From 22 September to 1 October twelve nations are competing in the 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup which is being held in Sydney. Host nation Australia has a rich history at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup having won medals five times, all in the last six editions of the tournament comprised of gold in 2006, silver in 2018 and bronze in 1998, 2002 and 2014.
The Opals 2022 World Cup team includes six members of Australia’s silver medal winning team from the 2018 World Cup held in Spain – Cayla George, Steph Talbot, Bec Allen, Ezi Magbegor, Tess Madgen and Sami Whitcomb. Three other members of Australia’s team have played for the Opals at a major championship, Marianna Tolo, Sara Blicavs and Lauren Jackson who is making her ninth appearance at a major championship having been a member of the first three Opals teams to win World Cup medals in 1998, 2002 and 2006. The three members of the Seven Consulting Opals team that are making their major championship debut in Sydney are Kristy Wallace, Darcee Garbin and 2021/22 WNBL Most Valuable Player Anneli Maley.
Ezi Magbegor winning the opening tip for Melbourne Boomers against Sydney Flames at the State Basketball Centre on 20 February 2022
The 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup is the 19th edition of the tournament, having first been held in Chile in 1953. Only two of the twelve nations competing at the 2022 Women’s World Cup have won a gold medal, defending champions USA have won an event record 10 gold medals and Australia won their only title in Brazil in 2006. In addition to USA and Australia another three nations competing in Sydney have won a medal at a women’s basketball major championship since 2016 with nations in this category being Japan (silver at the 2020 Olympics), France (bronze at the 2020 Olympics) and Serbia (bronze at the 2016 Olympics).
The article below includes the following information on the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup:
- General information on the 2022 World Cup tournament including all 12 nations competing
- The Opals Group B schedule
- Australian Opals history at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup.
- Player profiles for all 12 members of the Australian Opals 2022 World Cup team
Venue, Groups and nations competing at the 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup
Games at the 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup are being played at two venues in the Sydney Olympic Park precinct, Sydney SuperDome (also known as Qudos Bank Arena) and Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre (also known Quay Centre).
12 nations will compete at the 2022 World Cup comprised of two groups, Group A and Group B with six nations 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. All 12 nations will play one game on Thursday 22 September, Friday 23 September, Monday 26 September and Tuesday 27 September. On these four days two sessions with two games each will be played at Sydney SuperDome and one session with two games will be played at Sydney Olympic Park Sports. All games on the weekend of 24 and 25 September will be played at the Sydney SuperDome with Pool A in action on Saturday 24 September and Pool B playing on Sunday 25 September.
The top four teams from each group will qualify for the quarter finals which will all be played on Thursday 29 September. All games from the quarter finals onwards will be played at Sydney SuperDome, with the semi finals played on Friday 30 September and the medal games played on Saturday 1 October.
The two Groups of six nations each are listed along with each nation’s World Ranking as at 15 February 2022. Some information is provided on each of the dozen nations that are competing at the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup in Sydney.
Nation World Ranking
Puerto Rico 17
Bosnia and Herzegovina 26
United States of America have won the gold medal at the past seven major championships commencing at the 2008 Olympic Games and booked their ticket to the 2022 World Cup by winning the gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Three USA front-court players ranked in the top six overall in scoring per game in Tokyo – Britney Griner and A’ja Wilson (16.5 points per game each) and Breanna Stewart (15.0 points per game). During the 2018 World Cup in Tenerife, Spain, USA won all six games to convincingly win the gold medal, their smallest winning margin was 12 points against China in their second Group D game. Forward Stewart averaged 16.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, shot the ball at 58% from the field, 47.1% from three and was named the 2018 FIBA World Cup MVP.
In the WNBA off-season Griner was playing for Russian club UMMC Ekaterinburg when she was detained in February 2022 and is still being held in Russia. On Thursday 7 July, 2022 the WNBPA released a statement regarding Brittney Griner. The first paragraph of the statement said “The WNBPA stands with Brittney Griner. With a 99% conviction rate, Russia’s process is its own. You can’t navigate it or even understand it like our own legal system. What we do know is that the U.S. State Department determined that Brittney Griner was wrongfully detained for a reason and will continue negotiating for her release regardless of the legal process. We’ll leave it at that.”1
At the World Cup Qualifying tournament held in Washington in February 2022 the USA won both their games, defeating Belgium 84-75 in their first game followed by a 93-55 victory against Puerto Rico in their second game. At the WCQT only three USA players averaged more than 20 minutes per game and this trio are members of the USE team for the World Cup being Alyssa Thomas (24.9 minutes per game), Jewell Loyd (23.0) and Ariel Atkins (22.5).
It will be a new look USA team in Sydney with only two starters from Tokyo, Stewart and Wilson on the USA team for the 2022 World Cup. A total of six players that won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics will be representing USA in Sydney. Jewell Loyd, Ariel Atkins, and Chelsea Gray all won gold in the traditional five on five format of basketball whilst Kelsey Plum won gold in the newer 3×3 format which was included on the Olympic program for the first time in Tokyo. Five members in the USA team for the 2022 World Cup – Las Vegas Aces trio A’ja Wilson, Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum and Connecticut Sun duo Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones are going to have a very short around after playing in the WNBA Finals which concluded Sunday 18 September USA time. USA commence their 2022 World Cup with a game against Belgium on Thursday 22 September starting at 11.30am AEST time which is less than 78 hours after the WNBA Finals concluded. Alyssa Thomas arrived in Sydney on Wednesday morning 21 September. USA are unlikely to have their full complement of 12 players for their opening game of the World Cup against Belgium with several players that competed in the WNBA finals likely to arrive in Sydney after this game.
Two members of the USA team have played in Australia’s WNBL, Atkins for the Perth Lynx in 2019/20 and Betnijah Laney for three seasons – 2015/16 with Perth Lynx, 2017/18 with Bendigo Spirit and 2018/19 with the Jayco Dandenong Rangers.
Betnijah Laney playing for Bendigo Spirit against Canberra Capitals at the State Basketball Centre on 25 November 2017
Belgium qualified for the 2022 World Cup by finishing second behind the USA in the World Cup Qualifying tournament held in Washington from 11 to 15 February 2022, having a narrow loss to USA 75-84 and defeated Puerto Rico 98-65 and Russia 66-43.
At the past two major championships Belgian forward Emma Meesseman has ranked in the top two overall for points scored and rebounds per game. At the 2018 World Cup Meesseman ranked second with 18.5 points per game and first with 10.7 rebounds per game to earn selection in the All-Star five for the tournament. Meesseman was even more dominant at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics being ranked first with 26.8 points per game, shooting at 61.3% from the field and ranked second with 10.5 rebounds per game.
The Belgian Cats finished fourth at the 2018 World Cup and seventh at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Guard Julie Vanloo was a member of both these Belgian teams and played in the WNBL for Townsville Fire in 2019/20. In their opening Group A game of the 2022 World Cup Belgium play USA who wont be at full strength on Thursday 22 September at the Sydney SuperDome in a game starting at 11.30 am AEST.
China advanced to the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup by finishing on top of Group B at the World Cup Qualifying Tournament held in Belgrade, Serbia in February. China won all three games, defeating in order Nigeria 90-76, Mali 84-64 and France 103-70.
At the 2018 World Championships China finished sixth out of 16 nations after being defeated by Australia in a quarter final. China made it to the quarter finals again at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, were defeated by Serbia 70-77 and finished fifth. China’s top two scorers from the Tokyo Olympics, Yueru Li (14.8 points per game) and Meng Li (10.8 ppg) are both in China’s final 12 player squad for the 2022 World Cup.
In Group A of the World Cup Qualifying Tournament held in Belgrade, Serbia in February Korea finished third out of four nations to book their ticket to the 2022 World Cup in Sydney, winning a thriller against Brazil on day 2 76-74. In their opening game of the tournament Korea fell just short of upsetting host nation Serbia, being defeated 62-65. In their final game Korea lost to Australia 61-79.
Korea finished 14th at the 2018 World Championships and 10th at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Forward Leeseul Kang top-scored for Korea with 14.3 points per game in Tokyo and ranked second with 5.3 rebounds per game. Kang will be a focal point for Korea in Sydney and was influential in her nation qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Sydney, scoring a game-high 21 points in their two point victory against Brazil at the 2022 WCQT in Serbia.
Puerto Rico finished last out of four teams in the 2022 World Cup Qualifying Tournament D held in Washington and the Dominican Republic with three losses. The top three nations from the tournament who all qualified for the 2022 World Cup were 1 United States, 2 Belgium and 3 Russia. As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine FIBA announced on 18 May 2022 that “Russia is withdrawn from the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 to be played in Australia from September 22 to October 1. The replacement team is Puerto Rico.”2
At the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games Puerto Rican shooting guard Jazmon Gwathmey ranked third overall with 18.0 points per game including a standout performance of 26 points and six rebounds in the final group game against Australia. Gwathmey played in the WNBL for the University of Canberra Capitals in 2016/17.
Puerto Ricowill be playing in their third consecutive major championship at the 2022 World Cup, having made their debut appearance at the 2018 World Cup. Puerto Rico were eliminated at the Group stage without winning a game at both the 2018 World Cup and 2020 Olympic Games and will be endeavouring to get their first victory at a major championship. Their two best opportunities to do this will be their first Group A game against Bosnia and Herzegovinaon Thursday 22 September or their final group game against Korea on Tuesday 27 September.
Bosnia and Herzegovina finished fifth at EuroBasket women in June 2021 to progress to a World Cup Qualifying Tournament. Bosnia and Herzegovina competed at a WCQT held in Osaka, Japan in February this year, being defeated by Canada 64-96 in their first game and had an 87-82 victory against Japan in their second game. Belarus withdrew from the tournament which resulted in the remaining three nations all progressing to the 2022 World Cup. Bosnia and Herzegovinaare making their major championship debut in women’s basketball at the 2022 World Cup.
Power forward/centre Jonquel Jones starred in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s five point victory against Japan in the WCQT with 36 points and 23 rebounds. 2021 WNBA MVP Jones averaged 24.3 points and 16.8 rebounds per game at 2021 EuroBasket women to lead the tournament in both categories. Jones’ WNBA season only concluded on Sunday 18 September, with her team Connecticut Sun being defeated in the WNBA Finals by the Las Vegas Aces three games to one.
Nation World Ranking
As the host nation Australia automatically qualified for the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup but still participated in the WCQT. At the World Cup Qualifying Tournament held in Belgrade, Serbia in February this year 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. Nine members of the Opals 2022 WCQT are representing Australia on home soil at this month’s World Cup. The three inclusions in the World Cup that didn’t play for the Opals at the WCQT are Australia’s greatest basketball player of All-time in Lauren Jackson, 2021/22 WNBL MVP Anneli Maley and 2021/22 All- WNBL first team member Ezi Magbegor.
The impact playing in front of a home crowd has on the Opals will be a factor at the 2022 World Cup in Sydney. Some teams thrive on the support of a home crowd whilst for other teams the additional support and expectation can turn into a negative. Australia have performed very well in their previous Women’s basketball two major championships on home soil. At the 1994 World Championships they progressed to the medal games in Sydney and finished fourth to equal their best performance to that stage at a major championship. Six years later at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games the Opals progressed to their first ever gold medal game at a major championship and won the silver medal, being defeated by United States of America in the final.
In 2018 Australia progressed to the gold medal game at a World Cup for the second time after defeating host nation Spain 72-66 in a semi final. USA defeated the Opals in the final 73-56 and Australia won the silver medal.
At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Australia lost their first two Group C Games and needed to defeat Puerto Rico by at least 24 points in their third and final Group game to qualify for the quarter finals. After the Opals led 45-44 at half-time they dominated the second half to defeat Puerto Rico 96-69 and advance to the quarter finals. USA defeated the Opals 79-55 in the quarter final and Australia finished eighth.
The nations that advance to the medal games at the 2022 World Cup will play eight games in 10 days so having depth will be critical and should work to the Opals advantage. Six players that are members of the Opals 2022 World Cup team averaged more than 10 points per game in at least one of the past three international tournaments comprised of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, 2021 Asia Cup and 2022 World Cup Qualifying Tournament. The players in this category are Sami Whitcomb (2021 Asia Cup and 2022 WCQT), Cayla George, Ezi Magbegor and Marianna Tolo (all at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games), Garbin (2021 Asia Cup) and Bec Allen (2022 WCQT).
At the World Cup Qualifying Tournament held in Osaka in February 2022 Canada split their games, losing to Japan 79-86 in overtime in their opening game before comprehensively defeating Bosnia and Herzegovina 96-64. Canada are making their sixth consecutive appearance at a major championship, a sequence that commenced at the 2010 World Championships. After finishing seventh at 2018 World Cup Canada narrowly missed out on advancing to the quarter finals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, finishing ninth. Kia Nurse top scored for Canada at both tournaments with 18.2 points per game in 2018 and 13.0 points per game in Tokyo.
Three members of Canada’s team for the 2022 World Cup held in Sydney have played in Australia’s WNBL. Kayla Alexander played for Adelaide Lightning in 2018/19 and Bridget Carleton played for Townsville Fire in 2019/20. Kia Nurse had a very successful two season stint in 2018/19 and 2019/20, playing in back-to-back WNBL Championships with the University of Canberra Capitals and in the latter season became the first import in WNBL history to win the Suzy Batkovic Medal for the league’s Most Valuable Player. For the Capitals Nurse averaged 21.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game in her 2019/20 MVP winning season.
Kia Nurse playing for the Canberra Capitals against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 9 November 2019
Nurse tore the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in her right knee playing for Phoenix Mercury in game 4 of the WNBA semi final series against the Las Vegas Aces on October 6. 11 and a half months after her ACL injury Nurse will make her return for Canada at the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup and will be on a minutes restriction early in the tournament. Due to this more responsibility will fall on Nurse’s three Canadian teammates that all averaged more than 8.0 points per game in Tokyo and are playing in Sydney – Carlton (11.3 points per game), Nirra Fields (11.3 ppg) and Natalie Achonwa (8.3 ppg).
France has finished in the top five at the past two major championships, having finished fifth at the 2018 World Cup followed by winning bronze at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. France’s leading scorer from the Tokyo Olympics, centre Sandrine Gruda (13.7 points per game) will miss the 2022 World Cup due to injury. Two other players that averaged more than 10 points per game for France at Tokyo were set to play prominent roles for the nation in Sydney – Marine Johannes (11.5 ppg) and Gabby Williams (10.5 ppg). On Tuesday 20 September shooting guard Johannes was a late withdrawal from France’s 2022 World Cup team due to a thigh injury, Mamignan Toure has been brought into France’s 12 player team.
In Group B of the World Cup Qualifying Tournament held in Belgrade in February 2022 France finished third out of four teams to qualify for the 2022 World Cup. France’s only win was against Mali 77-66 on the opening day, France were defeated by China and Nigeria in their later games. Johnannes led France at the WCQT with 15.0 points per game followed by Williams (11.0 ppg). Two other players averaged more than 8.0 points per game in Belgrade and with Gruda and Johannes both missing the World Cup due to injury the performance of this duo – power forward Alexia Chartereau (10.3 ppg) and centre Iliana Rupert (8.7 ppg) will be pivotal to how far France progress in Sydney.
Williams is the only one of the five French players that averaged more than 7.5 points per game in Tokyo that will be able to represent France at the 2022 World Cup in Sydney. Williams won the 2022 EuroLeague final four MVP playing for Sopron Basket in Hungary. Williams was recognised for her defense playing as a forward for Seattle in 2022, being named on the WNBA All-Defensive second team. Four of Williams’ Seattle teammates are playing for rival nations in Sydney – Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd for USA, along with Ezi Magbegor and Steph Talbot for Australia.
Japan won the silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and with a smaller line-up (their two tallest players were both 185 centimetres tall), speed and three-point shooting ability. 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%. Japan’s leading scorer Maki Takada (14.0 points per game) and leading rebounder Himawari Akaho (7.3 rebounds per game) from Tokyo are both suiting up for their nation in Sydney. In a massive blow to Japan’s chances of making it back-to-back podiums at major championships point guard Rui Machida who averaged 12.5 assists per game at the Olympics to rank first in this category is not playing at the World Cup.
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.
In the final Group B game Australia play Japan on Thursday 27 September at 8.30 pm at the Sydney SuperDome in what shapes as a critical encounter. Japan have a very good record against the Opals over the past five years, having won the gold medal at the 2017, 2019 and 2021 Asia Cups after defeating Australian in the final in 2017 and the semi final in both 2019 and 2021. Japan’s 2017 victory against the Opals in 2017 was by a point, 73-72 and four years later in the 2021 final they won by two points 67-65. In May this year Australia and Japan played a thrilling three-game friendly series which Japan won two games to one after losing game 1 by six points. Japan defeated the Opals by 1 point in game 2 and had a two point victory in game 3. Five of the nations in the top 10 of the World Rankings are in Group B so the battle to qualify for the quarter finals and finish as high as possible in the Group will be intense. With the recent history between Japan and Australia together the ramifications for the Group B standings you don’t want to miss their game on 27 September to close the Group stage of the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup in Sydney.
By finishing on top of Group A at the World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, host nation Serbia qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Sydney. Serbia provided their home fans superb value, winning all three games by less than eight points. Serbia commenced the WCQT by defeating Korea 65-62, finished strongly against Australia to record a 78-71 victory and had a 76-70 win over Brazil in their final game.
At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio Serbia upset Australia 73-71 in the quarter finals to advance to the medal games. In the bronze medal game Serbia defeated France 70-63 to win the bronze medal and secure their first ever major championship medal. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games Serbia and France again battled for bronze, but this time France prevailed 91-76.
Serbia’s leading scorer from the Tokyo Olympic Games point guard Yvonne Anderson – 14.0 points per game has been named in Serbia’s extended squad for the 2022 World Cup. At the 2022 WCQT Anderson led Serbia in scoring (22.7 ppg), assists (4.3apg) and ranked second for rebounds (5.7rpg).
Mali finished fourth in Group B of the World Cup Qualifying Tournament held in Belgrade in February 2022 and missed out on qualification for the 2022 World Cup. Mali’s closest loss of the tournament was in their final game by four points to Nigeria 69-73. Nigeria finished second in Group B but later withdrew from the 2022 World Cup in Sydney and were replaced by Mali.
During the 2022 WCQT power forward Sika Kone averaged a double-double with 16.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game to lead Mali in both categories. All five players that averaged more than 20 minutes per game in Belgrade have been named in Mali’s final 12 player 2022 World Cup team – Kone, Djenba N’Diaye, Touty Gandega, Kankou Coulibaly and Meiya Tierara.
Australian Opals Group B schedule
Thursday, September 22 vs France at Sydney SuperDome 8.30pm AEST
Friday, September 23 vs Mali at Sydney SuperDome 8.30pm AEST
Sunday, September 25 vs Serbia at Sydney SuperDome 6.00pm AEST
Monday, September 26 vs Canada at Sydney SuperDome 8.30pm AEST
Tuesday, September 27 vs Japan at Sydney SuperDome 8.30pm AEST
All games of the tournament will be broadcast in Australia on ESPN
Eight of the top 10 ranked nations in the world are among the 12 nations competing at the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup. Group B was quickly labelled the ‘Group of death’ after five of the 10 nations in the world, Australia (3), Canada (4), France (6), Japan (8) and Serbia (10) were all drawn into this group. With a world ranking of 37 Mali are the underdogs of Group B.
Australian Opals team for the 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup
Player 2022/23 team
Bec Allen Valencia Basket (Spain)
Sara Blicavs Southside Flyers
Darcee Garbin DVTK-Hun-Therm (Hungary)
Cayla George Melbourne Boomers
Lauren Jackson Southside Flyers
Ezi Magbegor Sopron (Hungary)
Tess Madgen Melbourne Boomers
Anneli Maley Bendigo Spirit
Steph Talbot Adelaide Lightning
Marianna Tolo Spar Girona (Spain)
Kristy Wallace Melbourne Boomers
Sami Whitcomb Perth Lynx
Sandy Brondello head coach
Olaf Lange assistant coach
Cheryl Chambers assistant coach
The Australian Opals team for the 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup was announced on 10 August, 2022. Opals head coach Sandy Brondello told Australia.basketball “Making the final cut to twelve is always difficult with so many great athletes pushing for selection. The training camp in New York demonstrated how much each of these athletes wanted to compete on home soil, the competition for a spot on the team was fierce. Of course, the inclusion of Lauren is the talking point but from my perspective, she has put in the work and deserves to be here, she will add another dimension to our team dynamic.”3
Australia have an experienced team with seven players that have represented the Opals in multiple major championships – Jackson (8 major championships), George (4), Tolo (3), Allen (3), Talbot (3), Madgen (2), and Magbegor (2). Another two players Whitcomb and Blicavs have played in one major championship each. Three players are making their major championship debut for the Opals – Maley, Garbin and Wallace.
Nine members of the Opals 2022 World Cup team played in the WNBL during the 2021/22 season and eight players will be competing in the upcoming 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season that commences on 2 November. During 2022/23 four members of the Australian Opals World Cup team will be playing in Europe comprised of Garbin and Magbegor in Hungary along with Tolo and Allen in Spain.
The Seven Consulting Opals have a tall team for the 2022 World Cup with only three guards – Whitcomb, Madgen and Whitcomb in the 12 player team. The Opals have an average height of 188 centimetres and the nine frontcourt players are over 183 centimetres tall.
The Opals three player leadership group for the World Cup is Tess Madgen, Sami Whitcomb and Steph Talbot. After the Opals team was announced Madgen told Australia.basketball “This team has such a tight bond; we are a true sisterhood, and we continue to honour the legacy of the Opals who have played before us. To play in Sydney is a dream come true and I know the whole team is looking forward to being there in front of our family, friends and fans.”4 Weeks later Brondello announced on 8 September to the Opals playing group and staff that Madgen had been appointed the Opals captain for the 2022 World Cup.
Five members of the Opals 2022 World Cup team were on a WNBA roster for the the entire 2022 regular season comprised of New York Liberty duo Allen and Whitcomb coached by Brondello, Seattle Storm duo Magbegor and Talbot and Atlanta Dream guard Wallace. Maley made her WNBA debut with Chicago Sky as a replacement player but got waived when rostered Chicago players returned from their overseas commitments.
Seven members of the Australian 2022 World Cup team played in an NBL 1 Conference during the 2022 season comprised of Madgen, Blicavs, Garbin, Tolo, and Maley (all in NBL1 South) Jackson (NBL1 East) and George (NBL1 North). Madgen, Jackson and George were all selected in the respective conferences All-Star five. Jackson was a member of the Albury Wodonga Bandits team that won the NBL1 East Championship and she also won the conferences regular season MVP Award.
During the 2022 World Cup Qualifying Tournament held in Belgrade Serbia in February 2022 the Opals starting line-up was Whitcomb, Allen, Talbot, George and Magbegor. Coach Brondello is likely to have the same starting line-up for the 2022 World Cup in Sydney. Defense is a strength of the Opals, both with their starters and players coming off the bench. Allen and Talbot are both previous winners of the WNBL’s Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year award and Magbegor was selected in the 2022 WNBA All-Defensive Second team. Two Opals frontcourt players that are likely to start on the bench also have defensive honours with Tolo also being a previous winner of the WNBL’s Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year award and Jackson being a previous winner of the WNBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award.
Player profiles for the 12 members of the Australian Opals 2022 World Cup team are provided later in this article.
In the past nine months Milestones and Misses has published articles comprehensively covering the careers of Australian Opals 2022 World Cup team members Talbot, George, Maley and Wallace as well as several other players that have represented the Opals in 2022 but missed out on selection in the final 12 player team. Below are links to the Australian Opals category and the homepage of Milestones and Misses:
Australia’s history at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup
The 2022 FIBA Basketball Women’s World Cup is the 19th edition of the tournament and the second time that Australia has hosted the World Cup, having also hosted in 1994. The FIBA World Championship for Women was first held with eight nations competing in Chile in 1953, three years after the men’s first World Championship. The tournament was created by the International Basketball Federation (IBF). Not long after the 17th edition of the tournament in 2014 it was renamed the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup.
In the first 11 editions of the World Cup up to and including the 1990 edition Australia competed eight times, making their debut appearance in 1957, after missing the 1959 and 1964 World Cups Australia competed in every tournament from 1967 onwards. Up until the early 1990’s Australia only finished in the top eight twice – fourth at South Korea in 1979 and sixth at Malaysia in 1990.
Australia hosted the tournament for the first time in 1994 and with 16 teams competing fell agonisingly short of winning their first World Championships medal. After pool games were played in Adelaide, Launceston and Hobart the finals were played in Sydney at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. After leading in both their semi final and the bronze medal game at overtime Australia were overrun in the second half being defeated by China 65-66 in a semi final and lost a shoot-out to the United States of America 95-100 in the bronze medal game. In the gold medal game Brazil defeated China96-87 to win the World Championships for the first time.
The Australian Opals broke through to win their first medal at the 13th FIBA World Championship for Women four years later at the 1998 tournament held in Germany, recovering from a 33-45 half-time deficit in their bronze medal game against Brazil to win 72-67 and secure the bronze medal. Several players that were members of Australia’s fourth placed team in 1994 were members of the bronze medal team in 1998 including Michele Timms, Rachel Sporn, current Opals coach Sandy Brondello, Robyn Maher and Michele Brogan, whilst 17 year old forward Lauren Jackson made her major championship debut as a member of Australia’s 1998 bronze medal team coached by Tom Maher.
In the group and classification stage at the 2002 World Championships Australia won five of their six games with the loss being by a point to Brazil 74-75. The Opals easily accounted for France, 78 to 52 in a quarter final. USA defeated Australia 71 to 56 in a semi-final at the 2002 World Championships. In the bronze medal game Australia led Korea 46-33 at half-time and extended the lead in the second half to defeat 91-63 and win the bronze medal. Jackson averaged 23.1 points per game to be ranked first overall at the tournament ahead of Russian forward Elana Baranova (18.1 points per game). Making her major championship debut Penny Taylor averaged 13.1 points per game for the Opals and was the only other Australian that averaged more than 7.5 points per ga
Australia had a far from ideal preparation for the 2006 World Championships held in in Sao Paulo, Brazil, from September 12 to 23, only having one practice match against the USA five days before the start of the tournament. The 12 members of the Opals team were Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor, Kristi Harrower, Jenny Whittle, Belinda Snell, Tully Bevilaqua, Laura Hodges (nee Summerton), Hollie Florance (nee Grima), Erin Phillips, Jennifer Screen, Emily McInerney and Emma McDonald (nee Randall). At the 2006 World Championships Australia won by forfeit over Lithuania in their opening game due to Lithuania not reaching Brazil in time for their game, party due to a flight cancellation. Members of the Opals family and fans were at the stadium and with Australia needing more match practice the Opals played a game amongst themselves with the coaches picking two teams.
Australia won their next five matches to progress to the quarter finals, however two of the wins were by less than 10 points, defeating Spain and Brazil four and nine points respectively. The Opals won their quarter-final against France 79-66. Host nation Brazil led the semi-final against Australia by seven points at three quarter-time, however Australia controlled the final quarter 31-12 to win by 12 points, 88-76 and progress to the gold medal game. The Opals had the three highest scorers in the semi final victory – Taylor 26 points at 80% from the field, Snell 22 points at 66.7% from the field and Jackson 19 points. Point guard Harrower scored nine points, took 10 rebounds and had six assists to set game-highs in the latter two categories. In a semi-final on the same day (21 September) Russia upset the USA 75 points to 68 to end the USA’s 50 game winning streak at major championships.
n front of a crowd of 4,500 people Australia won every quarter of the gold medal game on 23 September against Russia to win in convincing fashion by 17 points, 91-74. Taylor scored a game-high 28 points – 11 more than the second ranked player and put on a sublime shooting display all over the court to make 9 of 14 field goal attempts (64.3%), including three of five three-points shots and also took nine rebounds. Four Opals reached double figures, with Taylor being joined in this category by Jackson 16 points and a team-high 11 rebounds, Harrower (15 points) and Snell (12).
Taylor was rewarded for her brilliant all-round 2006 World Championships, phenomenal shooting and outstanding form at the business end of the tournament by being named the Most Valuable Player at the 2006 World Championships, ahead of team-mate Jackson in second place. Jackson ranked first in scoring at tournament with 21.3 points per game and Taylor ranked third in this category with 18.0 points per game. Proficient shooting played a critical role in the Opals success at the 2006 World Championships with the team shooting at 56.1% from the field, ranked first at the tournament ahead of USA 50.9%.
At the 2010 World Championships from 23 September to 3 October in the Czech Republic with Carrie Graf as head coach Australia won their three matches in group A and two of their three matches in the eight-final round, losing to USA 75 to 83. Australia played hosts, the Czech Republic in a quarter-final and trailed 51 to 52 at three quarter-time. The Czech Republic controlled the final quarter to outscore Australia 27 to 17 to defeat the Opals by 11 points 79 to 68. Poor field goal shooting proved costly for Australia, making only 20 of their 70 field goal attempts for an accuracy of 28.6%, significantly lower than the Czech Republic’s 37.5%. Australia defeated Russia 78 to 73 and France 74 to 62 to finish the World Championships in fifth position.
Under head-coach Brendan Joyce the Opals played an up-tempo style of basketball at the 2014 World Championships in Turkey from 27 September to 5 October. The Opals had the same five starters for every game of the tournament – Taylor, Erin Phillips, Rachel Jarry, Laura Hodges and Marianna Tolo. Australia won each of their three Group c games by at least 33 points and had a 63-52 victory against Canada in a quarter final.
In a semi-final Australia trailed USA by 12 points at half-time and this ended up being the final margin with the Opals being defeated 70-82. Australia started the bronze-medal game against hosts, Turkey in the best possible fashion, after Australia scored the first 17 points of the game they were never threatened, recording a 74-44 victory to win the bronze medal.
Taylor averaging 12.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists (ranked second overall) per game and was selected in the 2014 World Championships All-Star five. Current Opal Marianna Tolo led Australia in scoring with 12.2 points per game and ranked equal first with 5.2 rebounds per game.
Milestones and Misses published an article last week comprehensively covering Penny Taylor’s incredible basketball career including for the Opals, in the WNBA with the Phoenix Mercury and Cleveland Rockers and in the WNBL with the AIS and Dandenong Rangers. Below is a link to this feature article on Taylor:
At the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup held in Tenerife, Spain from 22 to 30 September Sandy Brondello was the head coach of the Opals. Australia’s starting line-up throughout the tournament was Katie Ebzery, Bec Allen, Steph Talbot, Cayla George and Liz Cambage. The Opals won each of their first four matches by at least 18 points to progress to a semi final against host nation Spain.
Australia started their semi final against host nation Spain in scintillating fashion to lead 21-6 with three minutes and 24 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Spain outscored Australia 52-29 in the next two and a bit quarters to lead 58-50 at three quarter time. The Opals fought back to level the scores at 64 points apiece with three minutes remaining in the game. 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, making two foul shots with two minutes and 56 seconds left followed by a corner three-pointer with 2 minutes and 12 seconds remaining to extend Australia’s lead to five points, 69-64. Australia won the semi final 72-66 after dominating the final quarter 22-8.
It was the first time that Australia had progressed to a gold medal game at a major championship since they played the United States of America in the final at the 2008 Olympic Games, 10 years later USA were again the Opals opponents. In the gold medal game Australia trailed USA 27-35 at half-time. USA dominated the third quarter 26-11 and defeated Australia 73-56, resulting in the USA winning the gold medal and Australia receiving the silver medal. In the bronze medal game Spain defeated Belgium 67-60.
USA forward Brenna Stewart averaged 16.3 points per game ranked fourth at the World Cup and was named the Tournament MVP. Stewart was joined in the All-Star five by USA guard Diana Taurasi, Australian centre Cambage who ranked first overall with 23.8 points per game, leading rebounder Belgian forward Emma Messeeman (10.7 rebounds per game) and Spanish power forward Astou Ndour.
Highlighting how competitive women’s basketball is at international level 2018 World Cup bronze medallists Spain were unable to qualify for the 2022 World Cup despite being ranked second in the world. To progress to a 2022 World Cup Qualifying Tournament Spain needed to finish in the top six at EuroBasket 2021 held in Spain and France from 17-27 June, however they fell just short finishing seventh.
From their first time hosting the Tournament in 1994 Australia have finished in the top five at all seven World Cups and have won five medals comprised of one gold in 2006 in Brazil, one silver in 2018 and three bronze in 1998, 2002 and 2014.
Only four nations have won a Women’s basketball World Cup, headlined by the United States with 10 gold medals including the last three consecutively in 2010, 2014 and 2018. The Soviet Union won gold six times including five times in a row from 1959 to 1975. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 there were 15 post-Soviet states that emerged as separate nations including Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
The first time a nation other than United States or Soviet Union won a Women’s Basketball World Cup was when Australia hosted for the first time in 1994 with Brazil winning the final in Sydney. Of the 12 nations competing at the 2022 World Cup in Sydney only two have won the gold medal, USA 10 times and Australia once. Will USA or Australia add to their tally and win the World Cup in Sydney or will history repeat and a nation win the World Cup for the first time as occurred when Australia hosted in 1994?
Australian Opals player profiles for the 2022 World Cup
#32 Position: Guard
DOB 20 July 1988 Height 178cm WNBL debut: 2015/16
WNBL games played: 96 2021/22 and 2022/23 WNBL Team: Perth Lynx
2022 Team: New York Liberty
Olympic Games: Nil
World Championships: 2018 – Silver Medal
Sami Whitcomb was born and grew up in Ventura, California in the United States of America. At 12 years of age Whitcomb began playing basketball, having played soccer previously. At the University of Washington Whitcomb played 113 games including 94 as a starter during four seasons of college basketball from 2006/07 to 2009/10.
After being undrafted at the 2010 WNBA draft Whitcomb signed a training camp contract with Chicago Sky and played three pre-season WNBA games but was waived before the season started. From 2011/12 to 2012/13 Whitcomb played two seasons in the Damen-Basketball-Bundesliga (DBBL) in Germany, playing for ChemCats Chemnitz in 2011/12 and Wolfenbuttel Wildcats in 2012/13.
Whitcomb excelled for the Rockingham Flames in the State Basketball League in Western Australia from 2013 to 2015, winning the league’s MVP award and being named in the All-Star five in all three seasons. The Flames won the state championship in 2014 and 2015 with Whitcomb winning the Grand Final MVP award in each season.
In May 2015 Whitcomb signed as an import to play with the Perth Lynx in the WNBL. In each of Whitcomb’s first three seasons from 2015/16 to 2017/18 she earnt selection in the All-WNBL First team. Whitcomb finished third in the 2015/16 MVP Award and was runner-up in 2016/17.
Sami Whitcomb shooting a free-throw for Perth Lynx against Townsville Fire at the State Basketball Centre on 26 November 2017
Seven years after going undrafted at the 2010 WNBA draft Whitcomb made her WNBA debut with the Seattle Storm in 2017. In six WNBA seasons from 2017 to 2022 Whitcomb has been durable, playing a total of 184 regular season games including 47 starts. Whitcomb played four seasons for Seattle from 2017 to 2020 and was a member of WNBA Championship winning teams in 2018 and 2020.
Whitcomb was traded from Seattle Storm to New York Liberty on 10 February 2021 and had a career-best WNBA season with the Liberty in 2021 alongside fellow Opal Bec Allen, averaging 11.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 28.1 minutes per game to set career-highs in all four categories. During 2021 Whitcomb shot at 47.3% from the field, 42.5% from long-range and made 76 three-pointers for the season – ranked second in the WNBA.
Australian Opals head coach Sandy Brondello was appointed New York Liberty’s head coach for the 2022 WNBA season. Predominantly playing off the bench Whitcomb averaged 21.3 minutes per game during the 2022 regular season and made 59 three-pointers – ranked 14th in the league.
Whitcomb played for Montpellier in France during 2018/19 and 2019/20 followed by a season with Galatasaray in Turkey during 2021. Montpellier were runners-up in the French League Championship in 2018/19 and qualified for EuroLeague in 2019/20.
At the 2018 World Cup in Spain Whitcomb was a member of the Australian Opals team that won a silver medal. Whitcomb captained the bronze medal winning Opals at the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup and had an exceptional tournament, averaging 17.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 28.3 minutes per game to earn selection in the tournament’s all-star five. Whitcomb led the Opals in scoring, assists and minutes and ranked second for rebounds. At the 2022 World Cup Qualifying Tournament held in Belgrade Serbia in February Whitcomb averaged a team-high 13.7 points per game
In early 2018 Whitcomb became an Australian citizen, she played her fourth season with the Perth Lynx in 2021/22 and first WNBL season as an Australian player. Whitcomb played 19 games for Perth in 2021/22, averaging 14.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists (ranked 13th in the WNBL) and 2.2 steals (3rd) per game. The Perth Lynx made the 2021/22 WNBL Grand Final and Whitcomb will be playing her fifth season with the club in 2022/23.
Sami Whitcomb playing for the Perth Lynx against the University of Canberra Capitals in a WNBL game at Selkirk Stadium, Ballarat on 19 January 2022
Over a 96 game WNBL career with the Perth Lynx Whitcomb has averaged 19.1 points per game, ranked fifth on the WNBL’s all-time list in this category behind Opals teammate Lauren Jackson (22.2), Julie Nykiel (20.3), Kia Nurse (19.7) and Liz Cambage (19.3). During 2016/17 Whitcomb led the WNBL in scoring with 24.2 points per game and broke the league record for most points in a season. Whitcomb also makes an impact with her passing ability, quick hands and reading of the play to generate steals.
Sami Whitcomb shooting a three-pointer for Perth Lynx against Townsville Fire at the State Basketball Centre on 26 November 2017
WNBL Achievements: All-WNBL First Team 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18
WNBL Leading scorer 2016/17
#3 Position: Guard
DOB 3 January 1996 Height 180cm WNBL debut: 2018/19
Junior Club Southern District Spartans (Queensland)
WNBL games played: 16 2021/22 WNBL Team: Southside Flyers
2022 Team: Atlanta Dream (WNBA)
2022/23 WNBL Team: Melbourne Boomers
Olympic Games: Nil
World Championships: Nil
At the 2013 Under 18 Australian Junior Championships point guard Wallace was a member of the South Queensland Under 18 Girls team that won a bronze medal. At the 2013 Australian School Championships Wallace was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). Wallace captained the Australian Gems at the 2015 Under-19 FIBA World Championships held in Chekhov. The Australian Gems won a bronze medal and Wallace’s teammates included two other players that are members of the Opals 2022 World Cup team – Magbegor and Maley.
From 2014/15 to 2017/18 Wallace played four seasons of college basketball in the United States of America for the Baylor Lady Bears, playing a total of 136 games and averaged 8.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game. In Wallace’s final season at Baylor she was selected in the 2017/18 All-Big 12 First team and the All-Defensive team. In Baylor’s final regular season game of 2017/18 on 26 February 2018 Wallace tore the ACL in her right knee, ending her college career. Baylor won the Big 12 regular season championship in all four of Wallace’s seasons. In all three NCAA Women’s tournaments that Wallace competed in from 2015 to 2017 Baylor were defeated in the elite eight. With Wallace sidelined due to her right knee injury in 2018 Baylor were defeated in the sweet sixteen.
Wallace had a right knee reconstruction which ruled her out for the 2018 WNBA season. Despite this Atlanta Dream selected Wallace with pick 16 at the 2018 WNBA Draft which highlights how impressive Wallace’s performances at junior level for Australia and at college with Baylor had been.
Wallace made her WNBL debut with the University of Canberra Capitals in 2018/19 but in her second game injured her ACL again. Wallace missed the rest of the season for the Capitals who went on to win the 2018/19 WNBL Championship.
After going through another knee reconstruction and lengthy rehabilitation process Wallace made her basketball return on 16 May 2021 with the Melbourne Tigers in NBL1 South, averaging 14.2 points and shooting the ball at 53.5% from the field in five games.
Despite playing very little basketball in the previous three years due to her knee injuries Wallace made her Australian Opals debut at the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup, playing six games off the bench for the bronze medal winning Opals team. Wallace also represented Australia at the 2022Work Cup Qualifying Tournament and was one nine Opals from the WCQT selected in the team for the 2022 World Cup in Sydney.
Kristy Wallace playing for the Jayco Southside Flyers against the Perth Lynx at Dandenong Stadium on 27 January 2022
In her first full WNBL season with the Southside Flyers Wallace predominantly played off the bench. As a starter for the Flyers against Perth Lynx at Dandenong Stadium on 27 January Wallace scored 14 points at 67% from the field and had four assists with Opals coach Sandy Brondello in attendance. Wallace scored at least 10 points in a game five times in 2021/22 and won the WNBL’s Sixth Woman of the Year Award.
During her debut WNBA season with the Atlanta Dream in 2022 Wallace played 29 games including 18 starts, averaging 6.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. In the first month of the WNBA season Wallace scored at least 17 points in back-to-back home games. Wallace scored 17 points against Phoenix on May 29 and then followed up on June 1 against Minnesota by making six of nine field goals including five of six three-pointers to score a season-high 18 points.
Kristy Wallace shooting a jumpshot for the Jayco Southside Flyers against the Melbourne Boomers at Dandenong Stadium on 18 December 2021
Wallace has signed with the Deakin Melbourne Boomers for the 2022/23 WNBL season where she will be playing alongside Opals teammates Madgen and George.
WNBL Achievements: Sixth Woman of the Year Award 2021/22
#7 Position: Guard
DOB 12 August 1990 Height 180cm WNBL debut: 2008/09
Junior Club Eastern Mavericks (South Australia)
WNBL games played: 246 2021/22 and 2022/23 WNBL Team: Melbourne Boomers
2022 Team: Bendigo Braves (NBL1 South)
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 Tess played two WNBL 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.
Tess Madgen playing for Townsville Fire against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 18 November 2018
In 2015 Madgen had a short stint in the WNBA playing eight games with Phoenix Mercury alongside George with Sandy Brondello as the head coach. 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.
Madgen made her Australian Opals debut at the 2011 FIBA Oceania Championships against New Zealand and also represented Australia at the 2013 and 2015 Oceania Championships. After narrowly missing selection for Australian Opals teams at 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. 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 were both starters on the Melbourne Boomers team that won the WNBL Championship.
Tess Madgen playing for the Melbourne Boomers against the Southside Flyers at Melbourne Sports Centres Parkville on 11 December 2021
At the World Cup Qualifying Tournament held in Belgrade, Serbia in February this year Madgen averaged 2.3 assists per game, ranked equal fourth for the Opals. During the three game series held in New South Wales against Japan in late May this year Madgen and George were the two most experienced members of the Opals team and played an important role with their leadership. After Game 2 against Japan Madgen commented “I think I play better when I try and help everyone else so I am just focussing on that at the moment and trying to make it enjoyable, trying to build this new culture, we are doing a really great job across the board.”
During the 2022 NBL1 South season Madgen played 16 games for the Bendigo Braves, averaging 28.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Madgen ranked second in the NBL1 South women’s conference in scoring and third in assists. The Bendigo Braves made the Grand Final and Madgen was selected in the NBL1 South women’s All Star 5.
On September 8 at the Opals final training camp on the Gold Coast before the World Cup head coach Sandy Brondello announced that Madgen had ben appointed as the Opals captain for the 2022 World Cup. Madgen spoke to the Opals playing group and staff commenting “Obviously our leadership group right from the beginning wanted to lead by empowering everyone to be a leader and that’s something I’m extremely passionate about. I’m going to be the best captain I can be, it’s a huge honour and I’m really overwhelmed. I love you guys, let’s do this.”
WNBL Achievements: All-WNBL First team 2014/15
All-WNBL Second team 2020
WNBL Championship 2021/22 (with Melbourne Boomers)
#9 Position: Forward
DOB 6 November 1992 Height 188cm WNBL debut: 2009/10
Junior Association Nunawading (Victoria)
WNBL games played: 103 2021/22 and 2022/23 Team: Valencia Basket (Spain)
2022 Team: New York Liberty (WNBA)
Olympic Games: 2020
World Championships: 2014 – Bronze Medal, 2018 – Silver Medal
Bec grew up in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and started playing basketball for the Nunawading Spectres at 11 or 12 years of age, having played netball previously. In 2009/10 Allen made her WNBL debut, playing one game for the Dandenong Rangers before playing a total of 11 games for the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) during the 2010/11 and 2011/12 seasons.
Allen has played 103 WNBL games including three seasons for the Melbourne Boomers from 2012/13 to 2014/15 and one season for the SEQ Stars in 2015/16. Allen won the WNBL’s Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2014 and in each of the 2013/14 and 2014/15 seasons with the Boomers averaged more than 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game.
Bec Allen running on court for the SEQ Stars during the pre-game introduction for the game against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 8 November 2015
On 2 February 2015 Allen signed with WNBA club the New York Liberty as a free-agent. Allen only played two games in her debut WNBA season with the Liberty due to a serious right knee cartilage injury. Allen has played a total of 158 WNBA games for New York including 40 as a starter, playing at least 21 games in each season from 2016 to 2022 apart from 2020 when she opted out of the WNBA’s bubble season.
During the 2021 and 2022 WNBA seasons with New York Allen was teammates with fellow Opal Sami Whitcomb. Australian Opals head coach Sandy Brondello commenced as New York Liberty’s head coach in 2022. Allen has averaged more than 7.0 points per game in each of her last three WNBA regular seasons and had a career-high 19 starts in 2022.
Allen has not played in the WNBL from 2016/17 to the present, playing basketball in Europe during Australia’s summer. Allen has played two seasons with Spanish team Valencia and has signed to play her third consecutive season with the club in 2023. Allen was a member of the Valencia team that won 2021 EuroCup Women title, defeating Reyer Venezia 82-81 on 12 April 2021. During the 2021/22 EuroCup Women’s season Allen played 24 games for Valencia averaging 11.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.3 steals in 24.6 minutes court-time per game, shooting at 44.1% from the field and 49.2% from long-range. Allen led Valencia in scoring during the 2021/22 regular season.
Allen was a member of the Australian Opals team that won a bronze medal at the 2014 World Cup and was part of the starting line-up for the silver medal winning Opals at the 2018 World Cup. At the 2019 FIBA Asia Cup in India Allen averaged 11.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.7 steals and 19.1 minutes court-time per game for the bronze medal winning Opals. Allen shot the ball at 53.1% from the field, 45.5% from the perimeter and was rewarded for her excellent performances with selection in the tournament’s All-Star five. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games Allen played all four games for the Opals but was unable to replicate her shooting performance from the 2019 Asia Cup. At the 2022 World Cup Qualifying Tournament held in Belgrade Serbia in February Allen averaged 11.3 points per game, ranked second for the Opals behind New York Liberty teammate Whitcomb (13.7 ppg).
WNBL Achievements: Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year 2014
#6 Position: Forward
DOB 15 June 1994 Height 188cm WNBL debut: 2011/12
Junior Association Eastern Mavericks / Norwood Flames (South Australia)
WNBL games played: 165 2021/22 and 2022/23 WNBL Team: Adelaide Lightning
2022 Team: Seattle Storm (WNBA)
Olympic Games: 2016, 2020
World Championships: 2018 – Silver Medal
Talbot was born in Katherine, Northern Territory and after moving to South Australia at a young age had a decorated junior career that resulted in her receiving a scholarship with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS).
After playing four games in her debut WNBL season in 2011/12 with Adelaide Lightning Talbot won the league’s Betty Watson Rookie of the Year Award in 2012/13. Guard/forward Talbot is a fixture in the Australian Opals team and has been a starter at several tournaments including the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the 2018 World Cup where Australia won gold and silver medals respectively. At the 2018 World Cup Talbot led Australia for assists and ranked third for minutes played.
Steph Talbot during the warm-up for the Australian Opals opening game of the 2018 Commonwealth Games against Mozambique at the Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre on 6 April 2018
In 2014 Talbot at 19 years of age was selected by Phoenix Mercury with pick 33 at the 2014 WNBA draft. Talbot further developed her game playing for the Canberra Capitals in the WNBL in 2014/15 and 2015/16 and played for ZS PWSZ Gorzow Wielkopski in Poland during 2016/17. Talbot made her WNBA debut with Phoenix in 2017 and has played 162 regular season WNBA games including 51 as starter, having played for Phoenix Mercury in 2017 and 2018, Minnesota Lynx in 2019 and Seattle Storm in 2021 and 2022 alongside fellow Opal Magbegor. During her five season WNBA career Talbot has averaged 4.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 16.7 minutes court-time per game.
During a phenomenal 2020 WNBL season with Adelaide Talbot played all 13 games in her first season as Adelaide Lightning captain and averaged 18.2 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Talbot set new career highs for points and rebounds, ranked third in the league for scoring, rebounds and steals per game and eighth for minutes played per game. During the 2020 season Talbot excelled at both ends of the court to become the first player in WNBL history to win the league’s Most Valuable Player Award and Defensive Player of the Year Awards in the same season and the fifth person to win both awards during their career.
Steph Talbot playing defense for Adelaide Lightning against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 22 December 2019
Steph Talbot playing for Adelaide Lightning against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 22 December 2019
During the 2021/22 WNBL season Talbot played 18 games for Adelaide Lightning and made an impact in several facets of the game to average 13.0 points, 8.9 rebounds (ranked 7th in the WNBL), 6.5 assists (1st) and 1.6 steals (equal 9th) per game. Talbot was runner-up in the WNBL’s 2021/22 MVP Award and was the only player to earn All-WNBL First Team selection in both 2020 and 2021/22.
WNBL Achievements: Suzy Batkovic Medallist (League MVP) 2020
Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year 2020
All-WNBL First team 2020, 2021/22
All-WNBL Second team 2019/20
Betty Watson Rookie of the Year Award 2012/13
#19 Position: Forward
DOB 15 February 1993 Height 188cm WNBL debut: 2009/10
Junior Club Melbourne Tigers (Victoria)
WNBL games played: 241 2021/22 and 2022/23 WNBL Team: Southside Flyers
2022 Team: Gelong Supercats (NBL1 South)
Olympic Games: 2020
World Cups: Nil
In 2009/10 Sara 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 WNBL 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 at an accuracy of 53.8%, 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 (nee Cumming). 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.
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 a member of the Southside Flyers WNBL 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.
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. 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, dadAndris 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 226 AFL games for Geelong and has won the club’s best and fairest twice. On Saturday 24 September Mark will be playing for Geelong in the AFL Grand Final against Sydney in Melbourne at the MCG.
Despite missing games due to a back injury and COVID-19 during the 2021/22 WNBL season Sara averaged 16.0 points (ranked 8th in the WNBL) and 6.9 rebounds per game for the Southside Flyers.
At state league level in the SEABL and NBL1 Blicavs has played many seasons for the Geelong Supercats. During the 2022 NBL1 South season Blicavs played 18 games for the Geelong Supercats, averaging 21.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Blicavs ranked fifth in NBL1 South for scoring per game and seventh for rebounds.
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)
#5 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
2022 Team: Frankston Blues (NBL1 South)
2022/23 Team: DVTK-Hun-Therm (Hungary)
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 for Townsville 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.
Darcee Garbin shooting a free-throw for Townsville Fire against Perth Lynx at the State Basketball Centre on 26 November 2017
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. At the 2022 World Cup Qualifying Tournament held in Belgrade Serbia in February Garbin averaged 8.0 points (ranked equal third for the Opals) and 5.7 rebounds (ranked second) per game.
Garbin played 11 consecutive WNBL seasons from 2011/12 to 2021/22 and was 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%. In 2022/23 Garbin will be playing for Hungarian club DVTK-Hun-Therm.
Darcee Garbin shooting a three-pointer for Perth Lynx against UC Capitals at Selkirk Stadium on 19 January 2022
WNBL Achievements: WNBL Championship 2015/16, 2017/18 (both with Townsville Fire)
Position: Forward DOB 1 September 1998
Height 184cm WNBL debut: 2016/17
Junior Club Eltham Wildcats (Victoria)
WNBL games played: 66 2021/22 and 2022/23 WNBL Team: Bendigo Spirit
2022 Teams: Chicago Sky (WNBA) and Eltham Wildcats (NBL1 South)
Olympic Games: Nil
World Cups: Nil
Anneli Maley played her junior basketball with the Eltham Wildcats and has also represented Eltham at senior level in the NBL1 South conference in 2021 and 2022. At under-age level Maley represented Australia at several tournaments including Under 17 and Under 19 World Championships. Maley was a member of the Australian Gems team that won a bronze medal at the 2015 Under 19 FIBA World Championships held in Chekhov, Russia. Maley is an exceptional rebounder and at the 2017 FIBA Under 19 World Cup held in Italy she led the sixth placed Gems for rebounds and ranked fourth overall at the tournament in this category.
Maley made her WNBL debut with Adelaide Lightning at 18 years of age in 2016/17 and playing off the bench finished in the top five of the WNBL’s 2016/17 Rookie of the Year Award. In an Adelaide Lightning victory on the road against the Dandenong Rangers Maley fell just short of recording a double-double, scoring 16 points and taking a team-high nine rebounds.
Anneli Maley playing for Adelaide Lightning against Dandenong Rangers at Dandenong Stadium on 8 January 2017
In the United States of America Maley played one season of college basketball for the Oregon Ducks in 2017/18, playing 37 games off the bench. After the 2017/18 college season Maley transferred from Oregon to Texas Christian University (TCU). Maley played 10 games for TCU including three as a starter in 2018/19 before returning to Australia during the Christmas break.
Entering the 2020 WNBL season Maley had only 37 games WNBL experience including 25 games for the Southside Flyers off the bench in 2019/20, averaging 2.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 10.0 minutes per game.
Anneli Maley playing for Southside Flyers against Bendigo Spirit at Traralgon Stadium on 26 October 2019
During the 2020 WNBL hub season Maley flourished in a starting role with the Sydney Uni Flames to average 7.9 points, a league-leading 12.1 rebounds per game and 29.6 minutes court-time per game whilst also impressing with her defense. At 186 centimetres tall Maley consistently battles for rebounds against bigger bodies, however with the ability to read the flight of the ball superbly, together with great body positioning and timing Maley averaged 8.4 defensive rebounds and 3.7 offensive rebounds per game in 2020 to lead the WNBL in both categories. Highlighting how dominant Maley’s rebounding was her 12.1 rebounds per game during the 2020 regular season was 31.5% more than the second ranked player in the league – Australian Opals teammate Cayla George with 9.2 rebounds per game
As a teenager Maley was a member of the Australian team that won the gold medal at the 2015 FIBA 3×3 Oceania Championships held on the Gold Coast. From 2019 onwards Maley has competed in several NBL 3×3 Pro Hustle events and has had success playing on teams with her partner, Marena Whittle. At the 2022 FIBA 3×3 Asia Cup Maley and Whittle were members of the Australian team that won the silver medal and Maley was named in the Team of the Tournament.
Anneli is from a basketball family, her dad Paul Maley played 270 NBL games from 1990 to 2001, was part of North Melbourne’s 1994 Championship winning team and during his first two NBL seasons in 1990 and 1991 averaged a double-double for the entire season. After his playing career ended Paul has held several sports related roles and has worked at Basketball Australia from April 2015, he has had the role of Executive General Manager, Basketball since March 2019.
Anneli Maley playing for Bendigo Spirit against Melbourne Boomers at Melbourne Sports Centres Parkville on 6 March 2022
Playing as a forward for Bendigo Spirit during the 2021/22 WNBL season Maley well and truly developed into an offensive threat, averaging a league-leading 19.8 points per game – an astronomical 250% improvement on her previous season’s output. Maley averaged 15.7 rebounds per game in 2021/22 to again lead the WNBL in this category and also led the league for free-throws made and minutes played. Throughout the 2021/22 season Maley was remarkably consistent, scoring at least 13 points in 15 of her 16 games for Bendigo in 2021/22 and fell a solitary point short of recording a double-double in every game. Maley was recognised for her incredible season, winning the 2021/22 Suzy Batkovic Medal for being the WNBL’s MVP and was also named in the All-WNBL first team.
Anneli Maley shooting a free-throw for Bendigo Spirit against Melbourne Boomers at Melbourne Sports Centres Parkville on 6 March 2022
In May 2022 Maley attended WNBA team Chicago Sky’s training camp. After being waived by Chicago Maley was signed as a hardship exception player due to several of Chicago’s players being overseas due to other playing commitments or injured. Maley played four regular season games for Chicago, averaging 2.0 points, 1.8 rebounds and 11.0 minutes per game being waived when the players on Chicago’s roster returned.
On 31 May Maley made her debut with Australia’s senior women’s basketball team, the Opals in game three of the friendly series against Japan. Despite not being part of the Opals training camp due to her WNBA commitments with Chicago Sky and missing the first two games of the series Maley fitted in seamlessly. Immediately after being substituted in for her Opals debut at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre Maley took an offensive rebound off a missed free-throw and scored a field goal. Maley finished the game with 11 points and seven rebounds.
During the 2021 NBL1 South season Maley averaged 17.3 points and a league-leading 23.4 rebounds per game for her home club the Eltham Wildcats. After her stint playing in the WNBA with Chicago Sky and making her Opals debut against Japan in late May Maley joined the Eltham Wildcats during the 2022 NBL1 South season. Maley played eight games for Eltham and averaged 21.5 points, 19.5 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 1.9 steals per game. Maley led the NBL1 South Conference for rebounds per game, ranked third in assists and ninth in scoring.
To celebrate Maley winning the WNBL’s 2021/22 Suzy Batkovic medal for being the league’s Most Valuable Player an article comprehensively covering Maley’s incredible career was published on 5 May, 2022. A link to this article is below:
WNBL Achievements: Suzy Batkovic medal winner 2021/22
All-WNBL first-team 2021/22
WNBL leading rebounder Award 2020, 2021/22
WNBL leading scorer Award 2021/22
#25 Position: Forward/Centre
DOB 11 May 1981 Height 195cm WNBL debut: 1997
Junior Club Albury Cougars (NSW)
WNBL games played: 172 2022 Team: Albury Wodonga Bandits (NBL1 East)
2022/23 WNBL Team: Southside Flyers
Olympic Games: 2000- silver medal, 2004 – silver medal, 2008 – silver medal, 2012 – bronze medal
World Cups: 1998 – bronze medal, 2002 – bronze medal, 2006 – gold medal, 2010
Lauren Jackson was born and grew up in Albury, New South Wales. Both of Lauren’s parents, dad Gary and mum Maree played basketball for Australia. Maree represented Australia at the FIBA World Championship for Women twice – 1975 in Columbia and 1979 in South Korea. Lauren started playing junior basketball at five or six years of age and progressed to play her first representative game for Albury at around 10 years of age and then played for NSW Country at junior level from the Under 14’s up.
At 14 years of age Jackson was offered a scholarship with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) but didn’t take up the scholarship until a couple of years later at the start of year 11 in 1997. Jackson represented Australia at under-age level at several tournaments including as a member of the silver medal Gems team at the 1997 World Junior Championships held in Brazil in July. Jackson ranked ninth overall at the tournament in scoring per game and third for rebounds despite being 16 years old, three years younger than some of the other players.
During 1997 Jackson made her WNBL debut with the AIS and excelled to win the league’s Rookie of the Year Award. Later in 1997 Jackson made her debut for the Australian Opals who were coached by Tom Maher. Jackson was a member of the Australian Opals team that won a bronze medal at the 1998 World Championships held in Germany. It was the first time that Australia had a won a medal at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Championships. Jackson ranked third for the Opals in scoring and fourth for rebounds.
From 1998 to 2012 Jackson represented the Opals with distinction at eight consecutive major championships comprised of four Olympic Games and four World Championships. Jackson was the captain of the Opals in four major championships from 2006 to 2012 and was Australia’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games. Jackson won seven medals at major championships with the Australian Opals including gold at the 2006 World Championships in Rio where she finished runner-up in the tournament’s MVP Award to teammate Penny Taylor.
At six major championships Jackson ranked in the top three overall in scoring per game including ranking first three times – 2002 and 2006 World Championships as well as 2004 Olympic Games. Jackson has also ranked in the top four overall in rebounding per game at a major championships five times.
Jackson has played 172 WNBL games and her average of 22.2 points per game ranks first on the league’s all-time list. Jackson won her first WNBL MVP award in her third and final season with the AIS in 1998/99, the AIS created history by winning their first WNBL Championship.
From 1999/2000 to 2003/04 Jackson played five consecutive seasons with the Canberra Capitals and averaged more than 21.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game to earn selection in the WNBL All-Star five in all five seasons. Jackson played in back-to-back WNBL Championships with Canberra in 2001/02 and 2002/03 and was named the Grand Final MVP in both seasons. Jackson won the WNBL MVP Award three times with the Capitals – 1999/2000, 2002/03 and 2003/04.
In the 2001 WNBA Draft on 20 April Seattle Storm selected Jackson with the first pick overall. Forward/centre Jackson played 12 consecutive seasons with Seattle Storm from 2001 to 2012 with the Seattle Storm, was selected in the All-WNBA First team seven times and won three WNBA MVP Awards – 2003, 2007 and 2010. In 2007 Jackson won the WNBA’s MVP and Defensive Player of the Year Awards in the same season – a feat that as at the end of the 2022 season has only been achieved by five players in league history. Jackson played in the Storm’s first two WNBA championships in 2004 and 2010 alongside point guard Sue Bird and won the 2010 WNBA Finals MVP Award. Jackson has played 317 regular season game for Seattle and averaged 18.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots per game.
Jackson has also played in several other leagues in Europe and Asia, playing in Russia for Spartak Moscow Region from 2007 to 2011, in Spain for Ros Caseras Valencia in 2011/12. Playing for Samsung Bichumi in the Women’s Korean Basketball League Jackson won the league MVP Award in 2007. In 2013 Jackson played for Heilongjiang Shenda in the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association.
After the 2003/04 WNBL season Jackson has only played games in three seasons. In 2005/06 and 2009/10 Jackson played in WNBL Championships with the Canberra Capitals and won the Grand Final MVP Award. Jackson also played for the Capitals in 2014/15 however injuries restricted her to six games. Jackson has won the WNBL’s Grand Final MVP Award four times which is the league’s All-time record and has won the WNBL’s regular season MVP Award four times – ranked second on the All-time list behind Suzy Batkovic (who the medal is named after) with six.
Due to a knee injury Jackson missed the 2014 World Championships. Jackson was signed by the Canberra Capitals for the 2015/16 WNBL season but due to a knee injury didn’t play a game in 2015. On New Years Eve 2015 Jackson was released from her Capitals contract. Jackson continued to work with Australian Opals staff in an attempt to play at the 2016 Olympics, however in March she realised she wouldn’t be able to achieve this to her knee injury. At the start of the Opals first training camp in the lead-up to the 2016 Olympics Jackson announced her retirement on 31 March.
In late May 2016 Jackson joined WNBL club, Melbourne Boomers in an off-court executive role as Commercial Operations Manager. Basketball Australia appointed Jackson as Head of Women in Basketball in June 2019. On 26 March 2020 FIBA announced that Australia had won the bid to host the 2022 Women’s Basketball World Cup with Sydney being the host city. In her role with Basketball Australia Jackson was involved in the planning and publicity of the 2022 World Cup.
Earlier this year Jackson made her basketball return as a player with the Albury Wodonga Bandits in a Round 3 NBL1 East road game on 23 April. In her return game Jackson scored a team-high 21 points playing 22 minutes and 29 seconds court-time against the Albury Wodonga play their home games at a venue named in LJ’s honour – the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre and in the first game of her comeback on this court Jackson dominated with 31 points and 24 rebounds in a 97-80 victory against Manly Warringah.
The Bandits won the NBL1 East Grand Final and Jackson won the league’s regular season Most Valuable Player Award. Including finals Jackson played 14 games for the Bandits during the 2022 NBL1 season, averaging 31.9 points and 12.6 rebounds per game.
In late July 2022 Jackson attended an Australian Opals training camp in New York City and played in both of the Opals practice matches against Canada. After the second game Jackson told Australia. Basketball “It was great to be out there on the court, I can now say I have played 2 international matches in the past nine years, something I never thought I would say. I’m always hard on my own performances but I definitely contributed, and it felt incredible to test myself against some of the world’s best players. I’m a little more reliant on the after-game recovery than I used to be but the fire in the belly is still there, and my love of the game hasn’t diminished at all.”5
On 10 August, 2022 Jackson was one of the 12 players selected in the Opals team for the 2022 World Cup. At 41 years of age Jackson would get to competing in her ninth major championship just over a decade after being a member of the Opals bronze medal winning team at the 2012 London Olympic Games. After being selected in Australia’s 2022 World Cup team Jackson told australia.basketball “There were a lot of emotions when Sandy rang me, I had a bit of a cry to be honest” Jackson said. “I have been working my body hard, and I didn’t honestly know if it was going to hold up to my intense training regime, but it has and I’m feeling good. The whole team have been so welcoming and made me feel at home, the age difference disappears as soon as I step onto the court. I believe in this team and what we can achieve, if I can play a part if getting us onto the podium then the hard work is all worthwhile.”6
During the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season Lauren Jackson will be making her WNBL return with the Southside Flyers. Australian Opals assistant coach Cheryl Chambers is the head coach of the Southside Flyers. At Southside Jackson will be teammates with fellow Opal Sara Blicavs and will also play alongside Abby Bishop. Jackson and Bishop have been Australian Opals teammates at several tournaments including the 2010 World Championships and 2012 Olympic Games and have also been teammates in the WNBL previously at Canberra including in the Capitals 2009/10 Championship winning season.
WNBL Achievements: Betty Watson Rookie of the Year Award 1997
Most Valuable Player Award 1998/99, 1999/2000, 2002/03, 2003/04
WNBL All-Star five 1998/99, 1999/2000, 2000/01, 2001/02, 2002/03, 2003/04
WNBL Championship 1999 (With Australian Institute of Sport), 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2010 (With Canberra Capitals)
Position: Forward/Centre DOB 13 August 1999
Height 194cm WNBL debut: 2017/18
Junior Club Coburg Giants (Victoria)
WNBL games played: 95 2021/22 WNBL Team: Melbourne Boomers
2022 Team: Seattle Storm (WNBA)
2022/23 Team: Sopron (Hungary)
Olympic Games: 2020
World Cups: 2018 – Silver Medal
Ezi followed in her older siblings Elo and Ovie’s footsteps and commenced playing basketball at Coburg Basketball Stadium at seven years of age. Ezi commenced a scholarship at Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence in early 2015 and played three seasons in the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) for the BA CoE from 2015 to 2017 and also represented Australian junior teams at several tournaments.
At just 15 years of age Magbegor played for the Australian Gems at the 2015 Under-19 World Championships in Chekhov, Russia. Despite being three years younger than some of her team-mates and playing limited minutes Magbegor ranked equal second for the Gems in blocked shots. The following year Magbegor was dominant at the 2016 Under-17 FIBA World Championships held in Zaragoza, Spain. Magbegor was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and helped the Australian Sapphires surpass their previous best performance of fifth place at the tournament in emphatic fashion, winning the gold medal. Magbegor proved a difficult task for opposition teams to curtail due to her mix of athleticism, size, composure, ability to block shots, field goal accuracy and rebounding ability. Magbegor led the Sapphires for scoring and blocked shots and ranked second for rebounds.
In five WNBL seasons to date Magbegor has played a total of 95 games comprised of 20 games for the University of Canberra Capitals in 2017/18 and 75 games for the Deakin Melbourne Boomers in four seasons from 2018/19 to 2021/22. Magbegor is a three-time winner of the WNBL’s Betty Watson Award, first of all in 2017/18 when it was the Betty Watson Rookie of the Year Award and then again in 2019/20 and 2021/22 when it expanded to become the Betty Watson Youth Player of the Year Award which Australian players 23 years of age and under were eligible for.
During Magbegor’s first four WNBL seasons she steadily improved and after starting on the bench for her debut 2017/18 WNBL season with the University of Canberra Capitals and part of the 2018/19 season with the Deakin Melbourne Boomers she cemented herself in the starting line-up during 2019/20. In Magbegor’s first three seasons with the Boomers she increased her points per game by at least 2.0 points in each season.
Magbegor earned All-WNBL selection in both 2020 (Second Team) and 2021/22 (First Team), averaging more than 15.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocked shots per game in each season. Playing alongside fellow Opals Tess Madgen and Cayla George, Magbegor was a member of the Melbourne Boomers 2021/22 WNBL Championship winning team. In 2021/22 Magbegor led the WNBL for blocked shots per game, ranked second for field goal accuracy of 55.5%, equal eighth for steals, 10th for rebounds and 12th in scoring.
On 1 December 2017 Magbegor was selected in the Australian Opals squad for the first time. Magbegor impressed at the Opals training camp held in Italy in early February 2018 and made her Opals debut at 18 years of age at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on home soil in Townville and the Gold Coast, Queensland in April 2018. In the Opals 99-55 victory against England in the gold medal game at the 2018 Commonwealth Games Magbegor scored 11 points and blocked a game-high three shots.
At the 2018 World Cup held in Tenerife, Spain Magbegor was a member of the Opals silver medal winning team. Despite averaging just 12.3 minutes per game Magbegor made an impact to rank fourth for the Opals in scoring per game and equal fifth for rebounding. During the Tokyo Olympic Games Magbegor ranked second for the Australian Opals for scoring per game behind George, third for rebounds and first for blocked shots.
Seattle Storm selected Magbegor with pick 12 at the 2019 WNBA Draft. After staying in Australia to work on her game during 2019 Magbegor made her WNBA debut in 2020 and has been part of Seattle’s core rotation for the past three seasons, including being a member of the club’s WNBA Championship winning team in 2020 alongside Opals teammate Sami Whitcomb.
Magbegor has played 85 regular season games for Seattle from 2020 to 2022 including 26 as a starter with 23 of these starts being in 2022. During the 2022 WNBA regular season Magbegor averaged 9.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.8 blocked shots and 24.8 minutes per game for Seattle, setting new career-highs in all four categories. Magbegor ranked second in the WNBA for blocked shots per game behind 2022 WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson and had a field goal accuracy of 55.0% which ranked eighth in the WNBA among players that had at least 15 field goal attempts. Magbegor was named on the WNBA 2022 All-Defensive Second team to be one of three Seattle players to receive all-defensive honours along with Breanna Stewart (First team) and Gabby Williams (Second team). This trio will be representing rival nations at the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup with Stewart playing for USA and Williams representing France.
Ezi Magbegor playing defense for Melbourne Boomers against Southside Flyers forward Jenna O’Hea at the State Basketball Centre on 4 November 2019
After the 2022 FIBA World Cup Magbegor will play her first season in Europe for Hungarian club Sopron Basket, teammates will include fellow Australian Alice Kunek, Courtney Vandersloot and 2021/22 WNBL Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year Brittney Sykes.
WNBL Achievements: All-WNBL First Team 2021/22
All-WNBL Second Team 2020
Betty Watson Rookie of the Year Award 2017/18
Betty Watson Youth Player of the Year Award 2019/20 and 2021/22
WNBL Championship 2021/22 (with Melbourne Boomers)
#15 Position: Forward/Centre
DOB 1 May 1989 Height 193cm WNBL debut: 2005/06
Junior Club Eastern Mavericks (South Australia)
WNBL games played: 306 2021/22 and 2022/23 WNBL Team: Melbourne Boomers
2022 Team: Cairns Dolphins (NBL1 North)
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.
Cayla George playing for Melbourne Boomers against Southside Flyers at the State Basketball Centre in a pre-season game on 5 October 2019
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 Opals team-mate 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.
Cayla George playing for Townsville Fire against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 26 November 2017
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.
From 2014 to 2021 George was 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.
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 (13.0 ppg) and rebounding (7.3 rpg) per game, ranked equal second for steals and third for assists.
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 played 15 games for the Cairns Dolphins and averaged 23.3 points, 16.5 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game. George ranked second in NBL1 North for rebounds per game, third in assists, fourth in scoring and was selected in the NBL1 North All-Star Five.
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)
DOB 2 July 1989 Height 196cm WNBL debut: 2006/07
Junior Association Mackay (Queensland)
WNBL games played: 218 2021/22 Team: Basket Landes (France)
2022 Team: Launceston Tornadoes (NBL1 South)
2022/23 Team: Spar Girona (Spain)
Olympic Games: 2016, 2020
World Cups: 2010, 2014 Bronze Medal
At 17 years of age Tolo made her WNBL debut with the Australian Institute of Sport in 2006/07 and played six consecutive seasons in the league comprised of two seasons for the AIS and four seasons for the Canberra Capitals. Tolo played in two WNBL Championships with the Capitals, going back-to-back in 2008/09 and 2009/10. In the following season, 2010/11 Tolo averaged 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game was selected in the All-WNBL first team for the first time in her career.
In the lead up to the 2012 Olympic Games Tolo was in the Australian Opals extended 15 player squad and played games for the Opals in the Farewell Series held in Victoria but was one of the last three players cut, missing out on the final 12 player team for the London Olympics.
At the 2014 World Cup Tolo was a starter for the Opals and averaged 12.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.0 blocked shots per game to lead the bronze medal winning Opals in scoring and rank equal first for rebounding and blocked shots. Tolo has gone on to become an integral member of the Opals, representing her country at three of the past four major championships, also representing Australia at 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games. During the 2020 Olympics Tolo averaged 11.3 points (ranked 3rd for the Opals) and 5.0 rebounds (2nd) per game and was outstanding in Australia’s final group game against Puerto Rico, scoring an equal game-high 26 points and taking a game-high 17 rebounds to play a crucial role in Australia winning by the required margin to advance to the quarter finals. Tolo is the only member of the Opals 2022 World Cup team that has been teammates with Jackson at a major championship previously, making her major championship debut at the 2010 World Championship alongside Jackson. Tolo and Jackson were also teammates on the 2009/10 Canberra Capitals team that won the WNBL Championship.
During the 2015 WNBA season Tolo played 28 games for the Los Angeles Sparks including 14 as a starter. In a late-season game against Indiana Fever Tolo tore her Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL).
Tolo has played for three French clubs, Aix-en-Province in 2012/13, Bourges Basket in 2013/14 and 2014/15 and Basket Landes in 2021/22. In all four seasons playing in France Tolo averaged more than 9.5 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. Tolo played in the Bourges Basket team that won their 13th Ligue Féminine title in 2014/15 and was a member of the Basket Landes team that won their first ever French Cup title in 2022
During 2016/17 Tolo returned to play for the Canberra Capitals in the WNBL and was one of the most dominant players in the league at both ends of the floor, averaging 18.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game whilst shooting the ball at 56.3% from the field. Tolo was selected in the 2016/17 All-WNBL First team and won the Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Marianna Tolo shooting a free-throw for UC Capitals against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 17 December 2016
From 2018/19 to 2020 Tolo played three consecutive seasons with the University of Canberra Capitals and was a co-captain along with Kelsey Griffin. Tolo played in back to back championships with the Capitals for the second time in her career during 2018/19 and 2019/20.
Marianna Tolo playing for the UC Capitals against the Melbourne Boomers at the Arena in Geelong on 25 October 2019
During the 2022 NBL1 South season Tolo played six games for the Launceston Tornadoes and averaged 19.0 points 9.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. Tolo has signed with Spanish team Spar Girona for the 2022/23 season.
WNBL Achievements: All-WNBL First Team 2010/11, 2016/17
Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year 2016/17
WNBL Championship 2008/09, 2009/10, 2018/19, 2019/20 (all with University of Canberra Capitals)
Head Coach – Sandy Brondello
Sandy Brondello had an illustrious basketball career as a shooting guard, playing in the WNBL, WNBA and represented the Australian Opals in 302 games including at four Olympic Games and four World Championships. Brondello was a member of the first five Opals teams that won medals at major championships from the 1996 Olympic Games to the 2004 Olympic Games. In the last four of these Championships Brondello was teammates with current Opal Lauren Jackson.
Playing for the Brisbane Blazers in 1995 Brondello won the WNBL’s Most Valuable Player Award and was the league’s leading scorer for the second consecutive season, having been equal leading scorer in 1994 with Shelley Gorman. Brondello was selected in the WNBL All-Star five twice – 1994 and 1995, playing for the Brisbane Blazers in both seasons.
In 2005 Brondello commenced a coaching career in the WNBA as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Silver Stars. Brondello has been assistant coach to husband Olaf Lange in the WNBL with Logan Thunder and at Russian club UMMC Ekaterinburg.
Brondello was inducted into the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010 and has been the head coach of the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA since 2014, winning a WNBA Championship in her first season coaching the club, two Australians Penny Taylor and Erin Phillips played in the Phoenix 2014 WNBA Championship winning team. In 2014 Phoenix set a new single season record for most wins in a regular season with 29 wins and five losses. Brondello coached Phoenix Mercury for eight seasons from 2014 to 2021. In 2021 Phoenix lost in the WNBA finals to Chicago Sky.
On 7 January 2022 WNBA Club New York Liberty announced that Brondello had been appointed as their head coach. At New York Brondello coached two Australians who are representing the Opals at the 2022 World Cup – Bec Allen and Sami Whitcomb. Another three players on New York Liberty’s 2022 roster are playing for rival nations at the World Cup – Sabrina Ionescu and Betnijah Laney for USA along with Han Xu for China. Another Liberty player Marine Johannes was selected by France but was a late withdrawal two days before the tournament started due to a thigh injury.
On 18 April 2017 it was announced that Sandy Brondello had been appointed as the Australian Opals head coach. In the past five years with Brondello as their head coach the Opals have 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.
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:
Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin