The Australian Opals have officially begun their Olympic Games preparation, with their first training camp at the Australian Institute of Sport starting today.
‘Chemistry’ is the buzzword for the five-day session, which aims to have the country’s best female basketballers bond and adjust to playing together. And in the case of Lauren Jackson, it’s also about learning to play her old position again.
The excitement was apparent at the opening training drills, but the basketball not yet at the standard required if the Opals are to finally win the Gold medal that has proved one win beyond reach at the last three Olympics.
‘‘It’s a little scrappy, the first session is always a bit hyper and everyone’s trying too hard’’ head coach Carrie Graf said.
There’s plenty of incentive to impress Graf and her assistants, who will have the task of culling the squad of 19 to a team of 12 to take to London, with the first cut at the end of this week.
‘‘Some very good players are going to miss out on the Australian Olympic team, as they always do,’’ Graf said. ‘‘Ultimately, we need to choose athletes that we think can do the best job for us at the Olympic Games, whether that’s chemistry or role-fit or positional, we don’t take those [decisions] lightly.’’
The guards of the squad can rest easy they won’t have to compete against Lauren Jackson for a spot in the team, with the country’s best player emphatically ruling out playing as a guard, despite playing overseas in that position for the last six months.
‘‘I was the biggest guard ever for a women’s basketball team I’m sure’’ the 195 centimetre Jackson said.
‘‘[Now] I can’t play inside I actually feel like I have to be taught again how to play inside and bump. It’s just one of those things which is going to take time’’ Jackson said of the work ahead of her.
The camp is the first time the Opals squad has come together since the 2010 World Championship, where, as reigning champions, they finished in a disappointing fifth place.
With that reality check still firmly in the mind of many there, the team couldn’t be lured to talk about how they plan to finally beat arch rivals, the USA.
‘‘Thinking about the US too soon is inappropriate, we’ve got to do our task in our pool, do our cross overs and get to the big game, our focus is on that,’’ Graf said. ‘‘We’ve got great opponents in our pool, we’ve got Russia, Brazil [and] Great Britain will put up a fight on home turf.’’
‘‘Our focus will turn to the US whenever we get to meet them.’’