Darcee Garbin and Tahlia Tupaea will make their Opals debuts as 12 players look to impress national team coach Sandy Brondello in a four-nation tournament to be held in China from July 9-22 which will serve as part of the preparation for September’s FIBA Women’s World Cup.
The Opals will join world #15 Argentina and world #8 Serbia in China, with each team playing six games.
The Serbians defeated Australia in 2016’s Rio Olympic quarter-finals, denying the Opals a fifth consecutive Olympic medal, having secured a spot on the dais at every tournament since Sydney 2000.
“These games provide us with the opportunity to play three different styles which will be invaluable for our preparation,” Opals head coach Sandy Brondello told Basketball Australia.
“Every game we have from now until the World Cup is extremely important as it allows us to continue to work on our chemistry, style of play and culture.
“While our WNBA players will be absent, it is a chance for other players in our squad to show their potential and push for selection for the World Cup team.”
Eight members of the squad featured in the Opals’ 2018 Commonwealth Games triumph, with Stephanie Blicavs, Katie-Rae Ebzery, Kelsey Griffin, Alice Kunek, Tessa Lavey, Ezi Magbegor, Jenna O’Hea, and Nicole Seekamp reprising their roles from February’s successful campaign.
Of the remaining four from that Commonwealth Games team, Belinda Snell announced her retirement from international basketball following the Commonwealth Games, whilst Cayla George, Steph Talbot, and Liz Cambage are currently plying their trade in the WNBA.
The absence of the WNBA players has opened up spots in the squad for a pair of players with Opals experience as well as two debutants.
Lauren Mansfield returns from a stint in Poland to rejoin the team after winning silver with the Opals at 2017’s FIBA Asia Cup, whilst recent Townsville Fire signing Tess Madgen returns after suffering an ACL injury during her own stint in Poland in 2016/17.
Darcee Garbin has had a highly successful 12 months, having tasted success in the WNBL with the Townsville Fire and also winning gold at the Summer Universiade in Taiwan in 2017 with the Emerging Opals side.
Alongside stars Suzy Batkovic and Cayla George, Garbin helped form the most potent frontcourt in the WNBL last season, averaging 9.6 and 4.2 points per game in the process.
However, it was at the Summer Universiade in which Garbin truly shone, dropping 30 in the gold medal game against Japan in the most memorable of a number of outstanding performances that reinforced her status as one of Australia’s top young frontcourt players.
Tahlia Tupaea has been on the Opals’ radar for several years, having been in the WNBL for six seasons despite being just 21 years old and been in camp with the national team as a training partner on previous occasions.
Twice an Under 19 World Championship bronze medallist, Tupaea has a WNBL title under her belt, winning the 2016/17 championship with the Sydney Uni Flames.
Whilst injuries have at times hampered her ability to break into the national team, Tupaea will now have the chance to show what she can do at full strength.
With Brondello in Phoenix coaching the WNBA’s Mercury, a team that includes Australian pairing Steph Talbot and Leilani Mitchell, Sydney Uni Flames head coach Cheryl Chambers and UC Capitals head coach Paul Goriss will share the coaching duties, with Chambers eager to see what the new faces in the squad can bring to the table.
“For Darcee and Tahlia, this is what you dream of- to play for the Opals, so I know they are both very excited,” said Chambers.
“There are a couple of players that we haven’t been able to get a good look at, some through injury like Tahlia and Tess Madgen, but a couple of others that didn’t make the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games team so it will be good to see where they are at.”
With six Australians currently playing in the WNBA, competition for World Cup roster spots will no doubt be fierce.
However, the group will have another opportunity to impress shortly after this tournament, with a selection camp to be held at the Centre of Excellence in August prior to the World Cup in Tenerife in late September.
Opals Four Nations Tournament Squad (all clubs WNBL unless noted):
Stephanie Blicavs (Adelaide Lightning)
Katie-Rae Ebzery (None, most recently Sydney Uni Flames)
Darcee Garbin (Townsville Fire)
Kelsey Griffin (UC Capitals)
Alice Kunek (Eltham Wildcats – Big V)
Tessa Lavey (Dandenong Rangers)
Tess Madgen (Townsville Fire)
Ezi Magbegor (Melbourne Boomers)
Lauren Mansfield (Perth Lynx)
Jenna O’Hea (Melbourne Boomers)
Nicole Seekamp (Adelaide Lightning)
Tahlia Tupaea (Sydney Uni Flames)
Coaches: Cheryl Chambers (Sydney Uni Flames) and Paul Goriss (UC Capitals)