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Finally, a sensible Opals squad


FOUR-time Olympian Laura Hodges is the surprise inclusion and Alex Wilson the shock omission from the 21-player Australian Opals squad revealed today by Basketball Australia ahead of next month’s camp in Phoenix and the Asia Cup in July.

That is, of course, if you don't count Suzy Batkovic and Liz Cambage as "shock omissions".

But The Batgirl ruled herself out some time ago while Cambage has made herself unavailable for the FIBA Asia Cup.

Hodges has been undecided about her playing future, contemplating starting a family with husband Tim, the MAC Adelaide Lightning WNBL team she captained last season forced to move on with its 2017-18 roster on the presumption she would not continue.

Wilson was one of the stars of Sydney Uni Flames’ 2016-17 championship win and has been lighting up SA’s Premier League since.

The first squad under the new regime led by Phoenix Mercury coach and Opals superstar Sandy Brondello, contains no-one out of place, making it a marked step forward from recent squads and teams where there always was at least one notably ridiculous selection.

(The fact you know who I mean is proof in itself).

The return to national duties of London Olympian and 2015 WNBL MVP Abby Bishop is brilliant and the long overlooked Louella Tomlinson’s rise to an Opals squad has finally been addressed. Jenna O’Hea also is out of the doghouse of the previous regime.

REASONS TO CROW: Dual-Olympian and FIBA Gold Medallist Erin Phillips, back among the Opals.

AFLW superstar Erin Phillips, now working in the front office for the WNBA’S Dallas Wings, is another campaigner who brings savvy and Olympic experience.

So too Hodges, Rachel Jarry, Tessa Lavey, warrior Belinda Snell and Marianna Tolo.

Steph Blicavs, Maddie Garrick, Sara Blicavs and Lauren Mansfield all deserve their shots and adding players such as Alanna Smith and Kristy Wallace shows the squad has a keen eye also on the Opals’ future.

Naturalised small forward Kelsey Griffin is a further huge plus.

The squad assembles under Brondello and assistants Cheryl Chambers and Paul Goriss in Phoenix, Arizona for its selection camp a month from now, from June 25-July 3.

EBBS AND FLOWS: Katie-Rae Ebzery is back in the Opals squad.

The FIBA Women’s Asia Cup will be staged in Bangalore, India, from July 23-29.

Australia is the tournament’s highest rated national team and has drawn Japan, Korea and the Philippines in Group B. New Zealand in Group A has drawn Chinese Taipei, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (North), and China.

All four teams in the group go through to the crossover quarter-final stage where the four winners progress into the semi finals.

The Opals only need to finish in the top four to qualify for the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup in Spain.

Brondello will have WNBA commitments with the Mercury – as will Aussie Olympians Leilani Mitchell, Cayla George and Stephanie Talbot – making them unavailable for the Asia Cup, Chambers and Goriss to hold the reins in Bangalore.

The Opals squad is: Abby Bishop (Adelaide Lightning), Sara Blicavs (Dandenong Rangers), Stephanie Blicavs (Dandenong Rangers), Alex Bunton (Dynamo Moscow), Katie-Rae Ebzery (Dynamo Moscow), Maddie Garrick (Melbourne Boomers), Kelsey Griffin (Bendigo Spirit), Laura Hodges (Adelaide Lightning), Natalie Hurst (Hatay, Turkey), Rachel Jarry (Canberra Capitals), Alice Kunek (Perth Lynx), Tessa Lavey (Dandenong Rangers), Lauren Mansfield (Canberra Capitals), Carley Mijovic (Dandenong Rangers), Jenna O’Hea (Melbourne Boomers), Erin Phillips (ex-Dallas Wings), Alanna Smith (Stanford University), Belinda Snell (Sydney Uni Flames), Marianna Tolo (Canberra Capitals), Louella Tomlinson (Melbourne Boomers), Kristy Wallace (Baylor University).

May 24

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