Opals close in on Rio

Suz Rio

JCU Townsville Fire captain Suzy Batkovic remains in contention for a fourth Olympic Games just six weeks out from Rio.

With Australia naming a 14-player squad for tomorrow’s Opals Camp in Canberra, the reigning WNBL MVP, who played sparing minutes on the recent tours of Japan and Europe, will soon learn of her fate after medalling in Athens, Beijing and London.

The Opals squad remains relatively unchanged from the team that toured Europe, with only Bec Allen unavailable, while Sara Blicavs and Abby Bishop return from injury and WNBA commitments respectively.

Australia finished their Japan and European tours with an 8-3 record, defeating Japan three times, Argentina, Italy, Belgium, Cameroon, and China with their three losses coming against top ten ranked countries in Spain, Canada and France.

“The tours (were) positive in respect to exposing areas we need to improve and what we do well,” Opals coach Brendan Joyce said.

“The tours add to our preparation for August by giving the coaching staff a chance to trial the players and different combinations and test them in various roles as well as giving the players themselves some international experience.”

One final international tour is scheduled for the Opals before they reach Brazil, when they fly to the USA from July 28-August 1 once the official team is announced to play a warm-up tour against Canada, France and the USA.

That clash against USA will be competed at Madison Square Garden, the first time the Opals will play at the famous venue.

In the immediate future, the Opals will head into their third camp on home soil since preparations began back in March.

Their camp aims will be to continue to build the team cohesion and chemistry they want to replicate from the 2014 World Championships Bronze Medal performance but also with a focus of improvement and a focus on opponents now known for the group stage for the Olympic campaign.

Australia (ranked second in the world) will begin the tournament with a game against Brazil (ranked seventh) on Sunday August 7 at 6.30am AEST.

They will then face Turkey (ranked equal-tenth) at 6.30am on August 8 with a day’s rest being earned before they play France (ranked fourth) on August 10 at 1.15am.

Their final two games of the group stage come against Japan (ranked 16th) on August 12 at 6.45am before clashing with Belarus (ranked equal-tenth) at 1.15am on August 14.

Opals squad: Suzy Batkovic, Abby Bishop, Sara Blicavs, Natalie Burton, Elizabeth Cambage, Katie-Rae Ebzery, Cayla George, Laura Hodges, Rachel Jarry, Tessa Lavey, Tess Madgen, Leilani Mitchell, Stephanie Talbot and Marianna Tolo.

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