15 - 17
August 2015
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Opals enjoy Rio preview, set sights on real thing

TAURANGA (2015 FIBA Oceania Women's Championship) - Australian Opals coach Brendan Joyce's reaction to his team's win in the FIBA Oceania Women's Championship was a predictable one.

"I'm over the moon, we qualified for the Olympic Games," he said.

He later revealed with a laugh that he had forgotten a place at Rio was at stake until "10 minutes after the game", such was his focus on overcoming New Zealand.

That was perfectly understandable, as the Tall Ferns gave their more fancied opponents all they could handle, playing Olympic-intensity basketball.

"We expected that, New Zealand in their home country… I know the character of the people here," he said.

You have to be able to play through the physicality, sometimes the calls won't go our way so you've got to be able to play through that. - Joyce

"I said in the time-out, 'Do you think everything is just going to be easy? This is a good test for us, a good challenge.'

Veteran Laura Hodges agreed, happy her inexperienced teammates had received a physical test.

"Every game at an Olympics is just cutthroat, because you don't have many opportunities if you lose a game to get one back," she said.

"The physicality is exactly how the Europeans play, the Americans, and even the African teams… We're not sometimes used to that in the WNBL so it was good for everyone in the team."

Hodges put her hand up high for a fourth Olympic Games with 22 points in the championship clincher, but she is excited by the challenge ahead to keep her place for Rio.

"The Opals is always very competitive but in the past few years the bar has definitely risen again," she said.

"We do have a large squad but it's needed because of WNBA and European seasons. I think it's great for Australian basketball, it makes us that little bit better every day at practice.

"We have to compete with people on the other side of the world, but we have to compete with ourselves as well. It's lifting the bar of the WNBL."