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Opals head for 4-nation challenge

WORLD Uni Games Gold Medallist Darcee Garbin is the fresh new face to emerge in an Opals team bound for a four-nation tournament in China next month.

Sydney Flames’ 2017 WNBL championship guard Tahlia Tupaea, a two-time FIBA Under-19 World Cup Bronze Medallist, is the Opals’ other debutante for matches against Serbia, Argentina and the host nation.

Garbin, a dual-WNBL champ with Townsville Fire, was a star for Australia's Emerging Opals' golden girls at last year's World University Games and is ready for this next step in her career's steady evolution.

Australia, currently is ranked #4 in the world by FIBA and its match with Serbia will restore bad memories of the Opals’ quarter-final elimination by the Serbs at our ill-fated 2016 Rio Olympics campaign.

Katie-Rae Ebzery and Tessa Lavey will recall that loss to the #8 ranked Serbs but many of the rest of that Olympic contingent currently are plying their trade in the WNBA.

Opals coach Sandy Brondello will miss this series for the same reason, tied up with Phoenix Mercury, Australia's coaching duties falling to her deputies Paul Goriss and Cheryl Chambers.

“These games provide us with the opportunity to play three different styles, which will be invaluable for our preparation,” Brondello said.

“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.”

Back from the Opals team which swept to Commonwealth Games Gold under Brondello’s stewardship are Steph Blicavs, Ebzery, Kelsey Griffin, Alice Kunek, Lavey, Ezi Magbegor, Jenna O’Hea and Nicole Seekamp.

Lauren Mansfield is back from the Silver Medal-winning FIBA Asia Cup Opals outfit and Tess Madgen returns after an ACL tear, previously a member of Oceania champion and touring Opals’ teams.

China currently is ranked 10th and Argentina 15th in the world.

The Opals will play all three opponents twice between July 9-22, their next commitment ahead of the FIBA World Cup in Tenerife, Spain from September 22-30, to be a selection camp in August.

Australia’s recent record at FIBA World Championships were Bronze in 2014, fifth in 2010, Gold in 2006, Bronze in 2002 and also in 1998, after reaching the medal rounds in 1994 for the first time, other than at a boycott-afflicted Worlds in Korea in 1979.

The Opals team is: Stephanie Blicavs (MAC Adelaide Lightning), Katie-Rae Ebzery (Brydens Sydney Uni Flames), Darcee Garbin (JCU Townsville Fire), Kelsey Griffin (University of Canberra Capitals (WNBL), Alice Kunek (Eltham Wildcats), Tessa Lavey (Jayco Dandenong Rangers), Tess Madgen (JCU Townsville Fire), Ezi Magbegor (Deakin Melbourne Boomers), Lauren Mansfield (Perth Lynx), Jenna O’Hea (Deakin Melbourne Boomers), Nicole Seekamp (MAC Adelaide Lightning), Tahlia Tupaea (Brydens Sydney Uni Flames). COACHES: Paul Goriss, Cheryl Chambers, Wade Hobbs. PHYSIO: Jessica Thornton. DOCTOR: Tanusha Carduso. TEAM LEADER: Trish Fallon.

Jun 12

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