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Team in focus - Australia
MELBOURNE (FIBA World Championship for Women) - The 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women is just around the corner. In the lead-up to the biggest international basketball event, we take an individual look at all 16 teams.
FIBA bwin Ranking Women: No. 2
Last participation in the FIBA World Championship for Women: 2010 (7 wins, 2 defeats, 5th place)
Best result in the history of the FIBA World Championship for Women: one-time world champions (2006)
Result in qualifying tournament for 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women: Winners of the 2013 FIBA Oceania Championship for Women.
For the first time since way back in 1998, Australia will be at a global tournament without legendary kingpin Lauren Jackson - but don't expect this to dent their chances as severely as you might expect.
While Jackson may be irreplaceable for Brendan Joyce and his team, Australia look capable of turning an exciting new page with this next generation who must collectively pick up the baton and fill the void left by their prize asset.
Leading the way is Liz Cambage. Still only 23-years-old, she will play at the event for the second time and having gone viral by dunking at London 2012, fans will be hoping for more memorable fireworks from the dominant center.
At the opposite end of the court, Australia have another trump card and one that just over a year ago, they weren’t even sure they would possess. As soon as it emerged the expert hand of veteran playmaker Kristi Harrower wouldn't continue pulling the strings, the Opals needed to think outside of the box.
They succeeded and in the naturalised Leilani Mitchell whose mother is Australian, they have gift wrapped themselves a backcourt player capable of competing against the very best on Turkish soil.
Although the return of two-time WNBA champion Erin Phillips who has just finished top of the heap with the Indiana Fever could outshine the debut of her new backcourt partner. The versatile and experienced guard was left heartbroken when she was somewhat controversially omitted from the Olympic roster.
Phillips is actually one of four survivors from Brazil eight years ago, when the FIBA World Championship for Women was the stage for Australia to attain the finest hour in their history as they claimed a sensational world title.
Two other players who stepped out at that event were Laura Hodges and Belinda Snell, veterans who will bring much needed glue and solidity to underpin the exciting new core.
And, while the landscape is being shaped by new talents coming through and taking the team a step closer to what will be an inevitably major transition in the next few years, it is the return of classy veteran Penny Taylor which could just be the catalyst for another tilt at the podium.
The multi-talented star was inspirational in the Final against Russia with a mesmerising 28 points in Sao Paolo on that wonderful day in 2006 for the Opals and having missed out on London with a knee injury, she is eager to make up for lost time. Her quality and importance is also underlined by her recent WNBA Finals triumph with the Phoenix Mercury playing alongside Phillips.
Rachel Jarry has also shown she can contribute in the WNBA and having hit the hardwood at London 2012, she leads six FIBA World Championship debutantes, many of whom are WNBL stars. The likes of Rebecca Allen, Natalie Burton and Tessa Lavey are all hoping Turkey can provide the springboard to sparkling international careers at major global events.
With extensive preparations, plenty of quality in their main rotation, a long-standing tradition and the steady hand of Joyce at the helm, many will feel a Quarter-Final place looks like a no-brainer and that the Opals also have a decent chance of scooping a medal.