The Opals could be limited to as few as three leadup games with their full squad heading into the women’s world basketball championship.
Several leading Australian players will be involved in the American WNBA, which doesn’t finish until a few weeks before the world championships in Turkey starting in late September.
Complicating matters for new Opals coach Brendan Joyce is a new WNBA collective bargaining agreement, which he says doesn’t allow clubs to release players during the competition, thereby preventing them from attending mid-year camps and tours.
Joyce said he thought it would be nigh impossible to get all his players together for a mid-year camp to prepare for the worlds, where the Opals will again be among the medal favourites.
“We’re only going to be together in our lead up to worlds, we’re probably not going to have the whole team together until we go into the worlds.”
He said Basketball Australia were in discussions with the WNBA over the issue and he was looking for some help on it.
“I’m supporting the girls to go to the WNBA, so when we need a player in order to to prepare them, I’m looking for flexibility back. It can’t be all just one way,” Joyce said.
Joyce was philosophical about three-time WNBL MVP Suzy Batkovic and Jenna O’Hea not making themselves available for the world championships.
He said Batkovic hasn’t ever played in the tournament, and wanted to protect her injury-prone body, while O’Hea was focusing on her WNBA career.
While he was disappointed about O’Hea’s decision, Joyce noted the Opals had depth in that of guard position with Rebecca Allen, Tess Madgen, Jenni Screen, Belinda Snell and Kelly Wilson.
He said Batkovic would probably have been on the bench for the world championships if Lauren Jackson and Liz Cambage were both fit and the Opals had other options in Marianna Tolo, Alex Bunton and Nat Burton.
Jackson and Erin Phillips were both happy with the style of play Joyce is implementing.
“Brendan has definitely given us all the green light to attack, so it’s fun basketball to play,” Phillips said.
Jackson said: “There’s going to be a little bit more freedom and not so much structure in our pattern, so I think that’s very exciting given the talent that we have.”