Big guns named for Opals team to take on NZ

Big guns named for Opals team to take on NZ

The Jayco Australian Opals team to face New Zealand for the 2013 FIBA Oceania Championship has been named, with a host of big names included ahead of Wednesday’s Game One in Auckland.

2012 London Olympic quartet Lauren Jackson, Laura Hodges, Belinda Snell and Jenni Screen lead a squad strong on international experience, with all 12 players representing the Opals and the senior level.

The WNBL continues to have a strong presence on the Opals make-up under Head Coach Brendan Joyce, with eight members of the team playing their club basketball in Australia.

With only one qualification spot available to the Oceania region, the trans-Tasman series takes on added significance, with Joyce eager to secure the Opals passage to the 2014 FIBA Women’s World Championship in Turkey.

“We’re very excited about the games coming up and you can tell around the squad that the girls are itching to play,” Joyce said.

“I think we’ve put together a very good team that has a mixture of experienced international players and young players making their way in the Opals program.

“We’ve got eight players from the WNBL in the team and those four players who represented Australia at the 2012 London Olympics.”

“It’s also very exciting to have Lauren (Jackson) playing in the series and back in an Opals uniform to her back on track after a bad run with injuries.”

One Olympian who will be absent is forward Abby Bishop after being ruled out by Joyce with an ankle injury earlier this week.

For WNBL duo Natalie Burton and Kelly Wilson inclusion in the team for the FIBA Oceania Championships continues their whirlwind elevation to the Opals ranks with both debuting in the recent tour of China.

Joyce was quick to praise the efforts of the duo and expects them to continue to impose themselves on the Opals program.

“I think a lot of people know Kelly Wilson after her exploits in the WNBL finals for the Bendigo Spirit and at age 28 to be debuting for the Opals this year is a fantastic achievement,” Joyce said.

“Natalie came into this program as part of the squad for the World University Games and really caught the eye of the coaching staff, and you can see with each camp she is improving and is an exciting prospect.”

The stars of the Emerging Opals bronze medal success at the World University Games have forced their way into the final 12, with Burton joined by Tess Madgen and Marianna Tolo.

Veteran guards Natalie Hurst and Kristen Veal add plenty of international experience to the backcourt. Logan Thunder off-season signing Hanna Zavecz and
French-based Opal Cayla Francis round out the team.

The 2013 FIBA Oceania Championships will see the Jayco Australian Opals take on the New Zealand Tall Ferns, with Game One on Wednesday 14 August in Auckland and Game Two on Sunday 18 August at the AIS Arena in Canberra.

Tickets are available through Ticketek at call 132 849.

For all the latest from the Jayco Australian Opals and Australian Boomers in the lead-up to the 2013 FIBA Oceania Championships visit the Basketball Australia website at

Jayco Australian Opals Team – 2013 FIBA Oceania Championships
Name / Height / Position / DOB / Club
Natalie Burton / 194cm / Centre / 23 Mar 1989 / West Coast Waves (WNBL)
Cayla Francis / 192cm / Centre / 1 May 1989 / Nantes (France)
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 / Free Agent
Tess Madgen / 180cm / Guard / 12 August 1990 / Melbourne Boomers (WNBL)
Jennifer Screen / 180cm / Forward / 24 February 1983 / Adelaide Lightning (WNBL)
Belinda Snell / 180cm / Guard / 10 January 1981 / CCC Polkowice (Poland)
Marianna Tolo / 196cm / Forward-Centre / 2 July 1989 / Bourges Basket (France)
Kristen Veal / 176 cm / Guard / 24 July 1981 / Logan Thunder (WNBL)
Kelly Wilson / 170cm / Guard / 1 January 1985 / Bendigo Spirit (WNBL)
Hanna Zavecz / 183cm / Guard / Forward / 21 August 1985 / Logan Thunder (WNBL)

Head Coach: Brendan Joyce
Assistant Coaches: Damian Cotter, Lori Chizik
Technical Assistant Coach: Scott Butler