An 18-strong squad of Opals players came together at Basketball Australia’s National Centre of Excellence at the AIS in Canberra last week for a three day training camp aimed at building cohesion throughout the broader group and strengthening the team’s style of play.
Joyce said the camp’s main purpose was to tap into the team’s success during their recent tour of China and maintain that momentum heading into the FIBA Qualifier in August.
“We’re not taking a single thing for granted in the lead-up to the FIBA Qualifier,” Joyce said.
“We had a great run in China last month; we played well with a lot of our big names out due to injury and managed a win against China on their home turf – that’s no small feat.
“But the key for us now is to keep that momentum running high when we take on New Zealand at the FIBA Oceania Championships, which is the main reason I got the team straight back into camp last week.”
Two-time Olympian and Opals legend Jenni Screen, who was named co-captain for the tour of China in June, said the Opals were renowned for their great history, with an aura around the team.
“Where we’re at now, it’s about reigniting the Opals’ aura. We’re working towards creating a unified structure, one that’s disciplined and selfless at the same time,” Screen said.
“It’s an ongoing process – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and this won’t be either. Hopefully small changes in accountability individually, as a team and an organisation will allow continued growth of what has been a phenomenal program for the sport of basketball. We want to leave a legacy for future generations of young players and fans too.
“It’s obviously difficult for us having some of our biggest names over in the WNBA, but as Brendan has said, this is also a great opportunity for younger players to establish themselves.
“Last week’s camp enabled us to continue to make progress on court. Time is very limited. But I commend all the girls’ effort. It was a great environment – the squad is working at a great intensity and absorbing a lot of new information.
“Going forward the final camp at the end of the month is really important and will allow us time to prepare and get in the right head space and physical condition for the FIBA Qualifier against NZ.
“Being held in Melbourne also allows some new faces of the squad to meet the Jayco family – our major sponsor – who have and continue to contribute and support our great program.”
The camp – which brought together a mix of Opals stars such as Jenni Screen, Laura Hodges and Abby Bishop, alongside emerging talents like Amy Lewis and Rosie Fadljevic – was also Lauren Jackson’s first camp since undertaking surgery on her injured hamstring earlier this year.
“It’s crucial for us to build cohesion among the team from our solid senior players right through to our emerging Opals; we need to foster an understanding of our style of play right across the squad,” Joyce said.
“Unfortunately, we had a number of injured players who couldn’t make our first camp in June – like Lauren Jackson, Abby Bishop and Laura Hodges – and it was important to get them there last week to track their conditioning and keep them connected to the program.
“I was particularly pleased to see the phenomenal progress Lauren has made since the surgery she undertook on her hamstring injury back in January. This was her first camp back and her recovery has been tracking extremely well.
“Every great athlete will always push themselves, and I can see Lauren has a clear focus on working through her short and long term goals to get back to optimal health.”
The Jayco Australian Opals will hold another training camp in Victoria in late July ahead of the 2013 FIBA Oceania Championships, to be held in Auckland and Canberra in mid-August.
Jayco Australian Opals Training Camp – Canberra, July 2013
Name / Height / Position / DOB / Club
Abby Bishop / 189cm / Centre / 29 November 1988 / Canberra Capitals (WNBL)
Renae Camino / 177cm / Guard / 19 November 1986 / Sydney Uni Flames (WNBL)
Tegan Cunningham 186cm / Forward / 23 January 1988 / Logan Thunder (WNBL)
Rosie Fadljevic / 183cm / Forward / 17 Sep 1993 / Dandenong Rangers (WNBL)
Cayla Francis / 192cm / Centre / 1 May 1989 / Nantes, France
Keely Froling / 184cm / Forward / 31 January 1996 / AIS
Laura Hodges / 188cm / Forward / 13 December 1983 / Adelaide Lightning (WNBL)
Natalie Hurst / 163cm / Guard / 8 April 1983 / Canberra Capitals (WNBL)
Lauren Jackson / 195cm / Forward / Centre / 11 May 1981 / Canberra Capitals (WNBL)
Amy Lewis / 177cm / Guard / 14 May 1986 / Adelaide Lightning (WNBL)
Mia Newley / 184cm / Guard / 4 August 1988 / Townsville Fire (WNBL)
Nadeen Payne / 186cm / Forward / 7 June 1993 / Townsville Fire (WNBL)
Jennifer Screen / 180cm / Forward / 24 February 1983 / Adelaide Lightning (WNBL)
Carly Turner / 180cm / Guard / 5 April 1995 / AIS
Kristen Veal / 176 cm / Guard / 24 July 1981 / Logan Thunder (WNBL)
Abbey Wehrung / 175cm / Guard / 28 December 1995 / AIS
Kelly Wilson / 170cm / Guard / 1st January 1985 / Bendigo Spirit (WNBL)
Hanna Zavecz / 183cm / Guard / Forward / 21 August 1985 / Logan Thunder (WNBL)