Batkovic makes Opals return

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JCU Townsville Fire star Suzy Batkovic will pull on the Australian Opals singlet for the first time since the London Olympics after ending her self-enforced break from international duties.

Having opted to sit out of Australian duties in recent years in order to prolong her career, the 34-year-old, who guided the Fire to their maiden Wattle Valley WNBL championship in March, was yesterday named in a 12-player squad to tour Europe over the next month.

The Opals are poised to clash with Serbia, Italy, Spain and Venezuela ahead of their Rio Olympic qualifying series against New Zealand in August.

“I’m at a situation now where I can give it a crack and see how the body pulls along in the next few months,” Batkovic told the Townsville Bulletin.

“At the moment I’m pulling up pretty well so fingers crossed.”

Having secured a bronze medal at the 2014 World Championships, Fire teammate Cayla Francis was one of a host of big name Opals who were unavailable for the tour due to their WNBA commitments.

Francis is poised to link up with the Phoenix Mercury later this month and will participate in the defending WNBA champions’ training camp.

Fellow Australians Penny Taylor, Leilani Mitchell and Tess Madgen are also expected to be in attendance.

With the lure of a fourth Olympics on the horizon, Batkovic said she was quickly adapting to Brendan Joyce’s game plan and reintegrating herslef into a new-look Opals squad.

“I’m adapting to it and his systems are pretty good, I haven’t really struggled to pick them up and they’re pretty flowing,” she said.

“I’ve just been trying to work out what he wants and where that leads to and what’s great for the team.

“That’s been my focus trying to figure it out in a short time in two camps.”

The Opals’ European tour will be held from May 20 to June 9.

Australian Opals squad: Suzy Batkovic, Sara Blicavs, Natalie Burton, Katie Rae Ebzery, Madeleine Garrick, Laura Hodges, Alice Kunek, Tessa Lavey, Elyse Penaluna, Belinda Snell, Stephanie Talbot, Kelly Wilson.

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