Tonight the Australian Opals commence a three game friendly series against Japan in New South Wales as part of both nation’s preparation for the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup to be held in Sydney, Australia. The first two games of the Australia vs Japan series will be played at Quaycentre in Sydney tonight and on Sunday afternoon 29 May followed by game 3 being played at Newcastle Entertainment Centre on Tuesday night 31 May.
In the article below player profiles are included for all 12 members of the Australian Opals for the three game series against Japan but first of all some information on this series as well as the Opals team in general, Japan and the 2022 World Cup is provided.
Keely Froling playing for Sydney Uni Flames against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 25 February 2022, Opals teammate Heal is in the foreground
At the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup to be held in Sydney, Australia from Thursday 22 September to Saturday 1 October 12 nations will compete comprised of two groups, Group A and Group B with six teams each. In the first six days of the World Cup from Thursday 22 September to Tuesday 28 September each nation will play five games comprised of one game against each of the other five nations in their group. The top four teams from each group will qualify for the quarter finals which will all be played on Thursday 29 September.
In the latest FIBA Women’s rankings published on 15 February 2022 Australia are ranked third in the world with 678.0 points and Japan are ranked eighth with 606.1 points. Australian and Japan are both in Group B along with France, Serbia, Nigeria and Canada. In the final game of the group stage Australia will play Japan on Thursday 27 September at 8.30pm local time in the Sydney SuperDome which is also known as Qudos Bank Arena.
The schedule for the three game friendly series between Australian and Japan in New South Wales commencing tonight is:
Game 1 Friday 27 May at Quaycentre, Sydney, 7.30 pm
Game 2 Sunday 29 May at Quaycentre, Sydney, 3.00 pm
Game 3 Tuesday 31 May at Newcastle Entertainment Centre, Newcastle, 7.30 pm
All three games of the friendly series between Australia and Japan will be broadcast on TV by ESPN, Fox Sports and Kayo.
Australian Opals team for the series against Japan
Player 2022 team NBL1 Conference
Sara Blicavs Geelong Supercats South
Bec Cole Waverley Falcons South
Keely Froling Launceston Tornadoes South
Darcee Garbin Frankston Blues South
Cayla George Cairns Dolphins North
Shyla Heal Northside Wizards North
Tess Madgen Bendigo Braves South
Jade Melbourne Ballarat Miners South
Lauren Nicholson Sutherland Sharks East
Steph Reid Townsville Flames North
Maddison Rocci USC Rip City North
Lauren Scherf Kilsyth Cobras South
Head Coach Cheryl Chambers
Six players that represented the Opals at the FIBA 2022 World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, Serbia in February have been selected in the Opals team for the three game series against Japan – Sara Blicavs, Darcee Garbin, Cayla George, Shyla Heal, Tess Madgen and Maddy Rocci. A trio of these players – Blicavs, George and Madgen played for the Opals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
At the World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, Serbia the Opals recorded two victories and one loss, defeating Brazil 65-52 in their first game and Korea 79-61 in their third and final game. After leading host nation Serbia 56-53 at three quarter-time in their second game Serbia outscored the Opals 15-25 in the last quarter and the Opals were defeated 71-78.
Due to overseas commitments in the WNBA and Europe six players that represented the Opals at the FIBA 2022 World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Serbia are unavailable for the series against Japan – Bec Allen, Alanna Smith, Steph Talbot, Kristy Wallace, Sami Whitcomb (All WNBA) and Marianna Tolo (Europe). Opals head coach Sandy Brondello is also unavailable due to her commitments as head coach of WNBA team New York Liberty which features two opals Allen and Whitcomb. Opals Assistant Coach Cheryl Chambers will be the Head Coach of the Opals three-game series against Japan.
Four players that were members of the Opals bronze medal winning team at the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup held in Jordan from 27 September to 3 October return to the team after missing the 2022 World Cup Qualifying Tournament – Keely Froling, Jade Melbourne, Lauren Nicholson, and Lauren Scherf.
The two new additions to the Australian team that are making their Opals debut are guards Bec Cole and Steph Reid. Reid was one of the most improved players in the WNBL during the 2021/22 season and was recognised by winning Townsville Fire’s Most Valuable Player Award. Cole has been a regular in the Australian women’s 3×3 team and won the Southside Flyers MVP Award for the 2021/22 WNBL season.
All 12 players in the Opals team for the series against Japan played in the WNBL during the 2021/22 season and are playing in an NBL1 Conference during the 2022 season comprised of seven players in the South Conference, four players in the North Conference and one player, Nicholson in the East Conference.
The 12 player Australian Opals team for the three game series against Japan attended a camp in Sydney earlier this week and is comprised of seven guards and five front-court players, which is a smaller line-up than usual for the Opals however they will still have a size advantage over the visiting Japanese team. Forward/centre Zitina Aokuso was a late withdrawal from the Opals training camp due to illness.
Japan won the silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and with a smaller line-up (their two tallest players were both 185 cms tall), speed and three-point shooting ability have a very good record against the Opals during tournament play in the past five years. In all three FIBA Women’s Asia Cups that the Opals have competed in Japan have won the gold medal. Australia won the silver medal in 2017 and the bronze medal in 2019 and 2021.
At the Tokyo Olympic Games Japan easily led the tournament for three-pointers made with 12.2 per game and ranked first for three-point accuracy with 38.4%. Seven members of Japan’s silver medal winning team from the 2020 Olympic Games will be playing in the friendly series against Australia including their leading scorer Maki Takada (14.0 points per game) and leading rebounder Himawari Akaho (7.3 rebounds per game). Although Japan are closer to full strength than the Opals for the friendly series they are missing some players, most notably point guard Rui Machida who averaged 12.5 assists per game at the Olympics to rank first in this category ahead of Belgium’s Julie Allemand with 7.5 assists per game. Machida is currently playing her debut WNBA season with the Washington Mystix.
Japan competed in the 2022 World Cup Qualifying Tournament on home soil in Osaka and split their two games, having a 86-79 victory against Canada in their opening game and were defeated 82-87 by Bosnia and Herzegovina in their second game.
Unless otherwise stated the WNBL team listed for each player is the team they played for in 2021/22 and have signed with for the 2022/23 season. 10 members of the 12 player Australian Opals team are in this category, the only exceptions are Darcce Garbin and Lauren Scherf who each played for the Perth Lynx in 2021/22 and are free agents for the 2022/23 season.
Position: Guard Date of Birth (DOB) 19 September 2001
Height 167cm WNBL debut: 2015/16
Junior Association Northern Suburbs (New South Wales)
WNBL games played: 76 WNBL Team: Sydney Uni Flames
Olympic Games: Nil
World Cups: Nil
At just 20 years of age Heal already has five seasons WNBL experience, having made her debut at 14 years of age in 2015/16 with the SEQ Stars where she was coached by dad Shane who played for the Australian Boomers at four consecutive Olympic Games from 1992 to 2004. Shyla played 11 games with the Perth Lynx in 2018/19 across her first two WNBL seasons played limited game-time.
Point guard Heal excelled at under-age level for Australia with a highlight being selection in the All-Star five at the 2018 FIBA Under 17 World Cup in Belarus after averaging 16.0 points – ranked second overall at the tournament, 5.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. Heal played a pivotal role in the Australian Sapphires winning the bronze medal and scored an equal game-high 16 points in the bronze medal game against Hungary.
With the Bendigo Spirit in 2019/20 Heal averaged 12.1 points and 4.0 rebounds per game and increased this output playing for the Townsville Fire in 2019/20 to average 16.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game, contributing to Townsville making the Grand Final. Heal was selected in the 2020 All-WNBL Second Team and also won the Betty Watson Australian Youth Player of the Year Award.
At the 2021 WNBA Draft Chicago Sky selected Shyla with pick eight and she played four regular season games with the club before being traded in June 2021 to the Dallas Wings who immediately waived her.
During the 2021/22 WNBL season Shyla played for the Sydney Uni Flames and was again coached by her dad Shane. Heal averaged 15.6 points and a WNBL career-high 4.3 assists per game in 2021/22 to rank 10th in the league for scoring and seventh for assists. Heal was a joint winner of the Sydney Uni Flames 2021/22 MVP Award along with fellow Opal Keely Froling and finished runner up in the WNBL’s 2021/22 Betty Watson Youth Player of the Year Award behind Ezi Magbegor.
Shyla Heal playing for Sydney Uni Flames against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 20 February 2022
Heal has played four games for Northside Wizards in the 2022 NBL1 North season and is averaging 22.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.
WNBL Achievements: All-WNBL Second Team 2020
Betty Watson Australian Youth Player of the Year 2020
Position: Guard DOB 1 June 1998
Height 167cm WNBL debut: 2017/18
Junior Club Werribee Devils (Victoria)
WNBL games played: 102 WNBL Team: Southside Flyers
Olympic Games: Nil
World Cups: Nil
As a junior Maddison Rocci commenced her basketball career at 11 years of age with the Werribee Devils in Melbourne’s western suburbs. Rocci progressed to represent Vic Metro at National Championships in the under 16’s, under 18’s and under 20’s and played for the Australian under 17’s and under 19’s teams. Rocci was the captain of the 2015 Under 18 Victoria Metro team that won the gold medal and was a starter for Australia at the 2017 Under 19 World Cup until an arm injury ended her tournament.
In 2017/18 Rocci made her WNBL debut at 19 years of age for the University of Canberra Capitals and finished runner-up in the league’s Betty Watson Rookie of the Year Award behind then Capitals teammate Ezi Magbegor.
In 2018/19 and 2019/20 Rocci played in back to back WNBL Championships with the University of Canberra Capitals and took on more responsibility during this time. During 2018/2019 Rocci started some games early in the season due to injuries to team-mates and then became a permanent starter in 2019/20.
Playing in the Queensland Basketball League in 2020 Rocci flourished being the go-to player for University of the Sunshine Coast Rip City, averaging 32.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per game to win the league’s Most Valuable Player Award. In July 2020 Rocci was included in the extended 23 player Australian Opals squad for the Tokyo Olympic Games and attended several Opals training camps.
During the 2020 WNBL season guard Rocci took her basketball to another stratosphere, excelling with her speed, reading of the play and quick hands to rank in the top 10 of the WNBL for scoring, assists and steals. Rocci was recognised for her brilliant season by winning the University of Canberra Capitals Most Valuable Player Award, was selected in the All-WNBL Second team and finished fifth in the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award.
Rocci returned to Victoria to play for the Southside Flyers during the 2021/22 WNBL season and was a team-mate of sister in law Aimie. Maddison averaged 4.6 assists (sixth in the WNBL) and 1.7 steals (seventh in the WNBL) per game and played her 100th WNBL game on 10 March 2022.
After attending several Opals training camps Rocci made her debut appearance for the Australian Opals at the 2022 FIBA World Cup Qualifying Tournament held in Serbia in February and played all three games for Australia.
During the 2022 NBL1 North season Rocci has played four games for USC Rip City and is averaging 28.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 3.3 steals per game to lead the league in scoring, rank fifth for steals and eighth for assists.
Below is a link to an article published on Milestone and Misses on 10 March 2022 celebrating Rocci reaching 100 WNBL games:
WNBL Achievements: All-WNBL Second Team 2020 WNBL Championship 2018/19, 2019/20 (both with University of Canberra Capitals)
Position: Guard DOB 12 August 1990
Height 180cm WNBL debut: 2008/09
Junior Club Eastern Mavericks (South Australia)
WNBL games played: 246 WNBL Team: Melbourne Boomers
Olympic Games: 2020
World Cups: 2018 – Silver Medal
Madgen grew up in Williamstown, a small town in the Barossa Valley, South Australia and has two brothers that also played basketball, older brother Ben and younger brother Jack. Tess played junior basketball for the Eastern Mavericks alongside current Melbourne Boomers and Australian Opals teammate Cayla George. At 18 years of age Madgen made her WNBL debut with the Australian Institute of Sport in 2008/09 and played a total of 38 games in two seasons for the AIS. Tess’ older brother Ben played basketball in the NBL and in 2012/13 playing for the Sydney Kings led the league in scoring and was named in the All-NBL First team. Younger brother Jack switched from basketball to Australia Rules Football and plays as a defender for Collingwood in the AFL.
After graduating from the AIS Madgen played two seasons for Bendigo Spirit in 2010/11 and 2011/12 and two seasons for Townsville Fire in 2018/19 and 2019/20 in between two stints with the Melbourne Boomers. During 2021/22 Madgen played her sixth WNBL season with the Boomers and 12th season overall in the league. Throughout her WNBL career Madgen has been a consistent scorer, averaging more than 11.5 points per game in nine of her 12 seasons including four seasons above 15.0 points per game.
In 2015 Madgen had a short stint in the WNBA playing eight games with Phoenix Mercury alongside George. Madgen played in Poland for AZS UMCS Lublin in 2016/17 but in the fourth quarter of the club’s first finals game for the season suffered an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury and required a knee reconstruction.
After rehabilitating from her knee injury Madgen made her basketball return during Australia’s 2018 winter season playing 10 games for the Dandenong Rangers in the South East Australian Basketball League. After narrowly missing selection for the Australian Opals for major championships including the 2016 Rio Olympics Madgen made her major championships debut as part of the Australian Opals silver medal winning team at the 2018 World Cup in Spain. Madgen played all four games for the Australian Opals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Madgen returned to the Melbourne Boomers for the 2020 WNBL season and playing predominantly as a point guard averaged 6.2 assists per game to rank second in the WNBL in this category. In the 2020 WNBL season Madgen averaged more than 13.0 points per game for the seventh time of her career to earn selection in the All-WNBL second team, the second All-WNBL honour of her career, having previously been selected in the All-WNBL first team for her 2014/15 season with the Melbourne Boomers.
With the return of point guard Lindsay Allen to the Boomers for the 2021/22 season Madgen played mainly as a shooting guard/small forward and played in the first WNBL Championship of her career.
During the 2022 NBL1 South season Madgen has played three games for the Bendigo Lady Braves and is averaging 31.7 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 6.3 assists to lead the Conference in scoring, rank second in for assists behind Bendigo teammate Kelly Wilson (6.5 assists per game) and equal sixth for rebounds.
After playing junior basketball together with the Eastern Mavericks Madgen and George have gone on to play WNBL basketball, WNBA basketball and represent the Opals together. In April this year they both were starters on the Melbourne Boomers team that won the WNBL Championship. Madgen and George are the two most experienced members of the Opals team for the three game friendly series against Japan and the duo will play an important role with their leadership.
WNBL Achievements: All-WNBL First team 2014/15
All-WNBL Second team 2020
WNBL Championship 2021/22 (with Melbourne Boomers)
Position: Guard DOB 26 March 1993
Height 182cm WNBL debut: 2010/11
Junior Club Sutherland Sharks (New South Wales)
WNBL games played: 122 WNBL Team: Townsville Fire
Olympic Games: Nil
World Cups: Nil
Lauren Nicholson commenced her junior basketball career with the Sutherland Sharks in New South Wales and progressed to represent NSW at Australian Junior Championships. Nicholson represented Australia at under-age level at several tournaments including the 2010 FIBA Under 17 World Championships held in France. At 17 years of age Nicholson made her WNBL debut with the Sydney Flames in 2010/11, playing limited court-time in seven games.
From 2012 to 2016 Nicholson played college basketball for St Mary’s Gaels who have a strong history of Australian’s representing the College. During a four season college career with St Mary’s Nicholson played 110 games including 74 starts and was named in the All West Coast Conference First-team in 2014/15 and 2015/16.
Nicholson returned to the WNBL with the Sydney Uni Flames in 2016/17 and playing off the bench was a member of the Flames Championship winning team coached by Cheryl Chambers.
Lauren Nicholson playing for Sydney Uni Flames against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 5 February 2017
In three seasons with Adelaide Lightning Nicholson improved her scoring output from 8.0 points per game in 2017/18 to 14.2 points per game in 2019/20. Nicholson became renowned as one of the best defenders in the WNBL, this was officially recognised when she won the WNBL’s Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2018/19.
Lauren Nicholson playing defense for Adelaide Lightning against Dandenong Rangers at Traralgon Basketball Stadium on 24 November 2018
During 2020 Nicholson had a career-best WNBL season to lead Townsville with 18.5 points per game, ranked second at the Fire with 2.4 assists per game, finished third in the WNBL’s MVP Award, was selected in the All-WNBL first team and finished third in the Defensive Player of the Year Award to play a critical role in Townsville making the 2020 Grand Final.
At the 2021 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup held in Jordan Nicholson played all six games for the Opals and ranked second for the bronze medal winning Opals for minutes played and sixth for scoring.
In her second consecutive season with Townsville Fire Nicholson suffered a season ending ankle injury in the third quarter of a road game against the University of Canberra Capitals on 19 February 2022. Nicholson played 12 games for Townsville in 2021/22 and averaged more than 12.5 points per game for the fourth consecutive WNBL season.
Nicholson has had a decorated career at state league level including winning the 2018 South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) regular season MVP playing for the Launceston Tornadoes and winning the 2019 NBL1 Grand Final MVP for a dominant 36 point, 10 rebounds and six assist performance for the Kilsyth Cobras in their victory against the Geelong Supercats.
In 2022 Nicholson returned to represent her junior club Sutherland at senior level in the inaugural NBL1 East season and has averaged 26.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game and has shot the ball at 51.2% from the field in her first five games of the season. Nicholson ranks second in NBL1 East for scoring behind four-time Australian Opals Olympian Lauren Jackson (31.8 points per game) and eighth for assists.
WNBL Achievements: All-WNBL First team 2020
Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year 2018/19
WNBL Championship 2016/2017 (with Sydney Uni Flames)
Position: Guard DOB 18 August 2002
Height 178cm WNBL debut: 2020
Junior Club Traralgon Thunderbirds (Victoria)
WNBL games played: 30 WNBL Team: University of Canberra Capitals
Olympic Games: Nil
World Cups: Nil
Jade Melbourne was born in the most southern state on mainland Australia – Victoria who’s capital city is Melbourne, however contrary to her name Jade was born and grew up in the country Victorian town Traralgon, located approximately 163 kilometres east of Melbourne. Jade’s junior basketball club was the Traralgon Thunderbirds.
In January 2019 Melbourne commenced a basketball scholarship in Canberra with the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (BA CoE) and represented the BA CoE against senior women’s teams in the NBL1 season.
At under-age level Jade represented Australia at several tournaments including being captain of the Australian Gems at the 2021 FIBA Under 19 Women’s World Cup held in Hungary. Melbourne had an exceptional tournament to average 12.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. The Gems won the silver medal and Melbourne was selected in the Under 19 Women’s World Cup All-Star five.
At senior level Melbourne made an impact in her first two WNBL seasons with the University of Canberra Capitals in 2020 and 2021/22. Less than three months after her 18th birthday Melbourne made her WNBL debut as a starter in the Capitals opening game of the 2020 season on 11 November. In Melbourne’s fourth WNBL game she scored a game-high 20 points and in her seventh game against Perth she made a match-winning three-pointer for Canberra with just seven seconds remaining in the last quarter.
During the 2021/22 season with the Capitals 178 centimetre tall Melbourne commenced all 16 games on the bench and scored at least 18 points in a game three times. Melbourne ranked fifth at the University of Canberra Capitals for scoring per game in both 2020 and 2021/22. In the 2021/22 WNBL Awards Melbourne finished third in the Sixth Woman of the Year Award and third in the Betty Watson Rookie of the Year Award, with fellow Seattle roster member Ezi Magbegor winning the latter award.
During the 2021 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup held in Jordan Melbourne was one of nine Australian’s that made their debut for the bronze medal winning Opals. On the experience of playing with the Australian Opals at the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Melbourne told the WNBL Fast Break Series in November 2021 “I learned so much from that small opportunity and something that will help me to continue to grow my game. A lot of the time it was just kind of stay in the moment, be yourself and then just work as a team. I think that kind of reflected what we did, we played a really selfless brand of basketball and I think that’s how Australia like to play and I think just that, being a great teammate is a real key message that was kind of brought across the whole time especially with limited preparation.”
Jade Melbourne playing for the University of Canberra Capitals against the Perth Lynx at Selkirk Stadium, Ballarat on 19 January 2022
At 19 years of age Melbourne was selected by Seattle Storm at the 2022 WNBA Draft in the third round with pick 33 overall. As discussed with Seattle before the draft Melbourne has remained in Australia, working on her game at NBL1 level with the Ballarat Miners in the South Conference before attending a training camp with Seattle in the future in a similar fashion to fellow Australian Magbegor who was drafted by Seattle in 2019 and made her WNBA debut with the Storm in 2020. Melbourne has played eight games for the Ballarat Miners during the 2022 NBL1 South season and is averaging 19.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game.
A link to an article published by Milestones and Misses on 16 April 2022 comprehensively covering Jade Melbourne’s basketball career is below:
Position: Guard DOB 19 March 1992
Height 178cm WNBL debut: 2009/10
Junior Club Nunawading Spectres (Victoria)
WNBL games played: 211 WNBL Team: Southside Flyers
Olympic Games: Nil
World Cups: Nil
During an outstanding junior career Bec Cole captained the Australian Gems at the 2011 FIBA Under-19 World Championships and ranked in the top two for the Gems in scoring and assists. At 16 years of age Cole made her WNBL debut with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in 2009/10. After playing all 22 WNBL games for the AIS as a point guard in 2010/11 and impressing with her skills and leadership Cole was appointed AIS captain for the 2011/12 season.
At an AIS training session in October 2011 Cole injured her right knee and required a reconstruction. Cole made her WNBL return and played 13 games for the Bulleen (now Melbourne) Boomers in 2012/13. During 2014/15 with the Boomers Cole averaged a then career-best 11.8 points per game. In a SEABL game for Nunawading in May 2015 Cole injured her left knee and needed a reconstruction which resulted in her having both of her knees reconstructed before she was 24 years old.
After missing the entire 2015/16 WNBL season Cole made her return in 2016/17 and has been extremely durable in the past six WNBL seasons, playing 124 of a possible 127 games. In episode 1 of the Rangers Podcast in October 2018 Cole commented “In the last couple of years I have found something that I really enjoy, yeah going into the gym and working on my whole body is what makes me stay on the floor and not get injured. I want to be able to play on the court as long as possible, so anything I can do to keep playing until my body says no, I will be doing that.”
From 2017 onwards Cole has played in many 3×3 tournaments including representing Australia at international tournaments. Cole is Australia’s 3×3 captain and in both the 2018 and 2019 FIBA 3×3 Asia Cup she was named in the Team of the Tournament, also being named the Most Valuable Player in the 2019 edition where Australia won the gold medal.
Before the 2018/19 WNBL season with the Jayco Rangers Bec had never averaged more than 12 points per game. Playing 3×3 basketball from 2017 onwards and a positional move from point guard to shooting guard were key factors in Cole elevating her game to another stratosphere. Cole had a break-out 2018/19 season, averaging 19.4 points per game and shot at 51.0% from the field for the Jayco Rangers to finish runner-up in the 2018/19 WNBL MVP Award and was named in that season’s All-WNBL first team. Cole was selected in the 2019/20 All-WNBL second team for her performances with the Southside Flyers. In each of the past four seasons from 2018/19 to 2021/22 Cole has averaged more than 15.0 points per game to rank in the WNBL’s top eight for scoring.
Bec Cole shooting a free-throw for Dandenong Rangers against the Melbourne Boomers at Dandenong Stadium on 2 November 2018
During the 2020 WNBL season with the Southside Flyers Cole maintained a high of level of performance to rank in the WNBL’s top 10 for points per game (7th), assists (5th), steals (4th), field goal percentage (3rd) and 3 point percentage (4th). Whilst Cole missed out on selection in an All-WNBL team in 2020, more than 10 years after her debut with the AIS in 2009/10 she was able to achieve a major goal of winning a WNBL Championship with the Southside Flyers.
During the 2021/22 WNBL season with the Southside Flyers Cole averaged 16.7 points (ranked 5th in the WNBL) and made 33 of 71 three-pointers at an accuracy of 46.5% to rank third for three-point accuracy amongst players that made at least 10 shots from behind the arc.
Cole has played five games for the Waverley Falcons during the 2022 NBL1 South season and is averaging 20.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game.
Below is a link to an article published on Milestone and Misses on 25 December 2021 celebrating Cole reaching 200 WNBL games:
WNBL Achievements: All-WNBL First team 2018/19
All-WNBL Second team 2019/20
WNBL Championship 2020 (with Southside Flyers)
Position: Guard DOB 22 July 1996
Height 168cm WNBL debut: 2018/19
Junior Club Frankston Blues (Victoria)
WNBL games played: 40 WNBL Team: Townsville Fire
Olympic Games: Nil
World Cups: Nil
Steph Reid grew up on the Mornington Peninsula in Mount Eliza, Victoria, started playing basketball at five years of age with the Frankston Blues, progressed through the entire junior pathway at Frankston and later represented the club at senior level.
From 2014/15 to 2017/18 Reid spent four seasons playing College basketball in the USA with University of Buffalo. After Reid started the first two games of her college career on the bench she was elevated to the role of starting point guard in her third game in mid-January 2015 and retained this role for the remaining 114 games of her college career. In overtime of the Mid-American Conference championship game in March 2016 Reid made a banked buzzer-beating two point field goal to break a tie and secure University of Buffalo a 73-71 win over Michigan and the Buffalo’s first ever MAC championship in dramatic fashion. Reid is the University of Buffalo’s all-time leader in assists.
After graduating from The University of Buffalo Reid returned to the Frankston Blues and represented the club at senior level in the SEABL in 2018 and in the NBL1 during the league’s inaugural season in 2019. In an NBL1 game for the Frankston Blues in May, 2019 Reid set a new league record, scoring 50 points against Launceston Tornadoes in a home game, making 19 of 25 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 76% and was even more impressive from long range, making seven of eight three-pointers at an accuracy of 87.5%.
Reid played a total of just seven games in her first two WNBL seasons comprised of four games for the Dandenong Rangers in 2018/19 and three games for the Southside Flyers in 2019/20, a quad injury kept her on the sidelines for five weeks during the latter season.
In two WNBL seasons for the Townsville Fire in 2020 and 2021/22 Reid finished in the top four of the WNBL’s sixth Woman of the Year Award. Due to injuries to her Townsville Fire teammates Reid took on more responsibility in the second half of the 2021/22 WNBL season and after playing over 30 minutes court-time in just one of Townsville’s first nine games of the season played over 30 minutes in each of the Fire’s last eight games of the season. Reid relished the increased opportunity to be one of the revelations of the 2021/22 WNBL season, averaging 12.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 30.1 minutes per game and ranked fourth in the league for assists per game. Reid won Townsville’s 2021/22 MVP Award and the ‘Club Person of the Year’ award.
Steph Reid playing for Townsville Fire against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 25 February 2022
After being named in the Opals extended 21 player squad for the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup in April Reid told fdba.com.au “I’m obviously so overwhelmed by the feeling, it’s really exciting and I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it. Just excited to get to camp now and see how it goes. It’s always been a goal and it’s something I’ve tried to work towards, but I didn’t know this was going to be the year that it happened. I’m really excited and I’m ahead of schedule as to where I thought I would be at the start of this year so I’m pretty grateful for that as well.”1
Reid has played Townsville Flame’s first four games of the 2022 NBL1 North season and is averaging 22.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game. Reid ranks seventh in NBL1 North for assists per game and 10th for scoring.
Position: Forward DOB 15 February 1993
Height 189cm WNBL debut: 2009/10
Junior Club Melbourne Tigers (Victoria)
WNBL games played: 241 WNBL Team: Southside Flyers
Olympic Games: 2020
World Cups: Nil
In 2009/10 Blicavs made her WNBL debut at 16 years of age with the Australian Institute of Sport, during her three seasons with the AIS she improved significantly and in her final season Blicavs ranked in the top two at the AIS for points, rebounds, assists and steals.
Blicavs joined the Dandenong Rangers for the 2012/13 WNBL season and starred on club debut, scoring 19 points and taking eight rebounds. In 2013/14 and 2014/15 Blicavs played for the Bendigo Spirit and was a member of the club’s 2013/14 championship. Blicavs returned to the Jayco Rangers in 2015/16 and has played seven consecutive WNBL seasons with the Dandenong based WNBL club who rebranded to become the Southside Flyers in 2019/20. Of all the players on a 2021/22 WNBL roster Blicavs had the longest current consecutive seasons streak with their club.
In a 2015/16 semi final for the Jayco Rangers against the SEQ Stars Sara was phenomenal, playing one of the all-time great WNBL finals games, scoring 38 points on 14 of 26 field goals, took a team-high nine rebounds and made an equal team-high four assists. During five seasons from 2012/13 to 2016/17 before suffering knee injuries Blicavs played a total of 131 WNBL games to be one of the most durable players in the league and was on an upward trajectory with her scoring average increasing by at least 1.5 points per game in all five seasons during this time. In 2016/17 Sara finished equal fifth in the WNBL MVP Award and was a joint winner of the Rangers MVP Award along with sister in-law Steph Blicavs. Days after the Rangers 2016/17 Awards Steph married Sara’s older brother Kris.
Sara Blicavs playing for Dandenong Rangers against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 31 October 2016
On Friday 10 November, 2017 Sara suffered a serious knee injury just before half-time against Adelaide at Dandenong Stadium. Days later it was confirmed that Sara required a knee reconstruction and would miss the remainder of the season, however Sara had actually suffered three injuries, rupturing the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), ripped the meniscus root of the bone and fractured her kneecap.
After her knee reconstruction Blicavs had numerous set-backs and she missed 13 months in the WNBL, making her WNBL return in December 2018, playing limited minutes for the Jayco Rangers in her six games for the season. During the 2019/20 WNBL season Sara returned to being a starter, playing for the Southside Flyers. Blicavs was a member of the Australian Opals team that in February 2020 qualified for the Tokyo Olympics at the 2020 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in France.
Sara Blicavs shooting a free-throw for Southside Flyers against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 4 November 2019
Athleticism has always been a strength of Blicavs’, however as her career progressed she has expanded her game to improve her defense and outside shooting. In 2020 Blicavs was part of the Southside Flyers Championship winning team and had a brilliant individual season to rank equal ninth in the WNBL for rebounds per game, 10th for steals and 15th for scoring. Blicavs was a weapon from long-range, making 24 three-pointers at an accuracy of 57.1% during the regular season. Blicavs was recognised for her brilliant all-round season with selection in the 2020 All-WNBL second team.
Forward Blicavs played for the Australian Opals at the Tokyo Olympic Games, becoming the third member of her family to represent Australia in basketball at a major championship, emulating both her parents, dad Andris and mum Karen who won the WNBL’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award in the league’s first two seasons in 1982 and 1983. Sara’s older brother Mark has played 213 AFL games for Geelong and has won the club’s best and fairest twice.
Despite missing games due to a back injury and COVID-19 during the 2021/22 WNBL season Blicavs averaged 16.0 points (ranked 8th in the WNBL) and 6.9 rebounds per game for the Southside Flyers.
A link to a feature article published by Milestones and Misses on 17 May 2020 covering Blicavs’ career to that point is below:
WNBL Achievements: All-WNBL Second Team 2020
WNBL Championship 2013/14 (with Bendigo Spirit), 2020 (with Southside Flyers)
Position: Forward DOB 24 June 1994
Height 188cm WNBL debut: 2011/12
Junior Club Kalgoorlie (Western Australia)
WNBL games played: 242 2021/22 WNBL Team: Perth Lynx
Free agent for the 2022/23 WNBL season
Olympic Games: Nil
World Cups: Nil
Darcee grew up in Kambalda, Western Australia and commenced her junior basketball career with Kalgoorlie, her family later moved to Perth. In 2011/12 Garbin made her WNBL debut at 17 years of age with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in the AIS’s last season in the league. Darcee’s younger sister Sophie plays netball for Collingwood in Suncorp Super Netball and has represented Australia.
From 2012/13 to 2014/15 Garbin played three WNBL seasons for the West Coast Waves (who were later re-branded the Perth Lynx). Garbin played 110 WNBL games for the Townsville Fire in a five season stint with the club from 2015/16 to 2019/20 and played in WNBL championships in 2015/16 and 2017/18 with front-court teammates in these championship winning seasons including current Opals teammate Cayla George and six-time WNBL MVP winner Suzy Batkovic who the award is now named after.
After averaging between 5.0 and 9.9 points per game from 2012/13 to 2018/19 Garbin relished additional court-time to make an impact on the scoreboard, averaging 14.4 points with Townsville Fire in 2019/20 before averaging a career-high 16.5 points for Perth Lynx in 2020, ranked fifth in the league and ranked in the top dozen for rebounds per game.
At the 2019 and 2021 Asia Cup Garbin was a member of the Australian Opals team that won bronze medals. During the 2021 Asia Cup Garbin averaged 10.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 22.8 minutes per game, shot the ball at 55.6% from the field and 45% from the perimeter.
Garbin has played 11 consecutive WNBL seasons and has been very durable, amassing 242 WNBL games at just 27 years of age. During 2021/22 Garbin was the captain of Perth Lynx and was very effective from long-range, making 2.3 three-pointers per game to rank equal fourth in the WNBL in this category and had a three-point accuracy of 40.3%.
WNBL Achievements: WNBL Championship 2015/16, 2017/18 (both with Townsville Fire)
Position: Forward DOB 31 January 1996
Height 188cm WNBL debut: 2012/13
Junior Club Townsville (Queensland)
WNBL games played: 129 WNBL Team: Sydney Uni Flames
Olympic Games: Nil
World Cups: Nil
Keely Froling was born and raised in Townsville, Queensland and is from a family with a very strong basketball pedigree. Mum Jenny played in the WNBL and Dad Shane played in the NBL. Keely’s twin sister Alicia plays in the WNBL for the University of Canberra Capitals and both of her brothers Harry and Sam play in the NBL and were teammates at the Illawarra Hawks in 2021/22.
Keely made her WNBL debut as a development player with Townsville Fire in 2012/13 and played two seasons of College basketball at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas alongside twin sister Alicia. Keely played 49 games for SMU including 18 starts, due to a knee injury suffered late in the 2014/15 season she spent time on the sidelines early in the 2015/16 season.
From 2016/17 to 2020 Froling spent five seasons in the WNBL with the University of Canberra Capitals and played 108 games during this time, predominantly playing as a forward off the bench. Froling was a member of the Capitals team that won back to back WNBL Championships in 2018/19 and 2019/20.
Keely Froling playing for University of Canberra Capitals against Bendigo Spirit at the State Basketball Centre on 25 November 2017
Froling has played in in many 3×3 tournaments from 2018 onwards including representing Australia at international tournaments. In 2019 Bec Cole and Froling were teammates on the Spectres iAthletic team that won NBL Pro Hustle tournaments in Darwin and Melbourne. Froling and Cole have also been teammates on Australian 3×3 teams at international tournaments including the bronze medal Australian team at the 2018 FIBA 3×3 Asia Cup and finishing fourth at the 2019 FIBA 3×3 World Cup.
Froling was a member of the Opals bronze medal winning team at the 2021 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup held in Jordan. Keely played all six games for Australia and averaged 9.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 18.9 minutes per game to rank third for the Opals in scoring, third for rebounds and fifth for minutes played.
Froling joined the Brydens Sydney Uni Flames for the 2021/22 WNBL season and in her first season with the club was named co-captain along with guard Lauren Mansfield. Froling had the best season of her WNBL game, averaging 4.5 free-throws made per game (2nd in the WNBL), 16.3 points (6th in the WNBL) 8.5 rebounds (7th in the WNBL) and 32.7 minutes (7th in the WNBL). Froling was a joint winner of the Sydney Uni Flames 2021/22 MVP Award along with point guard Shyla Heal.
Keely Froling shooting a free-throw for Sydney Uni Flames against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 25 February 2022
During the 2022 NBL1 South season Froling has played six games for the Launceston Tornadoes and is averaging 30.9 points, 13.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game to lead NBL1 South in rebounds and rank second for scoring.
WNBL Achievements: WNBL Championship 2018/19, 2019/20 (both with University of Canberra Capitals)
Position: Forward/Centre DOB 1 May 1989
Height 193cm WNBL debut: 2005/06
Junior Club Eastern Mavericks (South Australia)
WNBL games played: 306 Current WNBL Team: Melbourne Boomers
Olympic Games: 2016, 2020
World Cups: 2014 – Bronze Medal, 2018 – Silver Medal
In 2021/22 Boomers captain Cayla George played her fourth consecutive WNBL season with the Deakin Melbourne Boomers, 14th season overall and became the 23rd player in league history to reach 300 games.
Apart from her rookie WNBL season with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in 2005/06 forward/centre Cayla George has averaged more than 8.0 rebounds per game in each season and ranks third on the All-time list for most career rebounds in the WNBL behind Rachel Sporn and Suzy Batkovic.
George has played in four WNBL Championships comprised of three for Townsville Fire in 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2017/18 and one for the Deakin Melbourne Boomers in 2021/22 as club captain. George has had two top three finishes in the WNBL’s Most Valuable Player Award, being runner-up in 2014/15 and finished third in 2019/20. From 2019/20 to 2021/22 George is one of only two players along with Steph Talbot to earn All-WNBL selection in all three seasons, being named in the All-WNBL first team in 2020 and the All-WNBL second team in 2019/20 and 2021/22. During her decorated career George has earnt selection in an All-WNBL team four times, having been selected in the First team in 2014/15.
During an outstanding 2020 WNBL season George displayed her all-round skill-set to rank second in the league for rebounds, in the top seven for blocked shots and in the top 15 for scoring, assists and steals.
George played a significant role in the Opals defeating Spain in the semi final at the 2018 World Cup. With scores tied at 64 apiece with three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter George scored the next five points of the game comprised of two free-throws and a corner three to gain the ascendancy for the Opals who went on to win the semi final 72-66. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games George played a crucial role to ensure that the Opals defeated Puerto Rico by the required margin in their final group game to advance to the quarter finals. At the Tokyo Olympic Games George was superb, leading the Australian Opals for scoring and rebounding per game, ranked equal second for steals and third for assists.
From 2014 to the present George is one of only two players along with point guard Tessa Lavey to represent the Australian Opals at all four major championships comprised of the 2014 World Cup in Turkey, 2018 World Cup in Spain, 2016 Rio Olympic Games and 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. In three of the four major championships George has ranked in the top three for the Opals in rebounding with the exception being the 2016 Olympic Games. George was part of the Australian Opals starting line-up at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on home soil in Queensland. Australia defeated England 99-55 in the Gold medal game, George scored an equal game-high 16 points and took 10 rebounds to be the only player in the gold medal game that registered a double-double.
Playing for the Mackay Meteorettes during the 2021 NBL1 North season George averaged 22.4 points, 16.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game to win the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award.
On 17 January 2021 George scored the 4,000th point of her WNBL career, becoming just the 12th player in league history to reach this significant milestone. During the 2021/22 WNBL season for the Championship winning Melbourne Boomers George averaged 14.1 points, 10.6 rebounds (ranked 2nd in the WNBL), 3.1 assists, 0.9 blocked shots (equal 6th) and 31.7 minutes (12th) per game.
During the 2022 NBL1 season George has played five games for the Cairns Dolphins and is averaging 18.4 points, 16.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game. George leads NBL1 North for assists per game and ranks second for rebounds.
In May 2020 George told Milestones and Misses “Honestly, playing for the Opals is like my favourite thing to do ever, wearing the green and gold is something that is just like so humbling and so rewarding and it is just the biggest adrenaline rush ever, especially when there is so much pressure on the Opals because of the legacy before us and I love that pressure. I love that I am a part of that legacy, I love that we have expectations on us and yes that can sometimes be really daunting but that pressure, when you succeed with that type of pressure on you it is just like euphoria, it is just incredible, back in 2018 when we won the silver medal, when we beat Spain to make the gold medal game, like that type of euphoria.”
Below is a link to the article published on Milestones and Misses on 22 January 2022 to celebrate George scoring reaching 4,000 career points in the WNBL:
WNBL Achievements: All-WNBL First Team 2014/15, 2020
All-WNBL Second Team 2019/2020, 2021/22
Betty Watson Rookie of the Year Award 2006/07
WNBL Championship 2014/15, 2015/16, 2017/18 (with Townsville Fire) 2021/22 (with Melbourne Boomers)
Position: Forward/Centre DOB 7 March 1996
Height 196cm WNBL debut: 2013/14
Junior Club Melbourne Tigers (Victoria)
WNBL games played: 186 2021/22 WNBL Team: Perth Lynx
Free agent for the 2022/23 WNBL season
Olympic Games: Nil
World Cups: Nil
At 17 years of age Scherf made her WNBL debut with the Dandenong Rangers in 2013/14 and played 86 games in four seasons with the club. In 2014/15 power forward/centre Scherf won the WNBL’s Betty Watson Rookie of the Year Award. In the Dandenong Rangers 2016 SEABL Grand Final victory Scherf won the Most Valuable Player Award.
Lauren Scherf shooting a free-throw for Dandenong Rangers against Kilsyth Cobras at the State Basketball Centre in the 2016 SEABL Grand Final on 10 September
Scherf represented the Australian Gems at FIBA Women’s Under 19 World Championships twice. As a double bottom-age player in 2013 Scherf played four of the bronze medal winning Gems nine games. At the 2015 FIBA Women’s Under 19 World Championships Scherf played all seven games and averaged 8.0 points and 6.7 rebounds per game for the Gems who won the bronze medal.
During 2017/18 and 2018/19 Scherf played 46 games for the University of Canberra Capitals and was a member of the club’s championship winning team in the latter season. As the Sydney Uni Flames starting centre in 2019/20 and 2020 Scherf averaged more than 8.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game in each season.
At the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup held in Jordan from 27 September to 3 October Scherf played all six games for Australia, averaging 9.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.7 blocked shots and 21.2 minutes per game. Scherf led the bronze medal winning Opals for rebounds and blocked shots and ranked fourth for scoring and minutes played.
Scherf was the starting centre in the Perth Lynx team that made the 2021/22 Grand Final and averaged 11.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per game to set career highs in both categories. Scherf ranked third in the WNBL for rebounds, fifth for blocked shots (1.0 per game) and finished runner-up in Perth’s MVP Award behind American import guard Jackie Young.
Lauren Scherf shooting a jump-shot for Perth Lynx against Melbourne Boomers at the Gippsland Regional Indoor Sports Stadium on 6 February 2022
During the 2022 NBL1 South season Scherf has played five games for the Kilsyth Cobras and is averaging 18.0 points, 8.6 rebounds and 0.8 blocked shots per game.
WNBL Achievements: Betty Watson Rookie of the Year 2014/15
WNBL Championship 2018/19 (with University of Canberra Capitals)
Head Coach – Cheryl Chambers
Cheryl Chambers has extensive experience as a player and head coach in the WNBL, having played a total of 267 WNBL games for Nunawading, Coburg, Bulleen and Melbourne Tigers and has been a Head Coach in the league for 283 games. Chambers’ 14 seasons as a WNBL head coach are comprised of eight seasons with the Bulleen (now Melbourne) Boomers from 2001/02 to 2008/09, three seasons with the Sydney Uni Flames from 2016/17 to 2018/19 and the past three seasons with the Southside Flyers from 2019/20 to 2021/22. As Head Coach of the Southside Flyers in the 2021/22 WNBL season Chambers coached, Blicavs, Cole and Rocci whilst Nicholson was a member of the Sydney Uni Flames 2016/17 Championship winning team coached by Chambers.
In between her first and second stint as a WNBL head coach Chambers spent some time as an Assistant coach to Guy Molloy at the Melbourne Boomers. Chambers has been the head coach of two WNBL teams that have won Championships – the Sydney Uni Flames in 2016/17 and the Southside Flyers in 2020. Chambers has won the WNBL’s Coach of the Year Award three times comprised of twice with the Bulleen Boomers in 2004/05 and 2008/09 and once with the Sydney Uni Flames in their Championship winning 2016/17 season.
Chambers has experience as a head coach of Australian representative sides at under-age level including the Australian Gems team that won a bronze medal at the FIBA Women’s 2013 under 19 World Championships. Two members of that Gems team – Garbin and Scherf are playing for the Opals in the three game series against Japan.
Between 2005 and 2007 Chambers was an Assistant Coach of the Opals and commenced a second stint in this role in May 2017 with Sandy Brondello as the Opals Head Coach. In the past five years with Chambers as an Assistant Coach the Opals won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, silver at the 2018 World Cup and have won medals at the 2017 (silver), 2019 (bronze) and 2021 (bronze) Asia Cup.
WNBL Achievements (as a coach): WNBL Coach of the Year 2004/05, 2008/09 (both with the Bulleen Boomers), 2016/17 (Sydney Uni Flames)
Coach of WNBL Championship 2016/17 (Sydney Uni Flames), 2020 (Southside Flyers)
Article and photographs by Dean Andrews
Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777
Milestones and Misses
Milestones and Misses publishes articles to celebrate the achievements of sportspeople, mainly in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) and Australian Rules Football (AFL and AFLW). In sport as with life in general it is common that milestones are only achieved after overcoming adversity, so whilst the articles on the Milestones and Misses website celebrate sportspeople achieving milestones they also cover the misses along the journey such as a player having minimal game-time or spending a prolonged period on the sidelines due to injury. The aim of the articles is to enable readers to gain a greater appreciation of the journey sportspeople have had during their career.
A link to Milestones and Misses homepage and WNBL category is below:
The Milestones and Misses website was set up in December 2015. From 2020 onwards articles have been published on the following sportspeople:
2 thoughts on “Australian Opals Player Profiles for 3 game series against Japan in May 2022”
On the eve of the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup an article was published on Milestones and Misses covering:
• 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup in general including all 12 nations competing
• Australian Opals history at the World Cup and
• Includes Player Profiles on all 12 members of the Opals team
A link to this article is below: