06 - 20
August 2016
13 Erin PHILLIPS (Australia); 7 Penny TAYLOR (Australia)
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'Legitimate' contenders for Australia Olympic squad set for Canberra camp

CANBERRA (2016 Rio Olympics) - Australia coach Brendan Joyce highlighted the importance of team chemistry on Monday while announcing the names of the players invited to next week's pre-Olympic training camp in Canberra.

The workouts will be held at Basketball Australia's Centre of Excellence from 29 March to 3 April. Penny Taylor, Erin Phillips and Liz Cambage are three of the stars that will be in attendance.

We are working on developing the team chemistry to maintain that special feeling we had at the (2014 FIBA) World Championship. It was a very important ingredient in our success in Turkey and I believe it will be an integral part in us getting on the podium at Rio as new players can come in to the team and simply join the camaraderie that has already been established. - Joyce

The players jelled and won all of their games in 2014, save a hard-fought Semi-Final against the United States. The USA won that encounter in Istanbul, 82-70, but Australia bounced back and reached the podium with a 74-44 rout of Turkey in the third-place game.

Taylor, the MVP of the 2006 FIBA Women's World Championship, and Phillips were standouts in the 2014 team with the former making the All-Star Five and the latter unlucky not to. Cambage missed the tournament after getting hurt a week before the start of the event but Marianna Tolo was among the bigs who filled in and made it so the Opals hardly missed a beat.

While Cambage also missed last year's FIBA Oceania Women's Championship triumph over New Zealand, a success that punched the team's ticket to the 2016 Olympics, she is expected to be in the squad that plays in Rio de Janeiro.

Tolo, meanwhile, is recovering from a torn ACL and has not been included in the group of players that will attend the camp. However, she still has every chance of being in that squad that travels to Rio de Janeiro. The status of four-time Olympian Lauren Jackson is still uncertain. She has been riddled with injuries and has not been able to play for the Opals since their 2013 FIBA Oceania Women's Championship triumph.

Marianna is ahead of schedule as far as her injury goes. Brad Davidson and I have worked with her a couple of times a week at the Centre of Excellence and she is looking very good. We should know more about Lauren's chances by the end of this week. - Joyce

Belinda Snell, meanwhile, appears to have played at her last Olympics as she has been left off the list of players invited to the camp. Snell, like Taylor and Jackson, was a vital member of the team that won the 2006 FIBA Women's World Championship and has competed at three Olympics. She played at the World Championship in Turkey and also featured last summer when the Opals booked their Rio place. Kelly Wilson, who made last year's squad, has also been left off.

"While I have been here (since 2013), Snelly and Kelly’s commitment over the three years to the Jayco Opals program has been tremendous," said Joyce. "These are not easy decisions for the coaching staff to make but it's important to make the decision early and let the girls know. Snelly will be invited to one of the camps in the next few months to help celebrate her career and commitment to the Jayco Opals with the entire team."

Snell is 35 and Wilson 32. Joyce has also opted not to have 23-year-old Maddie Garrick at the camp.

"Maddie, we definitely see her as a player of the future," the coach said.

Coach Brendan Joyce (AUS) steered the Opals to a third-place finish at the 2014 FIBA Women's World Championship 

The players that Joyce and his assistants will be putting through their paces know that good performances in Canberra and at the camps to follow could earn them a spot on the Olympic roster.

"We believe these players that will attend the first camp have a legitimate opportunity to make it onto the final Jayco Opals team, including the players that are still injured or unavailable," said Joyce.

Laura Hodges, a standout in the World Championship and FIBA Oceania Women's Championship sides, is unable to travel to Canberra from France, where she is playing for Bourges.

In addition to Tolo, Jackson and Hodges, Kelsey Griffin, Lauren Mansfield and Elyse Penaluna are unavailable but could be involved in forthcoming camps. Bendigo Spirit star Griffin, who has played with the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA, was voted to the WNBL All-Star Team five but is recovering from a hamstring injury. She has elected to skip the 2016 WNBA season to focus on making the Opals' roster.

Australia players to attend training camp 29 March to April 3: Rebecca Allen, Suzy Batkovic, Sara Blicavs, Abby Bishop, Natalie Burton, Liz Cambage, Stephanie Cumming, Katie Rae Ebzery, Cayla George, Rachel Jarry, Alice Kunek, Tessa Lavey, Tess Madgen, Carley Mijovic, Leilani Mitchell, Erin Phillips, Stephanie Talbot and Penny Taylor.