.

"She did wonderful things and exceeded our expectations a little bit and credit to her."

Jenna O'Hea, Marianna Tolo and Abby Bishop all showed good signs in their first major tournaments, while Hollie Grima and Erin Phillips have improved and still have plenty of time on their side.

Cambage has already vowed Australia won't be in this position again.
"It was a great experience, but you learn lots of lessons and I'm a bit sad it's over really," Cambage told AAP.

"I had a bit of a rocky start and was a bit off, but in the end I found my bearings and kept playing.

"This is never, ever happening again. Never, ever, ever, ever. Gold medals from now on."

By James Dampney, AAP