Jenna O’Hea achieved incredible success, from both an individual and team perspective in a 299 game WNBL career across 15 seasons. O’Hea’s wide ranging skill set, outstanding performance, class and longevity is highlighted by her ability to earn selection in the WNBL All-Star Five for the first time as a guard in 2009/10 and earn selection in the five player team for a fifth time in 2019/20 (when the team was called the All-WNBL First Team) playing as a forward. Throughout her WNBL career O’Hea was a member of three WNBL Championship winning teams, 2010/11 with the Bulleen Boomers, 2011/12 with the Dandenong Rangers and 2020 with the Southside Flyers.
At 16 years of age O’Hea made her WNBL debut with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in 2003/04. In two seasons with the AIS O’Hea played a total of 39 WNBL games and with the coaching and facilities available at the AIS was able to immerse herself in basketball. It was during this time at the AIS that the seed was planted that playing basketball for a living was a genuine possibility for Jenna.
After leaving the AIS O’Hea played 13 WNBL seasons for Victorian WNBL clubs comprised of Bendigo Spirit’s inaugural 2007/08 season and 12 seasons for two Melbourne based clubs, however both clubs rebranded during this time. O’Hea played two two season stints with the Boomers, first of all when they were known as the Bulleen Boomers in 2009/10 and 2010/11 and secondly in 2017/18 and 2018/19 when they had rebranded and were known as the Melbourne Boomers. O’Hea spent eight seasons across three stints playing for a Dandenong based WNBL club. O’Hea played for the Dandenong Rangers in 2005/06 and 2006/07 and then from 2011/12 to 2013/14. In July 2019 the Dandenong Rangers license was transferred to Gerry Ryan and the club was rebranded as the Southside Flyers. O’Hea was the captain of the Southside Flyers from 2019/20 until her final WNBL season in 2021/22.
Jenna O’Hea shooting a free-throw for Southsides Flyers against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 12 January 2020
O’Hea represented Australia at four major championships, commencing with the 2010 World Championships, and followed by the 2012 Olympic Games where the Opals won the bronze medal and O’Hea led the team for assists. After missing out on selection for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games O’Hea feared that her Australian career might be over. For the 2018 Commonwealth Games held in Queensland in April O’Hea returned to the Australian team and was a starter for the gold medal winning Opals team. O’Hea was the Opals captain at the 2018 World Cup, 2019 Asia Cup and 2020 Olympic Games. The Opals won the silver medal at the 2018 World Cup and bronze at the 2019 Asia Cup.
After O’Hea announced her retirement just under a year ago at 34 years of age on 8 March 2022 Australian Opals coach Sandy Brondello commented to Australia.basketball “Jenna’s commitment and contributions to basketball in Australia and internationally have been outstanding. Her record and achievements in the game both individually and for the many teams she has played, speak for themselves and she deserves every accolade and acknowledgment that comes her way. She has played and led the game at all levels and always wore the green and gold with great pride throughout her 12 years with the Opals. She was an inspiration to her teammates which is what every coach wants and needs on their team. Jenna can certainly walk away proud and satisfied of not only her achievements in the sport but also knowing that she has also inspired so many others throughout her career.”1
In the WNBA O’Hea played a total 153 games in six seasons comprised of three seasons for Los Angeles Sparks from 2011 to 2013 and three seasons for Seattle Storm from 2014 to 2016. During the 2013 regular season with LA Sparks O’Hea made 20 of 40 three-point attempts at an accuracy of 50%.
O’Hea played for Arras in Ligue Feminine de Basketball (LFB) in France in 2008/09 and returned to play two more seasons in France for Lattes Montpellier in 2014/15 and 2015/16. O’Hea was a member of the Lattes Montpellier team that won back-to-back French Cups in 2014/15 and 2015/16. Lattes Montpellier made it a double triumph in 2015/16 also winning the French League Championship.
With O’Hea’s scoring and passing ability, poise, reading of the play and size at 186 centimetres she was a very difficult match-up and had the skill-set to play as a guard or a forward and adapt her game to what the team most needed from her. In 2013/14 playing for the Dandenong Rangers O’Hea averaged 20.7 points per game to be the WNBL’s leading scorer. In five consecutive WNBL seasons from 2009/10 to 2013/14 O’Hea ranked in the league’s top six for assists per game.
O’Hea’s versatility was on full display on 10 when she played an exceptional game of all-round basketball for Dandenong Rangers to achieve the rare feat of recording a WNBL triple double comprised of 18 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for Dandenong Rangers. O’Hea ranks fifth on the WNBL’s All Time assists list and 16th on the league’s All Time scoring list.
In a post-game interview on Fox Sports after O’Hea’s 299th and final WNBL game on 19 March 2022 Lori Chizik asked “Tell us about the importance of relationships along your journey because you would have made many, many lifelong friends in your career in basketball?” O’Hea responded “Yeah, I think when I said I was retiring and I was looking back on my career that is what is most fondest to me, just all the people I have met and the great friendships that I have made. They go beyond teammates and beyond basketball, they are lifelong. I will still be around the basketball world, I love it and I can’t wait to watch my friends continue to flourish on the basketball court.”
During the 2018/19 season O’Hea was the driving force behind Lifeline Round being established in the WNBL. In an article published on WNBL.com.au on 14 January 2019 O’Hea commented “On December 14, our family received the devastating news that my uncle (Ferg) had taken his life.”
“Over 300 people attended his funeral and to see so much love in the room for him warmed my heart, but it also made me much sadder because I wish he knew how many people cared for him and adored him.”
“I’m very proud that Round 15 will be ‘Lifeline Round.’ So many people suffer alone and in silence, but this round will help make people aware that it is a strength, not a weakness, to ask for help.”2
During the SBS TAB Courtside 1v1 episode published on 10 March 2021 Megan Hustwaite asked O’Hea “You are a Community Custodian with the Australian Institute of Sport and Lifeline, that is something that you really immersed yourself in in the last few years, tell me a bit about that role and what it includes?” O’Hea responded “Yeah, it is obviously very close to my heart. There is myself and 20 other athletes that go around Australia. We try and engage in conversations around mental health and suicide prevention. I think there is a stigma in Australia around mental health and we really want to reduce that stigma and I think it is just so important. The suicide rate is high in Australia and one life taken by suicide is way too many so I think if we can help start conversations and get people talking about it more openly I think Australia in general will be a better place and a more open and accepting place to live. It means everything to me and I just want to save as many lives as I can. Mental health and suicide prevention, talking about openly is just so important and it is something that I want to do for the rest of my life.”
With the Southside Flyers hosting a Lifeline Game against Townsville Fire on Saturday 4 March 2023 at the State Basketball Centre it is an opportune time to reflect on the significant contribution that Jenna O’Hea has made both on and off the basketball court. O’Hea’s basketball career in the WNBL, for the Australian Opals and in overseas league is covered comprehensively below along with Jenna’s work off the court, establishing Lifeline Round, working in the well-being space and in broadcast media.
Early life and junior career
Jenna O’Hea was born in Traralgon on 6 June 1987, her parents are John and Marie and she has two older brothers Matt and Luke. During Jenna’s childhood the O’Hea family moved to the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and at junior level Jenna progressed from playing club basketball for the East Burwood EBees to play representative basketball with the Nunawading Spectres.
On Sayin it with Sara Episode #3: Jenna O’Hea hosted by then Southside Flyers teammate Sara Blicavs on 31 August 2020 O’Hea spoke about the influence of family on her basketball career, commenting “Luke and Matt, my two older brothers have really helped me with my basketball career. I just wanted to be like them, it’s why I play basketball and if I ever have any problems or if I ever need any advice its those two that I am going to.”
Matt played 64 games in the National Basketball League (NBL) for the Melbourne Tigers as a guard over four seasons from 2005/06 to 2009/10 and was a member of the Tigers 2005/06 and 2007/08 NBL Championship winning teams. Matt also played for Nunawading’s men’s team in the SEABL in 2000, he played a total of 395 SEABL games. Luke played state league basketball in Australia and also played in Ireland, Switzerland and Italy.
Before Jenna could start playing basketball for a team she had to prove that she could make a basket in her family’s backyard hoop in Traralgon. Jenna achieved this at five years of age and commenced her basketball career.
As a result of restrictions being in place due to COVID-19 there were stages from 2020 to 2022 that many basketball clubs throughout Victoria had to hold training sessions on-line rather than in person. In June 2021 O’Hea joined the mid-week Google Meet conference call of a group of girls playing junior basketball with the Nunawading Spectres. O’Hea told nunawadingbasketball.com.au “The lockdown hurts the kids the most. We need to get them back on the court ASAP, so I was more than willing to have a chat and share my experience if it helps keep them motivated and involved. I played with the EBees in the domestic competition, and then when I was 7 I tried out for the Spectres and made the 12.4’s. I loved my time with the Spectres and had so many great coaches in that time. Most of these girls are at the very same age and stage of their journey as when I started my career — it’s kind of like going full circle!”3
In the Jenna O’Hea Athletes profile for the 2018 Commonwealth Games one of the questions was “Who is your hero / Idol and why?” O’Hea replied “Penny Taylor. Played in the same junior rep club as I did and I wanted to be just like her. She helped pave the way on making basketball a legitimate career pathway.”4
During the 28 April 2022 episode of This is your Journey host Sam Edmund asked O’Hea “Were you always among the top performers early or were you more of a late-bloomer?” O’Hea responded “My under 12 coach had the nickname Rolls-Royce for me so I think that probably says how I was at a very young age. Whether you think it in your mind at the time, I don’t think I did but I think everyone saw that I could play the game of basketball from a young age.” O’Hea also spoke about the benefit of being from a basketball family, saying “Since I was born I have been in basketball stadiums so I think just being around the game so much I think I really understood the game and a lot of people sort of said that I saw what was happening a step or two before everyone else did and I think that was just because I was surrounded by it. We spoke about basketball all the time in our house and I was always at the stadium watching my older brothers and we were watching it on TV so I very much just absolutely love basketball and it was my whole life and I just wanted to be the best that I could. I am a purist at basketball and I just wanted to be the best that I could and I was always trying to learn from others and take in as much as I could.”
O’Hea represented Victoria Metro in junior National Championships from 2001 to 2004, playing in the Under 16’s in 2001 and 2002 and then the Under 18’s in 2003 and 2004. Throughout her junior career O’Hea regularly made state teams when she was a bottom-age player. In 2005 and 2006 O’Hea represented Victoria at National Championships in the Under 20’s. As a junior O’Hea also played Netball for Victoria at under-age national championships.
In 2004 O’Hea was a member of the Australian Gems team that won a gold medal at under-age level at the FIBA Oceania World Qualification series. Due to injury O’Hea missed the 2005 under 19 World Championships which were held in Tunisia during July.
At the under 21 World Championships held in Russia during June and July 2007 O’Hea represented Australia, teammates included Kathleen MacLeod, Abby Bishop, Cayla George (nee Francis), Renae Garlepp (nee Camino), Mikaela Dombkins and Elyse Penaluna.
In Australia’s second game of the tournament, an 82-72 victory against Hungary O’Hea scored 27 points, made eight of 12 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 66.7% and took five rebounds. Australia won five of their first six games of the tournament to progress to the semi finals with the only loss being to United States of America (USA) 88-90 in their opening game.
O’Hea scored a team-high 21 points at a field goal accuracy of 47.1%, took eight rebounds, had six assists and two steals in a 88-81 semi final victory against France. Against USA in the final O’Hea scored an equal game-high 23 points, took a team-high eight rebounds – all defensive and made a team-high three steals in Australia’s 73-96 loss.
During an exceptional tournament O’Hea played all eight games and averaged 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.4 steals and 30.6 minutes per game shooting at 50% from the field and 89.7% from the free-throw line. O’Hea led the silver medal winning Australian team in steals and scoring, ranked second for Australia in assists and minutes played behind MacLeod in both categories and third in rebounds behind George and Bishop. At the under 21 World Championships O’Hea ranked third overall for 2 point %, fourth for points per game and sixth for assists.
Playing in the WNBL from 2003/04 to 2007/08
At 16 years of age O’Hea accepted a basketball scholarship with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in 2003/04. During her This is your Journey episode in April 2022 O’Hea commented “I was half-way through year 10 when Phil Brown called my parents and offered me the scholarship. Mum and dad drove me to Canberra with the boot packed with all my belongings and they dropped me off. They knew that basketball was what I wanted to do and they knew that was the best place for me. I am sure it was extremely difficult for them, I couldn’t imagine how hard that was for them but they were very supportive of my basketball career right through, they drove up a few times to watch me play because I would get homesick.”
O’Hea made her WNBL debut with the AIS in 2003/04, Phil Brown was the head coach of the AIS. O’Hea played a total of 39 games for the AIS comprised of 19 games in 2003/04 followed by 20 games in 2004/05. In both seasons the AIS finished seventh out of eight teams in the WNBL, ahead of Perth Lynx. After averaging 6.9 points per game for the AIS in 2003/04 O’Hea’s output increased by 62.3% to average 11.2 points per game in 2004/05.
During her This is your Journey episode in April 2022 O’Hea commented on her time at the AIS “I think that was so good for my basketball, I learnt so much under Phil Brown and just being surrounded by all the facilities there. I sort of wish I was a bit older, I don’t think I used those facilities as much as I probably could have. But just being in that environment really set me up well for my career. I always loved it (basketball), always put in extra work and wanted to be the best that I could and take basketball as far as I could once I realised I could make a career out of it. Once I went up to the institute that was when I was like, hmmm, maybe I could do this for a living.”
For the 2005/06 WNBL season O’Hea joined the Jayco Dandenong Rangers who had won back to back WNBL Championships in 2003/04 and 2004/05. O’Hea’s teammates at the Rangers in 2005/06 included Jacinta Kennedy (nee Hamilton), Emily McInerney, Carly Wilson, Jessica Bibby, Caitlin Ryan, Alison Downie, Emma McDonald (nee Randall), Kathleen MacLeod and Samantha Richards. On the play-off bound Rangers 2005/06 team O’Hea received far less court-time than she did in 2004/05 playing alongside fellow teenagers at the AIS.
The Rangers had 14 wins and seven losses during the 2005/06 regular season to win the minor premiership ahead of Adelaide Fellas and Canberra Capitals who finished second and third respectively and also had records of 14 wins and seven losses.
In a home semi final at Dandenong Stadium the Jayco Rangers defeated Adelaide Fellas 75-70 to progress to their third consecutive Grand Final, having defeated Sydney Uni in 2003/04 and 2004/05 at Dandenong Stadium to win the club’s first two WNBL Championships. Led by a double-double from Lauren Jackson Canberra defeated Dandenong 68-55 in the 2005/06 Grand Final at Dandenong Stadium. In the Grand Final loss O’Hea played less than four minutes court-time and took one rebound. O’Hea played 22 of a possible 23 games for the Rangers in 2005/06 and averaged 4.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. O’Hea’s Rangers teammate Jacinta Kennedy was selected in the WNBL All-Star Five.
Several players left the Rangers in the off-season including Kennedy who moved to Germany where her husband Josh was playing soccer professionally. From the 2005/06 roster O’Hea, McInerney, MacLeod, Ryan, Downie and Richards all returned to Dandenong for 2006/07. In her second season with the Dandenong Rangers O’Hea took on far more responsibility and was a starter, taking her game to another stratosphere to rank fourth in the WNBL for scoring. The Rangers finished fourth at the end of the regular season and were defeated in a semi final by Adelaide 61-66. After playing limited game-time for the Rangers in their 2005/06 finals O’Hea was the Rangers best player in their 2006/07 semi final loss against Adelaide, scoring a game-high 28 points, made 12 of 22 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 54.5%, made four of six three-pointers and took six rebounds in 38 minutes and 10 seconds court-time. O’Hea played 20 of a possible 22 games for the Jayco Rangers in 2006/07 and averaged 18.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. O’Hea ranked second in the WNBL for points per game and 17th for rebounds. O’Hea led the league with 4.8 free-throws made per game, ranked sixth for field goals made and equal 17th for three-pointers made. Jenna had a free-throw accuracy of 84.1%, ranked seventh in the league among players that had at least 10 free-throw attempts.
In early 2007 a team based in country Victoria, the Bendigo Spirit were granted a license to join the WNBL. O’Hea joined Bendigo Spirit for their inaugural WNBL season in 2007/08. In their debut WNBL season Bendigo Spirit had 10 wins and 14 losses to finish seventh at the end of the 2007/08 regular season out of 10 clubs. O’Hea played 20 of a possible 24 games for Bendigo and averaged 11.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game, setting a new career-high for assists per game. The 2007/08 season, O’Hea’s fifth in the WNBL was the first time that she averaged at least 3.0 assists per game in a season, she would go on to average at least 3.0 assists per game in 11 consecutive seasons from 2007/08 to her final season in 2021/22.
Playing in Ligue Feminine de Basketball (LFB) in France and getting a pet dog Kosmo
During the 2008/09 season O’Hea played for Arras in Ligue Feminine de Basketball (LFB) in France. One of O’Hea’s teammates at Arras was Leilani Mitchell. O’Hea and Mitchell went on to become teammates in the WNBL playing for the Dandenong Rangers and Southside Flyers as well as at national level for the Australian Opals. O’Hea played 24 games for Arras in 2008/09 and averaged 9.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. O’Hea returned to Australia after the 2008/09 season and played five consecutive WNBL seasons from 2009/10 to 2013/14.
O’Hea returned to France and played for Lattes Montpellier during the 2014/15 Ligue Feminine de Basketball (LFB) season. Lattes Montpellier were defeated in the semi finals of the domestic league playoffs. Two weeks later Lattes Montpellier won the French Cup with a 75-69 overtime victory against CJM Bourges. In the French Cup final O’Hea scored 18 points and took five rebounds.
In 2016 Lattes Montpellier made it back to back French Cup victories, defeating CJM Bourges 68-57 in the final on 1 May, O’Hea scored 10 points, shooting at 57.1% from the field, took four rebounds and made four assists.
Lattes Montpellier made it to the final of the 2015/16 Ligue Feminine de Basketball (LFB) and played CJM Bourges. After being defeated in game one Lattes Montpellier were victorious in games 2 and 3 to win the Championship in thrilling fashion, having a 65-63 victory at home against CJM Bourges in game 3. In game 2 of the final O’Hea had a field goal accuracy of 66.7%, scored nine points and took six rebounds.
Over the 2014/15 and 2015/16 Ligue Feminine de Basketball seasons O’Hea played a total of 42 games for Lattes Montpellier, averaging 11.4 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.
During the Sayin It With Sara Episode #3: Jenna O’Hea published on 31 August 2020 Southside Flyers teammate and host Sara Blicavs asked O’Hea “I heard from a very good source that you were scared of dogs yet here you are a beautiful mum of Kosmo and aunty of Gus the Frenchie. Tell us a bit about the story behind Kosmo and how you brought to take him home with you?” O’Hea responded “Yes, so that very good source was correct, was it Steph (Blicavs) that good source?” Sara whilst laughing replies “Yes, it was Steph.” O’Hea continues “Used to be petrified of dogs, just did not want to be around them. If I was walking down the street and a dog was walking towards me I would cross the road because I just didn’t want to be near that dog. Then Hanna Zavecz had a little toy Pomeranian called Osso and I would go over to her place and Osso was just like this tiny little bear that would just sit on my lap. He didn’t want me to pet him or anything, that’s just where he sat, so I slowly got used to Osso and then over in America everyone had dogs. I remember going into a house and I am like ‘Oh I am actually really scared of dogs’ and they were like ‘Well dogs are part of the family so either you go or you stay.’”
“I was slowly getting used to dogs and then I went over to Europe and again all my teammates had dogs and we would go on hikes and stuff. Obviously my family was back in Australia, my boyfriend at the time was in America and I was in Europe and I was like ‘this sucks I am real lonely’, So my second year in France I started looking up the local RSPCA’s in France and I found Kosmo. My parents thought I was having a mid-life crisis because they are like ‘You are scared of dogs, like you are really going to get a dog.’ So I took one of my French teammates with me to go meet Kosmo, he was like a 45 minute drive away and she like translated everything. Then a week later Kosmo came home with me. We were in France and it was great, every day off we had we would go explore somewhere different. He just loved it, we were a couple of blocks away from the beach so we were at the beach every day and he would just run amok.” Kosmo is a dachshund cross.
In the Gibbo goes One on One Driven by MG \ Jenna O’Hea episode published on 14 October 2020 Adam Gibson asked “Favourite thing about playing overseas?” O’Hea responded “In Europe just being able to visit so many different places. Like Europe, you drive two hours and you are in a completely different country so I think just the travel experience of playing in Europe although some of our travel days were brutal, I think being able to see so many countries in such a short amount of time was really amazing.”
Playing in the WNBL for Bulleen Boomers in 2009/10 and 2010/11
After playing in France during 2008/09 O’Hea returned to the WNBL at 22 years of age in 2009/10, playing for the Bulleen Boomers. During 2008/09 the Boomers finished second at the end of the regular season behind the Canberra Capitals and were defeated in the Grand Final by the Capitals in Canberra by three points.
The Bulleen Boomers starting line-up during 2009/10 was Sharin Milner, Hanna Zavecz, O’Hea, Elyse Penaluna and Liz Cambage. O’Hea was one of five Boomers players that averaged more than nine points and five rebounds per game in 2009/10, along with Cambage, Penaluna, Zavecz and Rachel Jarry. Bulleen also had valuable contributions from starting point guard Milner, Desiree Glaubitz, Anna Crosswhite and Kylie Reid.
Bulleen had one of the most dominant regular seasons in WNBL history during 2009/10 to finish with a record of 21 wins, one loss, and a percentage of 132, four games ahead of second placed Sydney and five games ahead of Canberra who finished third. Bulleen defeated Sydney in a semi final 72-55 at Knox Stadium with O’Hea scoring a team-high 20 points, made three assists and a game-high three steals. O’Hea shot at a field goal accuracy of 46.7% and made three of six three-pointers at 50%.
Whilst Bulleen maintained an extremely high standard and a stable roster throughout the 2009/10 season Canberra improved their line-up in the second half of the season with Abby Bishop returning from a shoulder injury in December and mid-season signing Lauren Jackson joining the club in the same month. Enhancing a Capitals team that already included Jess Bibby, Marianna Tolo, Natalie Hurst, Carly Wilson, Kellie Abrams and Chantella Perrera.
For the second season in a row the Boomers played the Capitals in the Grand Final, however in 2009/10 the Boomers were at home, playing at the Melbourne Sports Centres Parkville (formerly known as the State Netball and Hockey Centre).
In one of the highest standard and closest Grand Finals in WNBL history the lead changed 23 times. Bulleen were strongly placed to win their first WNBL title, leading 68 to 62 with four and a half minutes remaining, however the experience of Canberra proved critical with the Capitals being far more composed from that point on to go on a 13-2 run to win the Grand Final 75-70, winning back- to-back WNBL championships. In the Grand Final loss O’Hea played a brilliant all-round game to score a game-high 26 points, took seven rebounds, made a game-highs five assists, had an equal game-high two steals and blocked a team-high two shots. Jenna made a game-high four three-pointers from eight attempts at an accuracy of 50%.
During 2009/10 O’Hea played 24 games for the Boomers and averaged 13.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game to set new career-highs in rebounds and assists. Among players that played at least five games O’Hea ranked third in the WNBL for assists per game, 14th for points and 19th for rebounds.
O’Hea was selected in the WNBL All-Star five alongside Boomers centre Liz Cambage, both players were selected in the team for the first time of their career. O’Hea won the Linda Brandt Medal for being the Bulleen Boomers Most Valuable Player.
The Bulleen Boomers had a very stable roster for the 2010/11 WNBL season with nine players from 2009/10 returning – O’Hea, Milner, Zavecz, Penaluna, Cambage, Jarry, Glaubitz, Crosswhite and Reid. The Boomers 12 player roster was completed by guard Amelia Todhunter, forward Alice Kunek and centre Shelley Hammonds.
Bullen finished the 2010/11 regular season on top of the WNBL ladder with a record of 19 wins, three losses and a percentage of 129, one win ahead of Canberra and four wins ahead of third placed Bendigo. It was the second season in a row that Bulleen had won the minor premiership and third consecutive season finishing in the top two. Whilst Bulleen had retained their core group from the previous season there had been some major changes for Canberra as Jackson did not play in the WNBL in 2010/11 and Bishop left Canberra to join the Dandenong Rangers. Canberra recruited another Australian Opals post player in Suzy Batkovic.
Injury forced O’Hea to spend time on the sidelines twice during the 2010/11 season. Due to the knee injury O’Hea missed several games at the end of the 2010/11 regular season and the Boomers 71-67 semi final victory against the Capitals. Suzy Batkovic battled injuries throughout the season and missed 10 regular season games for the Capitals and also missed the semi final with an elbow infection.
The Boomers and Capitals met in the WNBL Grand Final for the third year in a row and the second season in succession at Melbourne Sports Centres Parkville. O’Hea returned from injury and started the Grand Final on the bench for the Boomers and Batkovic played for the Capitals.
Bulleen started the Grand Final brilliantly and an O’Hea three-pointer on the quarter-time buzzer extended the Boomers lead to 29-15 at quarter-time. The Boomers never looked back to win by 25 points, 103 to 78 to claim the club’s first WNBL championship. In the Grand Final victory O’Hea scored 11 points and made four assists playing 20 minutes and 55 seconds court-time. Veteran Bulleen point guard Sharin Milner scored 27 points and made five assists to win the Grand Final MVP award in her final WNBL game.
During 2010/11 O’Hea played 15 of a possible 24 games for the Bulleen and averaged 12.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game to set a new career-high for assists. O’Hea ranked fourth in the WNBL for assists per game and equal seventh for three-pointers made. O’Hea was selected in the 2010/11 WNBL All-Star Five along with teammate Liz Cambage who won the league MVP Award.
Playing for Dandenong Rangers in the WNBL from 2011/12 to 2013/14
O’Hea left the Boomers and joined cross-town rival the Dandenong Rangers for the 2011/12 WNBL season. A major reason for O’Hea’s move was to play alongside Rangers starting point guard Kathleen MacLeod. O’Hea and MacLeod had been teammates at junior level and childhood best friends, at senior level they had previously spent two seasons at the Rangers as teammates in 2005/06 and 2006/07.
MacLeod and Steph Blicavs (nee Cumming) were the only two Dandenong Rangers starters that returned from 2010/11, they were joined in the 2011/12 starting line-up by O’Hea, Canadian import centre Krista Phillips and long-term Ranger forward Alison Downie who played a more prominent role for Dandenong in 2011/12 after averaging just 12.7 minutes per game in 2010/11. Other members of the Rangers 12 player roster were Tegan Cunningham, Sam Woosnam, Louella Tomlinson, Clare Papavs, Hope Terdich, American import Brittany Wilkins and development player Aimie Rocci (nee Clydesdale).
Dandenong were strongly placed to make the finals at the half-way point of the 2011/12 season with eight wins and four losses, however they then lost four games in a row to Logan, Bulleen and twice to Bendigo to be a middle of the road team personified with a record of eight wins and eight losses and looked very unlikely to make the WNBL finals. The Rangers looked revitalised late in the season and won their last six regular season games, having an average winning margin of 31 points during this time.
In the third game of this winning streak the Rangers trailed Sydney Flames 53-41 at half-time of their road game on 3 February at Sydney Uni Sports & Aquatic Centre. Dandenong outscored Sydney 19-14 in the third quarter to reduce the margin to seven points at the final change. Dandenong dominated the third quarter 31-15 to record a comeback victory by nine points, 91-82. Against Sydney O’Hea shot at 58.3% from the field, made all five free-throws, scored a team-high 19 points and made four assists.
The Jayco Rangers finished third on the WNBL ladder with 14 wins and eight losses, four games behind minor premiers, Adelaide Lightning and one win behind the second placed Bulleen Boomers. Townsville and Sydney finished in fourth and fifth place respectively with records of 13 wins and nine losses to complete the final five with Bendigo and Logan both finishing one win behind on 12 wins.
Townsville defeated Sydney by seven points in a mid-week elimination final at home to progress to a semi-final at Dandenong Stadium against the Rangers. Townsville were strongly placed to cause an upset in the semi-final, leading Dandenong 65 to 58 with just over seven minutes remaining, however Dandenong dominated from that point on to go on a 19-1 run and won 77 points to 66. O’Hea scored a game-high 24 points shooting at 47.4% from the field, took four rebounds, made three assists and two steals.
Bulleen won a thrilling major semi-final against Adelaide 73 to 70 which led to Dandenong travelling to Adelaide to play the Lightning in a preliminary final. Adelaide led Dandenong by 13 points a minute into the third quarter, however as they had done so frequently in the concluding stages of the season the Rangers got on a roll and overpowered their opponent, to defeat Adelaide 91 points to 78. In a phenomenal all-round game O’Hea scored a team-high 28 points, took nine rebounds – ranked second for the game behind teammate Phillips, made a game-high eight assists and had an equal game-high two steals playing 39 minutes court-time in the Rangers victory. In a proficient shooting display O’Hea made seven of 11 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 63.4%, one of two three-pointers and 11 of 12 free-throws at an accuracy of 91.7%.
The 2011/12 WNBL Grand Final between the Bulleen Boomers and the Dandenong Rangers was the first all-Victorian Grand Final since 1987 when Nunawading defeated Coburg. Bulleen made the Grand Final for the third season in a row in 2011/12 and after playing for Bulleen in the 2009/10 and 2010/11 Grand Finals O’Hea was now playing against her former side in the game to determine which team won the WNBL Championship. Only four of the 12 players from the Boomers 2010/11 Championship winning side remained at the club in 2011/12 – Cambage, Jarry, Todhunter and Kunek with most of the Bulleen departures being due to retirement.
In an interview on WNBL iTV Grand Final preview published on 7 March 2012 host Darren Boyd asked O’Hea “After (the game against) Bendigo you were eight wins and eight losses and you looked like for all money you were gone. It was Round 13, you only had six games left, what has changed since then, you haven’t lost since?” O’Hea responded “I think half-time of the Sydney game we really had a good talk in the change rooms and we knew that a lot of things had to change. It was from that moment on that we really just came together as a team and our defense I think from that game onwards has been our trademark and I think that’s how we have been able to go on this fantastic streak.”
Boyd followed up by asking “Was there something in particular that changed from a strategic perspective or was it more like you have just described, the environment, the team sort of switched on because I think those of us that haven’t been involved at that elite level of sport find it hard to believe that sometimes you can just flick a switch, and things just transform, in your case a season can transform?” O’Hea responded “We are a very new team at Dandenong, a lot of new players and I think it took us a couple of really disappointing losses to really come together. We were working hard at training but it wasn’t always quite working on court. The last quarter and a half against Sydney and on it has really clicked for us and the chemistry has been really fantastic. I think we have been enjoying our basketball together a lot more as well which always helps.”
The Rangers had a long losing streak against Bulleen including losing all three games during 2011/12 by five points, six points in overtime and 10 points. The Boomers starting line-up of Sam Richards, Great Britain import Johannah Leedham, Rachel Jarry, Alice Kunek and Liz Cambage contained three players ranked in the top 12 of the WNBL during 2011/12 for points per game – Cambage (2nd), Jarry (11th) and Richards (12th). Five of the top 12 scorers in the league played in the Grand Final as MacLeod ranked fifth and O’Hea ranked eighth.
The Bulleen Boomers had the better start to lead 11 points to four, three and a half minutes into the opening quarter, however the Dandenong Rangers scored the next 12 points gain the ascendancy, going on a 30 points to six run to lead by 17 points, 34 to 17 with six and a half minutes remaining in the first half. Whilst Bulleen reduced the lead to a low single figure margin for several minutes early in the third quarter Dandenong were able to respond, retaining their composure to extend their lead and recorded a convincing victory by 24 points, 94 points to 70. In the Rangers Grand Final victory O’Hea, made eight of 10 free-throws at an accuracy of 80%, scored 20 points and took seven rebounds. MacLeod scored 22 points, made nine assists and took four rebounds to win the Grand Final MVP award. It was the third WNBL Championship in the Jayco Dandenong Ranger’s history, having previously gone back-to-back to win the 2003/04 and 2004/05 championships.
During 2011/12 O’Hea played 24 of a possible 25 games for the Jayco Rangers, averaging 16.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Among players that played at least five games for the season O’Hea ranked equal second in the WNBL for assists per game, equal fifth for free-throws made, eighth for points, ninth for steals, 10th for three-pointers made and equal 11th for field goals made.
The Rangers retained just over half of their WNBL Championship winning roster for the 2012/13 season, with the starting five along with sixth man Cunningham and young back-up point guard Rocci all returning. Dandenong recruited two teenagers from the AIS – Sara Blicavs and Carly Ernst (nee Mijovic).
During the 2012/13 season the Rangers recruited American import Monica Wright which increased their depth even further. On 10 November 2012 O’Hea played an exceptional game of all-round basketball to achieve the rare feat of recording a WNBL triple double comprised of 18 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for the Dandenong Rangers in a 91-77 victory against Bulleen Boomers at Dandenong Stadium. O’Hea ranked first in the game for rebounds and assists, second for points behind teammate Kathleen MacLeod (25 points) and equal-first for the Rangers with two blocked shots along with Alison Downie.
After O’Hea’s triple double it took more than a decade for the next triple double to be registered in the WNBL. On 22 December 2022 Cayla George broke the drought with 30 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in the Melbourne Boomers 106-100 overtime victory against Adelaide at the State Basketball Centre. 20 year old University of Canberra Capitals guard Jade Melbourne registered the second triple double of the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season with 91 points, 12 rebounds and 14 assists against Adelaide Lightning at the National Convention Centre on 18 February 2023.
Against the Sydney Flames at Dandenong Stadium on 15 December O’Hea put on a shooting exhibition to make 13 of 20 field goals at an accuracy of 65%, four of seven three-pointers at 57.1% and five of six free-throws to score a game-high 35 points. O’Hea made significant contributions in other facets as well to take a team-high six rebounds and make an equal game-high six assists along with teammate MacLeod in the Jayco Rangers 102-79 victory.
The Dandenong Rangers always looked assured of making the 2012/13 finals and until late in the season they had the measure of every rival club in the WNBL other than the Bendigo Spirit, winning 16 of their first 19 games of the season, with all three losses being to Bendigo by in order 12, two and seven points. Dandenong lost two late season games to Adelaide to finish the regular season in second spot on the ladder with 19 wins and five losses, two games behind minor premiers Bendigo Spirit, one game ahead of third placed Adelaide and six games ahead of the Townsville Fire who completed the top four.
Dandenong lost the major semi-final on the road to Bendigo 78 points to 71. In the seven point loss O’Hea scored a game-high 23 points shooting at 53.7% from the field, took a team-high 12 rebounds and made a team-high seven assists. The Jayco Rangers were upset by Townsville Fire in the preliminary final at Dandenong Stadium, being defeated 78 points to 64, O’Hea scored 10 points and took a team-high nine rebounds.
In 2012/13 O’Hea played 24 of a possible 26 games for the Dandenong Rangers, averaging 14.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game. O’Hea ranked third in the WNBL for assists per game, eight for points, equal 10th for blocked shots, 11th for rebounds and equal 12th for steals. O’Hea had a free-throw accuracy of 86.5% – ranked 11th in the league and made 3.5 free-throws per game – ranked equal sixth in the WNBL. O’Hea and MacLeod were each selected in the 2012/13 All-WNBL team. MacLeod ranked second in the WNBL for assists per game and fourth for points.
Kathleen MacLeod missed the 2013/14 WNBL season to have her son Jaxson and the Rangers recruited another elite point guard in Leilani Mitchell. Five years after they had been teammates at French Club Arras Mitchell and O’Hea were teammates again and proved to be an excellent combination at the Jayco Rangers in 2013/14. Joining O’Hea and Mitchell in the Rangers starting line-up were American import duo Kayla Pedersen and Natalie Novosel along with Alice Kunek who had been a teammate of O’Hea’s in the Bulleen Boomers 2010/11 WNBL Championship. In 2013/14 O’Hea was the captain of the Dandenong Rangers.
In Dandenong’s second game of the 2013/14 season against Sydney on the road at Brydens Stadium on 11 October O’Hea scored 29 points, took three rebounds and made three assists in a 95-89 victory. O’Hea was exceptional from long range, making five of six three-pointers at an accuracy of 83.3% and made eight of nine free-throws at 88.9%.
Against the Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 7 February O’Hea scored a game-high 32 points, took five rebounds, made eight assists and took two steals in an 84-85 loss. O’Hea made eight of 11 three-pointers at an accuracy of 72.7% and made 12 of 16 field goals at 75%.
The Rangers had 16 wins and eight losses during the 2013/14 regular season to finish second, six games behind minor premiers Bendigo and level with third placed Townsville Fire. Dandenong were defeated in a semi final on the road against Bendigo 62-71, O’Hea led the Rangers in scoring with 16 points. The Rangers lost a close home preliminary final to Townsville 71-74, O’Hea scored a game-high 27 points shooting at 50% from the field, made all seven free-throws, took four rebounds and made four assists.
O’Hea played 24 of a possible 26 games for the Rangers in 2013/14, averaging a career-high 20.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Among players that played at least five games O’Hea led the WNBL in points per game, ranked sixth for assists, equal 14th for rebounds. Jenna made 53 of 129 three-pointers at an accuracy of 41.1%. Among players that made at least 10 three-point attempts O’Hea ranked equal 10th in the WNBL for three-point accuracy with teammate Mitchell. O’Hea made 2.2 three-pointers per game – ranked fourth in the league. O’Hea was named in the 2013/14 WNBL All-Star Five alongside her Rangers teammate Mitchell. O’Hea polled 129 votes in the WNBL’s MVP Award to be the runner-up, seven votes behind Townsville Fire power forward/centre Suzy Batkovic. O’Hea won the WNBL’s Leading Scorer Award, becoming the first Dandenong player to win the award since her idol Penny Taylor won the award in consecutive seasons in 2000/01 and 2001/02.
After playing five consecutive WNBL seasons from 2009/10 to 2013/14 O’Hea returned to Europe to play in France in 2014/15.
Playing for the Australian Opals at the 2010 World Championships and 2012 Olympic Games
In the lead up to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games O’Hea was a member of the Australian Opals extended squad and attended a training camp held at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra in late March and early April 2008. O’Hea missed out on selection in the Australian Opals 12 player team for the 2008 Olympic Games.
O’Hea made her Australian Opals debut in 2009. At 23 years of age O’Hea made her major championship debut for the Australian Jayco Opals in the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women hosted by the Czech Republic from 23 September to 3 October. In the Opals 91-68 victory against China in the Opals third Group A game O’Hea scored 14 points – ranked equal second for Australia behind Penny Taylor (16 points), took four rebounds, made four of nine field goal attempts to shoot the ball at 44.4% from the field and made all three free-throw attempts. 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.
In a quarter final, hosts, the Czech Republic led the Opals 52-51 at three quarter time. In the fourth quarter the Czech Republic outscored Australia 27 to 17 to defeat the Opals by 11 points, 79 to 68. Poor field accuracy proved pivotal to the outcome with Australia making 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 2010 World Championships in fifth position.
At the 2010 World Championships O’Hea played all nine games for Australia and averaged 5.9 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 22.2 minutes per game. O’Hea ranked second for the Opals in total assists behind point guard Kristi Harrower, third in minutes played behind Lauren Jackson and Harrower and sixth in scoring and rebounding. O’Hea made seven of 16 three-pointers at an accuracy of 43.8% to lead the Opals for three-point accuracy and ranked second for three-pointers made.
The 2012 Olympics in London was the fifth consecutive Olympic Games and seventh overall that the Australian women’s basketball team had qualified for. Australia failed to qualify for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona but had played in every other Olympic Games from 1984 onwards and had won a medal at the previous four Olympics, winning the bronze medal in 1996 followed by the silver medal at three consecutive Olympics in 2000, 2004 and 2008.
O’Hea was joined in the 2012 Opals Olympic games by three players she had been teammates with on WNBL championship winning teams – Kathleen MacLeod with the Jayco Rangers in 2011/12 along with Liz Cambage and Rachel Jarry with the Boomers in 2010/11. Other members of the Opals team were Lauren Jackson, Kristi Harrower, Suzy Batkovic, Belinda Snell, Abby Bishop, Laura Hodges, Jennifer Screen and Samantha Richards. Due to a knee injury Penny Taylor missed the 2012 Olympic games.
In group B at the 2012 London Olympic Games Australia had four wins and one loss in overtime to France 70-74 after a Belinda Snell shot from three-quarter court on the buzzer at the end of the fourth quarter sent the game to an extra period. The Opals finished second in Group B behind France. In the Opals second group B game against France and fourth group B game against Russia O’Hea scored 10 points and made five assists.
In the quarter-final 75-60 victory against China O’Hea scored eight points, took six rebounds and made three assists. Australia lost their semi-final to the United States of America by 13 points, 73-86, the fifth consecutive Olympic Games that the United States had beaten Australia, having also won a semi-final in 1996 before defeating the Opals in three consecutive Olympic gold medal games in 2000, 2004 and 2008. In the 2012 semi final against USA O’Hea scored 10 points and made three assists.
The Jayco Australian Opals defeated Russia by nine points, 83-74 in the bronze medal game resulting in the Opals extending their medal winning sequence to five Olympic games. O’Hea played all eight games for Australia at the 2012 Olympic Games and averaged 7.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 23.0 minutes per game. In six games O’Hea scored at least eight points. O’Hea led the bronze medal winning Opals for total assists, ranked equal third for minutes played, equal fourth in rebounds and fifth in scoring.
O’Hea made herself unavailable for the 2014 World Championships held in Turkey which may have adversely impacted her when it came to Opals selection for later tournaments.
Playing in the WNBA with Los Angeles Sparks from 2011 to 2013
On 31 March 2011 WNBA Club the Los Angeles Sparks announced that they had signed O’Hea to a free agent contract. LA Sparks head coach Jennifer Gillom commented “Jenna is a versatile player who we think has a chance to make an immediate impact. At 6’1”, she has excellent mobility and will add size to our backcourt. I’m excited to begin coaching her.”5 O’Hea’s teammates at the LA Sparks in 2011 included 2009 WNBA Rookie of the Year and WNBA MVP Candace Parker and Kristi Toliver.
Current Australian Opals coach Sandy Brondello was an assistant coach at the LA Sparks. O’Hea commented “I’m really excited about this opportunity to play for the Sparks. I know both Coach Gillom and [Assistant] Coach [Sandy] Brondello well, and I’m looking forward to working with them and playing alongside some of the world’s best players. I hope to bring a bit of energy to the Sparks; I think that’s what us Aussies are known for!”6
O’Hea made her WNBA debut at 23 years of age and in the 2011 regular season played 31 games for the Los Angeles Sparks including five as a starter. In her debut WNBA regular season O’Hea made 28 of 63 three-pointers at an accuracy of 44.4%. The LA Sparks had 15 wins and 19 losses during the 2011 regular season, finished fifth in the Western Conference and missed the playoffs.
Carol Ross was appointed as the head coach of the LA Sparks for 2012. Due to focusing on national team commitments O’Hea missed the first 25 games of the 2012 regular season and only joined the LA Sparks after being a member of the Opals bronze medal winning team at the 2012 London Olympics. After the break for the Olympics O’Hea played eight regular season games for the Los Angeles Sparks. During a road victory against San Antonio on 17 July O’Hea registered her first WNBA double-double comprised of 12 points and 11 rebounds. In a home game against Minnesota on 4 September O’Hea set a WNBA personal best with 15 points.
The LA Sparks finished the 2012 regular season placed second in the Western Conference with 24 wins and 10 losses. The Sparks defeated San Antonio two games to nil in the Western Conference semi finals. The Los Angeles Sparks were defeated by the Minnesota Lynx in the Conference finals two games to nil, being defeated 77-94 on the road in game 1 and 79-80 in game 2 at home.
In 2013 the Los Angeles Sparks again finished second in the Western Conference with a record of 24 wins and 10 losses. O’Hea played 29 regular season games and made 20 of her 40 three-point attempts at an accuracy of 50%. In the first two games of the 2013 Western Conference semi finals between second seeds the LA Sparks and third seeds the Phoenix Mercury the road team had a nine point victory. In game three at the Staples Centre in LA the biggest margin at the end of a quarter was two points and Phoenix got the victory over the Sparks 78-77. O’Hea’s Sparks teammate Candace Parker won the 2013 WNBA Most Valuable Player Award.
Playing in the WNBA with Seattle Storm from 2014 to 2016
On 1 April 2014 O’Hea was traded by the Los Angeles Sparks to the Seattle Storm in exchange for the Storm’s 2015 second round draft pick. O’Hea’s teammates at Seattle in 2014 included Alysha Clark, current Storm head coach Noelle Quinn and point guard Sue Bird who went on to break the all-time record for most career assists in the WNBA.
On the acquisition of O’Hea Seattle’s Storm Head Coach and General Manager Brian Agler commented “Jenna is an experienced, versatile player who has played well both in the WNBA and internationally. She shoots the ball extremely well from the three and has tremendous instincts for the game. We are excited that Jenna is joining the Storm.”7
On 27 June 2014 O’Hea scored an equal career-high 15 points for Seattle against Minnesota, making five three-pointers. Fellow Australian Abby Bishop joined O’Hea at Seattle in 2015 and with the number one draft pick Seattle selected guard Jewell Loyd. Three times in 2015 O’Hea had six assists in a game. Against Minnesota on 25 June 2015 Jenna set a new WNBA career-high with 17 points which included making three of six three-pointers. O’Hea played 34 games for Seattle during the 2015 regular season including 14 as a starter. Seattle missed the playoffs in 2014 and 2015, having a combined record of 22 wins and 44 losses during this two-season period.
With the first pick at the 2016 WNBA Draft Seattle selected forward Breanna Stewart. In O’Hea’s second and last start of the 2016 regular season she scored 14 points against Phoenix on 3 June, making four of seven field goal attempts. Seattle finished third in the Western Conference with a record of 16 wins and 18 losses. In the first round of the play-offs Seattle were defeated in a single game by the Atlanta Dream 85-94.
O’Hea played two pre-season games for Seattle in 2017. On 11 May 2017 Seattle Storm waived O’Hea. On being waived by Seattle O’Hea commented during her This is your Journey episode “I was in the second year of a three-year contract when I got cut in the WNBA and I was distraught. You sort of start to plan things I guess. My partner (Marcus) and I over in America we had an apartment together, I had a lease on a car, I had all that set up because I was there for another two years. It was sort of half-way through training camp where I was like, mmm the coach is being different with me and it was the last day of training camp when teams had to be that she cut me. So didn’t give me the opportunity to go explore other teams and I was back in Australia before I knew it. It wasn’t a nice period for me I didn’t really want to see people, I didn’t want to have to explain myself and what had happened. I stayed over in America for maybe three weeks, maybe seeing if someone that made rosters got injured and if I could try for another team but it just didn’t work out.”
On the specifics of how being waived played out O’Hea commented “Someone came in to the locker room as I was getting changed and said ‘Jenny the coach would like to speak to you’ and as soon as you hear that you’re like ‘oh this isn’t good.’ So went up into the room, she put a box of tissues in the middle of the table and said that I had been cut. She pushed the box of tissues towards me and said ‘I hope we can still be friends.’ I refused to cry in front of her and walked out and burst into tears in the changeroom with all the girls (laughs).”
From 2011 to 2016 O’Hea played 153 regular season WNBA games comprised of 68 for the Los Angeles Sparks and 85 for the Seattle Storm. In WNBA regular season games O’Hea averaged 4.4 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 15.7 minutes per game whilst shooting at 41.1% from the perimeter. In each of O’Hea’s three seasons with Seattle she made at least 90% of her free-throws.
When O’Hea was in the WNBA with Seattle Storm recovering from a knee injury in a WNBA off-season she spent some time working for Microsoft. During Sayin it with Sara Episode 3: Jenna O’Hea published on 31 August 2020 O’Hea commented “I had a three-month internship with Microsoft, I was working in the recruitment building and I had a project on competitive intelligence so I was interviewing people that had come to Microsoft from their main rivals, so I was interviewing people who had come over from Apple, from Google, from Amazon, from Facebook and I put together a presentation on how best to recruit from those companies. Say it was after three years the benefits at Amazon plateaued on the third year so that is the best year to go and recruit them. Then I had this big presentation at the end with some of the heads of Microsoft. At the end there was three different sectors of Microsoft, they were like when you are done playing we have got a job for you. Obviously I am not in Seattle any more so that’s not on the cards but I would love to work in HR post-basketball and I think that HR and the Mental Health work that I have been advocating for blend really well so I can definitely see myself doing something like that in the future.”
O’Hea told Sayin it with Sara “For me playing in America. It is the best league in the world in my opinion and it is not something that I thought that I would ever do so to play six years over there for me physically was a real challenge and something I am proud of.”
Playing for the Melbourne Boomers in the WNBL during 2017/18 and 2018/19
In March 2017 the Deakin Melbourne Boomers announced that the club had signed O’Hea for the next two WNBL seasons. After signing O’Hea Melbourne Boomers Chairman, Tony Hallam commented “We want to enable fans to see the very best of Victorian talent right here in Melbourne and Jenna fits that bill, as a bonafide star of the game, both here and abroad, with the ability to provide strong on-court leadership. We’re pleased to be able to bring Australian talent back home to Melbourne to perform in front of our rapidly growing fan base, and to inspire grassroots players to new heights.”8
After being cut by Seattle Storm at the end of 2017 WNBA pre-season O’Hea returned to Australia. In This is your Journey, host Sam Edmund asked “Did it have you questioning yourself as to whether you wanted to keep playing the game?” O’Hea responded “Yeah, for sure. I wasn’t in a good way when I came back to Australia. I think mum and dad ended up buying a dog for me to cheer me up, good old Gus the French Bulldog, he is a little ripper. I didn’t want to work out, I was a bit embarrassed I guess, because I had planned so much and had two years left on my contract. My visa was cut short so then came back with your tail between your legs, that was the feeling that I had. If I did happen to go to weights it would be like ‘Oh what are you doing back in Australia?’ and then I would have to sort of explain why I was in Australia and it wasn’t something that I wanted to explain so I sort of just hid out until I didn’t have to have those conversations anymore and that was where (Melbourne Boomers coach) Guy Molloy was pivotal in getting my love back for basketball.”
Edmund asked “You signed the contract with the Boomers prior to receiving the news from the Storm so you had planned to play with them in the WNBA off-season. Looking back now, did that contract save your career, do you think you would have kept playing without or is that a bit of a stretch?” O’Hea responded “I could have very easily stayed in America and had a nine to five job, I had done an internship earlier that year that I really enjoyed with Microsoft and there was opportunities there for me to work but I knew I had to come home to fulfil that contract that I had with Boomers, so very easily could have been the end of career if it wasn’t for signing that contract so early.”
O’Hea commented during This is your Journey “Coming back home I realised how much I had missed home and it was good to be back with my family and friends. I had signed with the Melbourne Boomers, playing with them I really got the love back for basketball. So I think everything happens for a reason, yeah it wasn’t nice at the time, but I can look back and realise that I needed to be home at that time.”
From 2014/15 to 2016/17 O’Hea missed three consecutive WNBL seasons. On returning to the WNBL and playing for the Boomers O’Hea told WNBL Media “It feels amazing. I’m extremely excited to get to play in front of the passionate Boomers fans again as well as my friends and family. It’s been a couple of years since I last played in Australia and with the direction the Boomers are moving in as a club it is something that I wanted to be a part of. I am excited for the year ahead and what we can achieve as a club both on court and off the court.”9
The Deakin Melbourne Boomers other major off-season signing was O’Hea’s 2010/11 Boomers championship winning teammate, Liz Cambage. O’Hea was appointed the Boomers captain and was joined in the four player leadership group by Cambage, Maddie Garrick and Brittany Smart. Boomers head coach Guy Molloy commented “Jenna is an outstanding leader, and together with Liz, Maddie and Britt we have assembled a terrific leadership group, not just for the team, but for the club. The years of international experience Jenna brings to the club is vital and I have no doubt she will lead from the front off the court just as much as she will on the court.”10
The Boomers starting line-up at the start of the season was Garrick and Cole in the backcourt along with O’Hea, Cambage and New Zealand Tall Fern Kalani Purcell in the frontcourt. Other members of the Boomers team included, Smart, Louella Tomlinson, Monique Conti and Rebecca Ott.
Jenna O’Hea in a huddle with Melbourne Boomers teammates during match against Perth Lynx at the State Basketball Centre on 3 January 2018
Due to a calf injury O’Hea missed some games early in the 2017/18 season. In Round 6 O’Hea was named in the WNBL’s Team of the Week for her performances in the Boomers two games that round. In the Melbourne Boomers first game of Round 6 O’Hea scored a team-high 22 points, took two rebounds, made three assists and one steal in an 88-65 victory against the Sydney Uni Flames at Brydens Stadium on 11 November. O’Hea was exceptional from long-range to make a game-high six three-pointers from eight attempts at an accuracy of 75%. All of the other players in the game made a total of nine three-pointers between them.
Jenna O’Hea shooting a free-throw for Melbourne Boomers against Sydney Flames at the State Basketball Centre on 26 November 2017
The Melbourne Boomers finished the 2017/18 regular season with a record of 12 wins and nine losses to finish fourth, three wins behind minor premiers the Perth Lynx and two wins behind Sydney and Townsville who finished second and third respectively. It was the first time the Boomers had made the finals since 2013/14 when they also finished fourth.
Jenna O’Hea playing defense for Melbourne Boomers against Sydney Flames guard/forward Belinda Snell at the State Basketball Centre on 26 November 2017
In game one of the semi finals against Perth O’Hea scored seven points making three of five field goal attempts at an accuracy of 60%, took four rebounds, made a game-high 11 assists and had a game-high five steals in the 92-76 victory at the State Basketball Centre. The Boomers defeated Perth 78-69 in game two at Bendat Basketball Centre to advance to the Grand Final.
Townsville Fire defeated the second placed Sydney Flames 2-0 in their semi final series winning game one at home by 29 points and game 2 on the road by three points.
Townsville won game one of the Grand Final against Melbourne Boomers at Townsville RSL Stadium 69-64, O’Hea scored nine points – ranked second for the Boomers, took nine rebounds and made a game-high five assists. In game 2 in front of 3,655 spectators at the State Basketball Centre the Deakin Melbourne Boomers overcame a 26-34 half-time deficit to win a thriller 58-57. In the deciding game 3 Townsville led 20-14 at quarter-time and went on to defeat the Boomers 70-57. All three Grand Final games were a sell-out with 8,000 spectators attending during the three game series which was also broadcast live by Fox Sports on pay TV. In 2017/18 O’Hea played 22 games for the Melbourne Boomers and averaged 11.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.6 steals per game. During 2017/18 O’Hea ranked eighth in the WNBL for assists per game and equal fifth in the league for steals.
Cambage didn’t return to the Boomers for the 2018/19 season, however Australian Opals captain O’Hea was joined by three members of the silver medal winning Opals team from the 2018 World Cup in Cayla George, Ezi Magbegor and Steph Talbot at the Boomers in 2018/19. The Boomers also recruited American import point guard Lindsay Allen. Bec Cole left the Melbourne Boomers to join the Jayco Rangers and was seeking the opportunity to play as a shooting guard.
In a Round 12 road game on 29 December against Bendigo Spirit at Bendigo Stadium O’Hea played the 250th game of her WNBL career. A thrilling game went to overtime and in the extra period O’Hea made a three-pointer which secured a Boomers victory, 71-67.
During 2018/19 Melbourne recorded 15 wins and six losses to finish the regular season in second place, one game behind the minor premiers, the University of Canberra Capitals and two games ahead of the Adelaide Lightning and Perth Lynx in third and fourth position respectively. Melbourne lost their semi final series to Adelaide 0-2, being defeated 60-76 in game 1 at the State Basketball Centre and 92-100 in game 2 at Titanium Arena in Adelaide. During 2018/19 O’Hea played 22 games for the Melbourne Boomers and averaged 10.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 0.9 steals per game. In 2018/19 O’Hea ranked eighth in the WNBL for three-pointers made per game, 10th for minutes played and 13th for assists. O’Hea made 23 of 25 free-throws at an accuracy of 92% – ranked fourth in the WNBL among players who had at least 10 attempts.
Jenna O’Hea about to shoot a three-pointer for Melbourne Boomers against Adelaide Lightning in game 1 of the semi final series against Adelaide Lightning at the State Basketball Centre on 27 January 2019
Lifeline Round in the WNBL and working in the well-being and engagement space
In an Athlete’s Voice article published on 24 June 2019 O’Hea wrote “Whenever I spoke to Ferg, he always had a great story to tell. To me, my uncle Fergus – Dad’s youngest brother – was always laughing and joking around. I guess that’s why it was such a shock to us.
I remember, when I was looking to adopt a dog, he was really involved in that process, sending me through all this information about different breeds he thought would suit me.
Mum and Dad ended up getting a French bulldog and Ferg was straight onto it, saying, ‘This is one of the breeds I was telling you about!’
When I finally got around to getting my dog, Kosmo, he was really involved again and loved seeing the joy Kosmo brought into my life, because Ferg always loved dogs.
Those chats are among my fondest memories of him.
The call came in December last year. It was Mum and straightaway I could hear that her voice was broken.
You never know what’s going to be at the end of one of those conversations, but she said it was Ferg, that he’d taken his own life.
My brother lives with me and we rushed to my parents’ place. To see my dad – it was devastating. We all gathered around each other.”11
Later in the Athlete’s voice article Jenna wrote “For the next few days I didn’t feel as though I could tell people what had happened. I didn’t want anyone to know that someone in my family had committed suicide. I went into hiding, in a way.
When I went back to training, all my teammates knew was that something was wrong in my family. That was about it. I couldn’t bring myself to tell them.
That’s when I started doing some research and was really stunned to see how common it was, that eight people each day take their own lives across the country and more than 30 try to.
I was really shocked by those numbers. And I thought that if I was shocked, others probably would be too. I felt like, with the platform that I had, I needed to do something to help others and share what I was going through.”12
O’Hea had discussions with Justin Nelson, the then General Manager of the Deakin Melbourne Boomers about initiatives to raise money for Lifeline and awareness about mental health issues. Nelson and the Boomers were supportive as were the rest of the basketball community which resulted in the WNBL establishing Lifeline Round.
An article published on WNBL.com.au on 14 January 2019 stated that the “The Chemist Warehouse WNBL will shine the spotlight on mental health and suicide prevention in the final round of the regular season this weekend.
Through a partnership with Lifeline Australia, the competition will raise awareness and funds for the national charity with every club donating $100 per three-point shot made by their team during Round 15 and that total raised will then be matched by the Chemist Warehouse WNBL.
Lifeline provides all Australians experiencing emotional distress with access to a 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention service.
The initiative has been driven by Deakin Melbourne Boomers captain Jenna O’Hea, following the tragic loss of a family member last year.”13
Jenna O’Hea shooting a three-pointer for Melbourne Boomers in the Lifeline Round game against Dandenong Rangers on 19 January 2019 at Dandenong Stadium
In the Melbourne Boomers Lifeline Round game against the Dandenong Rangers on 19 January 2019 at Dandenong Stadium O’Hea made three three-pointers and the Boomers team as a whole made 12 triples.
Jenna and the O’Hea family on the court at Dandenong Stadium after the Lifeline Round game between the Melbourne Boomers and Dandenong Rangers on 19 January 2019
n her Athlete’s voice article O’Hea spoke about some of the work she has done as an Ambassador in the AIS Lifeline Community Custodians program, writing “Going to events like the ones in Brisbane and Broken Hill recently, hearing stories and connecting with people, seeing them feel comfortable talking about it, it all helps get rid of the stigma around mental health.
I’m noticing people open up about their experiences the more I get out and talk about it. Some are talking to me about family members or friends.
Others are telling me that, as hard as it’s been for them, they’ve finally taken the step of making a phone call and seeking help they’ve needed for a long time.
I live in Melbourne and I’ve had people stop me on the street to talk about mental health. Making inroads in this area has so much more meaning to me than anything I’ve done on the basketball court.
It’s been so rewarding for me. I got into this to help people, but people are helping me back. It’s amazing.”14
During the 14 October 2020 episode of Gibbo goes One on One Driven by MG / Jenna O’Hea, host Adam Gibson asked “The Lifeline Round, it must feel pretty amazing to have played a part in starting that round up and getting awareness during the season and for fans to get on board and donate. What was it like to have Lifeline Round started?” “O’Hea responded “Yeah that inaugural Lifeline Round was extremely emotional. It wasn’t too long after my uncle (Ferg) passed and we raised over $15,000 in that first year which was amazing. Most importantly was the recognition and people talking about it which I think is a really great start. It’s a stigma that we really need to reduce, I think that round really helped and I am looking forward to the second Lifeline Round this coming WNBL season.”
At the 2020 Victoria Institute of Sport Awards in November 2020 O’Hea was a joint winner of the Sara Tait Spirit Award along with Melbourne Vixens netball player Caitlin Thwaites. It was the first time that there had been joint winners of the Sara Tait Spirit Award, named after late rower Sarah Tait.
“The Sarah Tait Spirit Award celebrates an athlete who most encompasses the spirit of the VIS. This athlete has demonstrated courage, commitment and persistence to achieve their sporting goals, whilst showing the ability to inspire and bring out the best in others, engage with and bring pride to their community.”15
An article published on vis.org.au said “O’Hea and Thwaites were recognised for being inspirations in life as well as in their sports and both are fantastic role models to athletes, both past and present.”16
O’Hea was recognised for her basketball achievements, work raising awareness of and support for mental health including her work with Lifeline as well as the support she shows for other athletes including those at the Victorian Institute of Sport.
On being a joint recipient of the Sara Tait Spirit Award O’Hea commented “It is an honour to have Renae Ingles (2019 Sarah Tait Spirit Award winner) present this award and an even bigger honour to share this award with Caitlin. 2020 has been a rough year, so to win this award is extra special this year. I’m currently in the Queensland hub for the WNBL trying to win a championship just like Caitlin and the Vixens. And I hope 2020 can be the year for all of us.”17
The WNBL held Reach Out Round in Round 7 of the 2021/22 season from 12-17 January and Lifeline was one of the supporting organisations along with Beyond Blue, Headspace Ballarat, Kids Helpline & ReachOut.
In each of O’Hea’s three seasons with the Southside Flyers from 2019/20 to 2021/22 the club hosted a dedicated Lifeline game. In the 2021/22 season the Southside Flyers held a Lifeline game against the Canberra Capitals on 5 March at Dandenong Stadium. The Flyers donated $100 to Lifeline for each assist made in the game against Canberra. “In 2022 the Flyers, with the support of other WNBL Clubs, sponsors and supporters, raised $20,000 for Lifeline.”18
In an interview with Megan Hustwaite published in the Herald Sun in the leadup to the Flyers March 2022 Lifeline game against the Capitals O’Hea commented “Those close to me know I’ve been struggling since the Olympics, and it continues to be a work in progress. It’s not easy to admit that you’re not OK, which is why this round is so important.”
“I’ve always been the strong one, the resilient one, but the strongest thing I’ve done is admit I need help.”
“I’m around my teammates again and you may see me laughing and playing again, but I’m battling every day. I have good days, I have bad days, I have good hours I have bad hours.”19
After O’Hea’s final WNBL home game with the Southside Flyers on 10 March 2022 at Dandenong Stadium Ben Waterworth asked in a post-game interview on Fox Sports “You leave a terrific legacy on the court but off-the court particularly in the last couple of years with your campaigning around mental health and looking after your mental health, how proud are you of that, that legacy that you leave and starting things up like the Lifeline Round in the WNBL?” O’Hea replied “Yeah, so proud, I am more than just a basketball player, that’s what I do, it is not who I am so I extremely proud of Lifeline Round and all the mental health advocacy that I have been able to do and I will continue to do that post my basketball career as well because I think it is so important. I am glad that people have noticed that I have done more than just play basketball.”
On 3 October 2022 the WNBL announced that “The WNBL along with new naming rights partner, Cygnett, will be introducing the Cygnett WNBL Community Award, which will recognise and celebrate an athlete who has made significant contributions to the community.
The award is inspired by WNBL legend, Jenna O’Hea, who in collaboration with the WNBL launched the Lifeline Round, raising over $15,000.
At the end of each regular season Clubs will be asked to nominate one or more athletes for the Award. The recipient will be selected by the Basketball Australia Awards Committee, with the winner to receive $5,000 to donate to the charity of their choice, thanks to Cygnett.”20
During the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL regular season the League held two themed league-wide rounds. Fighting Period Poverty Round in Round 4 as well as Indigenous Round in Round 14. Lifeline Round was not a league-wide round for the 2022/23 season.
During Shooting The Breeze EP88: Jenna O’Hea Forever an Opal published on 14 October 2022 co-host Paul Camillos asked O’Hea “The WNBL has announced the Community Award which is inspired by your work with Lifeline. What is your vision for that, how do you want to see that promoted and the WNBL use that as a way to be able to get the message out about community engagement?” O’Hea responded “I firstly want to start off by saying I am very disappointed that as soon as I retire Lifeline Round/Mental Health Round is no longer a part of the WNBL. As nice as it is to have a Community Award inspired by me I knew nothing about that. I feel like the respectful thing would have been to call me because I think the idea around the Community Award is brilliant. Everyone at the WNBL has my number or email address. I think they could have called me or emailed me or made contact with me in some way to discuss that with me because I put a lot of time and effort into those Lifeline and Mental Health Rounds. It wasn’t until things went on social media that I got a call from (Head of the WNBL) Christy Collier-Hill explaining everything around the Community Award but I think that should have been done much earlier, she apologised for that so I will put that on record that she did call me and apologise.”
“In terms of the Community Award I do think it is great and I know how much I love helping other people, I know how much a lot of WNBL athletes love helping other people as well and there is so many great causes. One that comes to mind is obviously Bec Cole with lymphoma, her dad (Gary) had cancer and she is doing a lot of great work and there is just so many athletes within the WNBL that are doing great work so to be able to be recognised is just really great.”
“I have a lot of great support and I think that there still will be something to do with Lifeline or mental health this coming season because there are so many people who are passionate about it and who believe in it. I think the Players Association will help organise that, I hope the NBL in some aspect will get involved as well because I just think it is so important to create awareness around mental health, especially with the last couple of years that we have had. I think the stigma around it is definitely decreasing but I still feel we have a long way to go.”
STB co-host Jacinta Govind asked O’Hea “I remember there was a time when you were working closely with Lifeline, you were on the road a little bit advocating for the service, are you still involved with Lifeline in that capacity as well?” O’Hea responded “Not in that capacity as much, that was through the AIS and they sourced a lot of those for me so I am not doing that currently, but whenever I can I try and support Lifeline. I just finished up the role I started when I retired, that was a great experience for me, working with the AIS in the well-being space and I really enjoyed it and it was a good experience for me straight out of playing.”
In terms of future work plans O’Hea told Shooting The Breeze in the 14 October 2022 episode “I really like the athlete well-being and engagement space. I think my experience obviously as an athlete and then my work with Lifeline and in that well-being space sync really nicely, so I think down the track that is where I see myself and it is a really important space but will need to gather some experience before sort of going into that. So that is where I see myself down the track just need to put some things in place to have the right experience for it.”
Throughout the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season several clubs have held/are holding their own themed Round in which they hold a game highlighting a cause. The Southside Flyers are holding a Lifeline Round game for the fourth consecutive season in Round 16 of the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season at the State Basketball Centre on Saturday 4 March against Townsville Fire with the game starting at 7.30pm. “The Flyers will donate $100 for every assist made in Saturday’s top of the table game against Townsville to shine a spotlight on mental health.”21
For The WNBL Show -EP16 published on28 February 2023 Townsville Fire guard Courtney Woods was a co-host and commented on Saturday’s Lifeline Round game “It is an amazing way to not only bring awareness and raise money towards Lifeline but also to continue Jenna’s legacy at that club. Obviously she was a huge part of the round and it became a league round, obviously that has shifted this year so I am glad that Southside can still raise awareness and show that that round is still incredibly important. It’s awesome that we get to be a part of that as well and hopefully contribute to the fundraising.”
In article on Wednesday 1 March Southside Flyers captain Aimie Rocci commented on Lifeline Round to WNBL Media “Jenna was an inspirational leader for us, and when we were aware of what she and her family had been through, we were very keen to provide whatever support we could and to learn more about mental health and the issues facing the community. The Lifeline game is now part of the Flyers program; it honours our former captain while helping the community. We want to continue to raise funds and create awareness of the life-changing work of Lifeline and drive support for their fundraising efforts.”22
During Shooting The Breeze EP106: Aimie Rocci – The Lifeline Round Legacy published on 2 March 2023 Rocci commented “Last season Jenna was really strong in coming out and saying that she was struggling with mental health herself so as teammates and friends watching someone go through that its actually really hard. That’s why suicide and mental health is devastating not just for the person it directly affects but for friends and family and communities as well because it can really touch everybody.”
“When the league decided not to run Lifeline Round anymore Jenna was gutted but also didn’t have the energy to make it happen herself at that time. I promised her I would do what I could to make it happen and I don’t take full credit for that, it takes the club to get on board, it takes all the girls to get on board. Our team commits to making a pretty big donation from our own personal bank accounts to sort of make a statement and encourage others to come along with us and the impact can be massive.”
Shooting The Breeze co-host Paul Camillos asked Rocci “How important do you think it is for people to realise that this (mental health) could affect absolutely anybody?” Rocci responded “It is important because I feel as though you don’t know what it feels like or that it could happen to you until it does and it can be really overwhelming, so hearing other people share their stories and us raising awareness is so helpful for someone to be able to do something about it. To not feel alone, to know where to go for help, help seeking in itself is I suppose something that needs to be taught, you need to know when you need help and where to go for help. “
If you or anyone you know needs help: contact Lifeline on 13 11 14
Text 0477 13 11 14
Playing for the Australian Opals at the 21018 World Cup and 2020 Olympic Games
In relation to missing out on selection for the 2016 Olympic Games O’Hea commented on the 14 October 2020 episode of Gibbo goes One on One Driven by MG / Jenna O’Hea “Yeah, obviously disappointing. I think a basketball career in terms of your lifespan it is just a really small career so as disappointed as I was I wanted to make the best of my basketball career. I was playing over in America and Europe at the time so just wanted to continue to improve my game. I think missing out made me self-reflect on a lot of things and I think that has helped me become the person and the player that I am and has put me in the position to be the captain of the team now, so I think everything does happen for a reason, as cliche and as silly as that sounds, I think I was put in that position to help me get to where I am today.”
Early in 2018 O’Hea was recalled to the Australian Opals team to play at the 2018 Commonwealth Games held on home soil in Queensland from April 4-15. It was the first time O’Hea had played for the Opals since being part of the Opals bronze medal winning side at the London 2012 Olympic Games. On returning to the Australian national team O’Hea told abc.net.au in March 2018 “I cried when I got the email, it’s been six years since I last represented Australia. It surprised me how emotional I got … and now I’m just really looking forward to putting on the green and gold jersey.”23
At the 2018 Commonwealth Games O’Hea was part of the Opals starting line-up along with Katie Ebzery, Steph Talbot, Cayla George and Cambage. Australia were dominant, easily winning all five games comprised of three pool games in Townsville followed by a semi final and final on the Gold Coast. Australia defeated England 99-55 in the gold medal game. At the 2018 Commonwealth Games O’Hea played all five games for Australia, averaging 8.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 16 minutes and 30 seconds court-time per game. O’Hea led the Opals for assists, shot the ball at 62% from the field and had a three-point accuracy of 58% to lead the Opals in this category, making seven of 12 shots from long-range.
Jenna O’Hea playing for the Australian Opals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games against Mozambique at the Townsville Entertainment Centre on 6 April 2018
At the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup held in Tenerife, Spain from 22 to 30 September O’Hea was named the Opals captain and was in a four player leadership group with George, Ebzery and Cambage. Other members of the Opals 12 player team were Steph Talbot, Bec Allen, Sami Whitcomb, Tess Madgen, Tessa Lavey, Alex Bunton, Alanna Smith and Ezi Magbegor.
On the appointment of O’Hea as Opals captain Australian head coach Sandy Brondello commented “Jenna has a high basketball IQ and is a well-respected leader in the team and is a natural choice to lead the Opals during our World Cup campaign.”24
During Into The Fire Episode 91 – Jenna O’Hea videopublished on 1 December 2019 O’Hea commented on her leadership style “I try and lead by example so I always put my best foot forward. I am not a very vocal leader but definitely try and go out there on my front foot andlead the way for everyone.”
Due to a calf injury O’Hea missed the Opals three Group B games at the 2018 World Cup. The Opals won all three Group B games against in order, Nigeria, Argentina and Turkey to progress to the quarter finals. On the Opals Retrospective 2018 documentary O’Hea commented “You know injuries happen. I was extremely frustrated, there was a lot of tears in the shower, I didn’t want to show that in front of the team but every time I got by myself I just sort of let it out because as a competitor I want to be out on the court and I want to be helping my teammates and I wasn’t able to do that the way I would have liked. For it to be so long since I last represented Australia at a major world tournament I wanted it to go perfect and it just wasn’t going that way for me. We had the first two games and a day off and then the Turkish game. The night before the Turkish game I went to the courts, I wanted to play some one on one so Steph Talbot came with me and it wasn’t possible so at this point I don’t know if I am going to get on the court this whole tournament, some more tears were let out that night. I tried to stay as positive as I could and the medical staff kept working on-me, there was a lot of anti-inflammatories taken, there were some other types of drugs taken, all legal of course, just stayed with the course and got back out there luckily.”
O’Hea made her return in the 83-42 quarter-final victory against China, scoring three points and taking two rebounds in 15 minutes court-time. The Opals won each of their first four matches by at least 18 points to advance to a semi final against host nation Spain.
For the semi final against host nation Spain the Opals had not only their opponents to contend with but a crowd of 8,000 spectators mainly comprised of passionate Spanish fans. Australia started 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 three-pointer 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.
In the Opals Retrospective 2018 O’Hea commented on George’s crucial corner three “I still remember being on the bench and being directly behind Cayla when the ball was coming to her and before she had even caught it I knew it was going in. I’m jumping up and down on the sidelines and that went in and it just changed the game and we were able to get up and that’s a feeling that I will never forget. Winning that game and getting back to the gold medal game, to beat Spain on their home floor is special.”
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 in Beijing, 10 years later USA were again the Opals opponents. In the gold medal game at the 2018 World Cup 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 gold medal game O’Hea scored six points, making three of four field goal attempts at an accuracy of 75% and made a team-high four assists.
Reflecting on the feeling after the 2018 World Cup final O’Hea commented in Opals Retrospective 2018 documentary “That whole night I was fighting myself in my head because we hadn’t been in contention for a gold medal since 2008 Olympics so in my head I knew it was a great accomplishment but as a competitor so disappointed to lose that game. It probably wasn’t until I arrived back into Australia that it really sunk in and it hit me that we are back to second in the world which is amazing, after really processing it just extremely proud of what we accomplished.”
In Gibbo goes One on One host Adam Gibson asked “How special is it to be the captain of the Opals?” O’Hea responded “It is hard to put into words. As soon as I started playing basketball I wanted to be an Opal. Looking up and watching Michele Timms, and our current coach Sandy Brondello and Rachel Sporn, Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor, so many greats, I just always wanted to just represent Australia as an Opal and then to be the captain and go to the World Champs in 2018 and get that silver medal it was extremely special and something I don’t take for granted.”
At the 2019 FIBA Asia Cup held in Bangalore, India from September 24 to 29 O’Hea was the Australian Opals captain. In the Opals opening game O’Hea was a starter alongside Mitchell, Ebzery, Talbot and George. In the Opals first Group B Game against the Philippines O’Hea scored 17 points, took four rebounds and made two assists in Australia’s 123-57 victory. O’Hea shot the ball proficiently to make five of six field goal attempts at an accuracy of 83.3%, made her only three-pointer and six of seven free-throws at an accuracy of 85.7%.
For the Opals second game of the tournament Magbegor replaced Talbot in the starting line-up and the same starters were used for the remainder of the tournament. After a loss to China 69-70 in the group stage Australia faced Japan in a semi-final and were defeated 64-76. There was a sizeable gap from Australia, Japan and China to the remaining five teams at the tournament. Australia easily won the bronze medal game against Korea 98-62. O’Hea played all six games for the Opals at the 2019 FIBA Asia Cup and averaged 8.5 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 18.8 minutes per game. O’Hea ranked fourth for the Opals in scoring, assists and minutes played per game.
O’Hea was selected in the Australian Opals team for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament held in Bourge, France from 7 to 10 February 2020. Playing in a WNBL game for the Southside Flyers against the Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre in Round 13 on Sunday 12 January O’Hea broke her wrist when she and Boomers forward and fellow Opal Ezi Magbegor met solidly when they both dove after a loose-ball. O’Hea played out the game but was expected to miss 10 to 12 weeks which caused her to miss the Opals Olympic Qualifying Tournament. The Opals won two of their three games at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament to qualify or the 2020 Olympic Games. At the OQT the Opals lost their opening game to host nation France and had victories in their next two games against Puerto Rico and Brazil.
On 26 March 2020 it was announced that Sydney would host the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup for five on five basketball in late September and early October with 12 teams competing in the tournament. It is the second time that Australia has hosted a FIBA Women’s World Cup with Sydney also having been the host city in 1994 where Australia narrowly missed out on winning its first ever World Cup medal. Australia finished fourth after being defeated by China 65-66 in a semi final and lost the bronze medal game to the United States of America 95-100. The Opals broke through to win a bronze medal at the 1998 World Cup and won a medal at five out of six World Cups from 1998 to 2018 including a gold medal at Rio in 2006.
Due to the coronavirus the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games were postponed by 52 weeks and commenced on 23 July 2021. In April 2020 O’Hea spoke to ESPN.com.au regarding the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games and commented “There were a lot of emotions [when the decision was made to postpone the Games] … leading into the announcement, it was difficult to find places to work out, so there was a lot of stress trying to get ready for this big event and then to hear it was going to be postponed, there was actually a bit of relief. “But there was also utter devastation. As an athlete, you have goals and a plan and that was all in place – we’d just finished the WNBL season, I played well … and the postponement was devastating.”
“Now we’re looking at late July, 2021, [which is] so many days away, it’s hard to get my head around. So much training goes into preparing for an Olympics and it’s now so far away again. The past two years, you have that date in your head, you’re planning things, training hard and it’s starting to get exciting, now it’s 15 months away or so …”25
During an interview with Megan Hustwaite for SBS TAB Courtside 1v1 published on 10 March 2021 Hustwaite asked O’Hea “Has there been a bigger thrill than captaining your country, the Opals at big international tournaments?” O’Hea replied “Yeah, it still doesn’t seem like quite real to me when it is said out loud, once I am in the environment I just be me but when it is said in a forum like this I guess it gives me goosebumps and something that I am extremely proud of.”
The 12 player Australian Opals team for the Tokyo Olympic Games was announced by the Australian Olympic Committee in Sydney on 26 May 2021. The Opals had a very settled team with 10 members of the silver medal winning team from the 2018 World Cup in Spain being selected in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games team. The two inclusions in the Tokyo Olympic Games team that didn’t play for Australia at the 2018 World Cup were Leilani Mitchell and Marianna Tolo who missed the 2018 World Cup due to a lower limb injury and knee injury respectively. Alex Bunton and Sami Whitcomb were the two players from the 2018 World Cup that weren’t selected in the Tokyo Olympic Games team. O’Hea continued in her role as Opals captain at the Tokyo Olympics.
The Opals had a training camp and some practice games in Las Vegas in the lead-up to the Olympic Games. During a scrimmage between the Opals and Nigeria Australian centre Liz Cambage was involved in an incident. On 15 July 2021 Cambage withdrew from the Opals team for the Tokyo Olympics citing mental health concerns. O’Hea’s Southside Flyers teammate Sara Blicavs was brought into the Opals team.
Appearing on the 9 May 2022 episode of the ABC TV program Offsiders O’Hea was asked by host Kelli Underwood “This all started in the pre-Olympics game when you (the Opals) played Nigeria and it’s never really emerged what happened but I have had it confirmed from a few sources. Is it correct that you were playing Nigeria and Liz Cambage had her feathers ruffled and she turned to them and said ‘go back to your third world country.’ Of course Ezi Magbegor is originally Nigerian (both of Ezi’s parents are Nigerian, Ezi was born in New Zealand and moved to Australia with her family when she was a young child) who’s now living in Australia and playing for your team and as a result there was a brawl that erupted and since then you haven’t spoken to her.” Jenna responded “That is all 100% correct.”
In the Opals opening game of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Australia’s starting line-up was Mitchell, Ebzery, Bec Allen, George and Magbegor. The Opals lost their opening game of the Tokyo Olympics to Belgium 70-85.
With the Opals trailing China in their second game of the tournament 68-70 O’Hea was substituted back into the game with 15 seconds remaining. Siyu Wang made two free-throws to extend China’s lead to 72-68. O’Hea made a three-pointer with 11 seconds remaining to reduce China’s lead to one point. Ting Shao made two free-throws with eight seconds to play to increase China’s lead to three points. With class, composure and skill Opals captain O’Hea made another three-pointer to tie the game at 74 apiece with two seconds to play. After a controversial foul call Yueru Li made two free-throws and China won the game 76-74.
The Opals needed to win their third and final Group C game against Puerto Rico by at least 24 points to qualify for the quarter finals. At half-time the Opals led Puerto Rico by a solitary point 45-44. Australia dominated the second half 51-25 to just meet the target, defeating Puerto Rico by 27 points, 96-69 and advanced to the quarter finals.
The United States of America outscored Australia in the opening quarter of their quarter final 26-12 and went on to defeat the Opals 79-55. O’Hea played all four games for the Opals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and averaged 8.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 20.9 minutes per game. O’Hea ranked fifth for the Opals in scoring and sixth in rebounds, minutes played and assists.
On 17 January 2022 O’Hea withdrew from the Opals team for the World Cup Qualifying Tournament held in Serbia from February 10 to 13, commenting “It has been a very busy 12 months and I don’t feel I am mentally prepared for another Opals campaign at this time. I had some niggling injuries in the lead up to the WNBL season and recently contracted COVID, which has set me back further and I need to focus on getting myself right, both mentally and physically. I am proud to be part of the Lifeline Australia program and to support the community and raise awareness of mental illness. On this occasion I am practicing what I preach to ensure I look after my mental health.”26
Before a training session on Tuesday 8 March 2022 O’Hea announced her basketball retirement to her Southside Flyers teammates. O’Hea played a total of 81 games for the Australian Opals and represented her nation at four major championships, the 2012 and 2020 Olympic Games along with the 2010 World Championships and the 2018 World Cup. O’Hea was a member of the bronze medal winning Opals team at the 2012 Olympic Games and was the captain of the Opals team that won a silver medal at the 2018 World Cup. At the 2018 Commonwealth Games on home soil in Queensland O’Hea was a member of the gold medal winning Opals team and she was the captain of the bronze medal winning Opals team at the 2019 Asia Cup.
On 21 September 2022 Milestones and Misses published a 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Preview and Australian Opals player profiles article. A link to this article is below:
Playing for the Southside Flyers in the WNBL from 2019/20 to 2021/22
In July 2019 the Dandenong Rangers WNBL license was transferred from the Dandenong Basketball Association to Gerry Ryan who in 1975 founded Jayco who were the naming rights sponsor of the Dandenong Rangers WNBL team from 1997 to 2019. The Southside Flyers respect the history of the Dandenong Rangers and after the rebranding continued to play home games at Dandenong Stadium. After the announcement of the license transfer and the establishment of the Southside Flyers Ryan commented “The Southside name reflects our commitment to create a team with support from the beachside suburbs of Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula through to the Dandenong Ranges, Gippsland and beyond. The Flyers hopefully will describe the style of play and success of the team within the WNBL. Our vision is to significantly broaden the support for the new team and to get the whole basketball community involved. The name Southside Flyers reflects this vision.”27
On 1 August 2019 the Southside Flyers announced Jenna O’Hea as their first player signing. O’Hea commented “When I heard Gerry Ryan was behind the new team and Cheryl Chambers was the coach, I was very keen to be involved. I know Cheryl well and Gerry has been a great supporter of women’s basketball, so it is a real privilege to be involved in the team he is building.”
“This is a unique opportunity, to be part of a new team, to develop a culture that will ensure the Southside Flyers enjoy sustained success on and off the court. It is something I just had to be part of and am very excited about what we can achieve together.”28
Chambers is currently an Assistant Coach of the Australian Opals and had two stints as a WNBL head coach previously – with the Bulleen (now Melbourne) Boomers for eight seasons from 2001/02 to 2008/09 and with the Sydney Uni Flames for three seasons from 2016/17 to 2018/19, the Flames won the WNBL Championship in 2016/17 after defeating Dandenong 2-0 in the Grand Final series. Two of the key players from Sydney’s 2016/17 Championship winning team joined Cheryl at Southside – point guard Leilani Mitchell who won the 2016/17 Grand Final Most Valuable Player Award and Belinda Snell who retired as a WNBL player at the end of the 2018/19 season and joined the Flyers as an Assistant coach.
Six players on the Southside Flyers 2019/20 roster played for the Jayco Rangers in 2018/19 – Bec Cole, Sara Blicavs, Kiera Rowe, Rebecca Pizzey, Taylah Giliam and Stephanie Reid whilst another four had played for the Jayco Rangers previously – O’Hea, Leilani Mitchell, Aimie Rocci and Louella Tomlinson. Two members of the Flyers 2019/20 core rotation that hadn’t represented the Rangers in the WNBL previously were Anneli Maley who played for the Dandenong Rangers SEABL team in 2017 and American import centre Mercedes Russell. O’Hea was appointed as the Southside Flyers inaugural captain.
The Southside Flyers played their first WNBL game against Townsville Fire at Dandenong Stadium on 12 October 2019, the Flyers regular starting line-up throughout the 2019/20 season was O’Hea, Sara Blicavs and Mercedes Russell in the front court along with Leilani Mitchell and Bec Cole in the back court.
Jenna O’Hea playing for Southside Flyers against Townsville Fire on 12 October 2019 against Townsville Fire at Dandenong Stadium
Jenna O’Hea and Southside Flyers in a team huddle after the victory against Townsville Fire on 12 October 2019 at Dandenong Stadium
O’Hea was exceptional in the Southside Flyers two Round 2 games to be named the WNBL’s Player of the Week. In a 97-93 overtime victory against the Perth Lynx on 17 October at Dandenong Stadium O’Hea displayed her wide-ranging skill-set to score a team-high 19 points, took eight rebounds, made eight assists and had a game-high six steals to account for 40% of the 15 steals made by both teams combined. O’Hea shot the ball efficiently to make eight of 12 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 66.7% and made three of five three-pointers in 39 minutes and 54 seconds court-time. Two days later in a road game against Sydney Uni Flames at Brydens Stadium O’Hea scored a team-high 22 points in an 85-72 victory.
In a home game against the Melbourne Boomers at Dandenong Stadium on 7 December O’Hea scored a game-high 22 points shooting at 50% from the field, made all 12 free-throw attempts, had a team-high six assists and a team-high three steals.
Against the Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre in Round 13 on Sunday 12 January O’Hea broke her wrist when she and Boomers forward Ezi Magbegor met solidly when they both dove after a loose ball in the fourth quarter. Despite the pain and discomfort O’Hea continued playing for the Flyers.
Jenna O’Hea with fellow Southsides Flyers starters Leilani Mitchell, Sara Blicavs, Bec Cole and Mercedes Russell waiting for play to resume against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 12 January 2020
The Flyers trailed by four points with one minute and 25 seconds remaining but were able to bridge the gap from the foul line with Cole making two free-throws with 58 seconds remaining followed by Mitchell making two free-throws with 10 seconds left to tie the scores 67 apiece. The Flyers won a thrilling game in the first period of overtime 75-73. O’Hea was expected to miss 10 to 12 weeks due to her broken wrist which would cause her to miss the Opals Olympic Games Qualifying Tournament in February and the remainder of the WNBL season.
The Flyers had been in great form however they were more reliant on their starting five than the other teams in the top four with all five starters Cole, Russell, Mitchell, O’Hea and Blicavs ranking in the top 20 of the league for scoring. One of the queries experts had about the Flyers roster was how they would fare without one of their starters for an extended time so O’Hea’s wrist injury would test the depth of the Flyers, guard Aimie Rocci was brought into the starting line-up.
The Southside Flyers recorded 17 wins and four losses during the 2019/20 regular season to finish on top of the ladder, two wins ahead of the University of Canberra Capitals and Melbourne Boomers who finished second and third respectively, followed by the Adelaide Lightning in fourth position on 12 wins.
In game 1 of their semi final series against Adelaide at Dandenong Stadium the Southside Flyers recorded a three point victory. In game two on the road the lead changed several times in the first three quarters. Cole made a crucial banked three pointer on the three quarter-time buzzer to regain the lead for Southside. The Flyers scored the opening two field goals of the final term through Blicavs and Mitchell and won game 2 82-79 on the road. All five Flyers starters scored at least 12 points – Cole (19), Mitchell (18 points), Rocci (a season high 18 points), Russell (15) and Blicavs (12).
The Southside Flyers Grand Final opponent was the University of Canberra Capitals who defeated the Melbourne Boomers 2-1 in their semi final series with the home side winning each game. Canberra won the regular season split against Southside 2-1 with the away side winning all three games.
Southside captain O’Hea returned from injury for the Grand Final series and after starting game one on the bench replaced Rocci in the starting line-up for game 2. Very little separated the Flyers and the Capitals during the Grand Final series, the Flyers held the lead in both games of the Grand Final series at a stage in the last four minutes, however in the dying stages the Capitals were more composed and shot the ball more efficiently to win game 1 82-80 at Dandenong Stadium and game 2 71-68 at AIS Arena on 4 March.
Jenna O’Hea shooting a jump shot for the Southside Flyers in game 1 of the 2019/20 WNBL Grand Final against the University of Canberra Capitals on 1 March 2020 at Dandenong Stadium
Despite starting game one of the Grand Final on the bench O’Hea scored 14 points, shooting the ball at 60% from the field, made two of three three-pointers and took six rebounds in 33 minutes and 34 seconds court-time. In game 2 O’Hea scored eight points, took nine rebounds and made three assists before fouling out of the game with five seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
On how close the 2019/20 Grand Final series between Southside and the Capitals was O’Hea told Gibbo goes One on One “Game 1 was two points and game 2 was three points so a total of five points.” Jenna went on to say “I know you ask the questions but I want to ask you a question. Would you prefer to lose by one or two or to lose by twenty?” Gibbo replied “It is a great question, I think by 20.” O’Hea responded “Right, I think about literally every single play from game 1 and 2, what I could do better, but if you lose by 20 you just go OK, that team is better.”
In 2019/20 O’Hea played 18 of a possible 25 games for the Southside Flyers and averaged 13.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game. O’Hea ranked equal eighth in the WNBL for steals per game, 14th for assists, 18th for points and equal 22nd for rebounds. O’Hea made 36 of 76 three-pointers at an accuracy of 47.4% to rank second in the WNBL for three-point accuracy among players that had at least 10 three-point attempts. Jenna’s 2.0 three-pointers per game ranked fifth in the league. O’Hea set a new career-high in 2019/20 with a field goal accuracy of 48.6%.
O’Hea was selected in the 2019/20 All-WNBL first team and was one of four Flyers to earn All-WNBL honours. Mitchell joined O’Hea in the first team, whilst Russell and Cole were selected in the second team. O’Hea finished equal runner-up in the Southside Flyers MVP Award with Cole, behind Mitchell.
Due to the impact of COVID-19 the 2020 WNBL season had a very different structure to recent seasons and imports weren’t eligible to play in the league. All eight WNBL clubs were located in North Queensland for the duration of the 2020 WNBL season which was played at three locations, Townsville, Cairns and Mackay. The regular season was condensed to five rounds commencing 11 November and each team played 13 regular season games.
Although it was more difficult for fans to attend games in 2020 due to the season being played in hubs in North Queensland the WNBL had an increased television presence and there was less competition from other sports for the attention of viewers. All 52 games during the 2020 WNBL season were broadcast on Kayo, 10 games including the Grand Final were shown on free to air network ABC and 21 games including all four finals were telecast on Foxtel.
Five of the six Flyers players that averaged more than 13 minutes per game during the 2019/20 season suited up for the Flyers again in 2020 with players in this category being O’Hea, Aimie Rocci, Cole, Blicavs and Mitchell, forward Bec Pizzey also returned. American centre Mercedes Russell was unable to return due to being an import. The Flyers recruited Liz Cambage, Steph Blicavs, Rachel Jarry and Monique Conti. In 2020 Southside had three development players Saraid Taylor, Taylah Giliam and Amy O’Neill who were all with the club during the 2019/20 season.
Since playing in consecutive WNBL Championships with the Boomers in 2010/11 and the Rangers in 2011/12 O’Hea had made the finals in all five WNBL seasons she played, with her team being runners-up twice (2017/18 – Boomers and 2019/20 – Flyers), lost in a preliminary final twice (2013/14 and 2014/15 – Rangers) and lost in a semi final once (2018/19 – Boomers). One of the advantages the Capitals had over the Flyers during the 2019/20 season was having a roster that had spent more time playing together. With most of the Flyers core from 2019/20 returning in 2020 the club was well placed to go one step further in the hub season.
Throughout the 2020 WNBL season the Flyers had 10 players that played every game they were available for including eight players who averaged more than 16 minutes per game, with starters Mitchell, Cole, O’Hea, Sara Blicavs and Cambage all averaging between 23 and 29 minutes per game. A trio of experienced players in Rocci, Steph Blicavs and Jarry each averaged between 16 and 21.5 minutes per game off the bench. Pizzey and Conti played every game and averaged 7.5 and 6.6 minutes per game respectively.
In Southside’s second game of the 2020 season on 15 November against the Sydney Uni Flames at Townsville Stadium O’Hea scored 19 points, made six of 11 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 54%, was even more damaging from long-range making four of six three-pointers at an accuracy of 66.7%, took seven rebounds, made an equal game-high eight assists and had two steals in the Flyers 99-72 victory.
Against Townsville Fire in Southside’s fourth game of the season O’Hea had five assists for the game, increasing her career tally to 1,004 assists, becoming the eighth player in the history of the WNBL to reach 1,000 assists.
At the start of the 2020 WNBL season the Flyers were the favourites to win the championship. In their first six games Southside had one loss to each of the teams considered to be their biggest rivals for the title, losing to the Melbourne Boomers 72-89 in their second game of the season and were defeated by the University of Canberra Capitals 72-95 in their first game of Round 3.
During the Southside Flyers penultimate game of the regular season they fought back from a nine point deficit against the Sydney Uni Flames with under three minutes remaining to win 81-77 at Townsville Stadium however O’Hea suffered a knee injury in the final minute of the game and had to be substituted out.
Due to a grade two Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) tear of her knee O’Hea was expected to miss the rest of the 2020 WNBL season. As happened late in the 2019/20 season Rocci was brought into the Flyers starting line-up in place of her injured captain.
Southside won their last seven games of the regular season to finish the 2020 season on top of the ladder with a record of 11 wins and two losses, two games ahead of the teams that finished second to fourth – Townsville Fire, Melbourne Boomers and University of Canberra Capitals.
The Southside Flyers had a 106-93 semi final victory against Townsville Fire at Townsville Stadium on Wednesday 16 December to advance to the Grand Final. On Friday December 18 Townsville won a thrilling preliminary final against the Melbourne Boomers 65-62 to progress to the Grand Final against the Southside Flyers.
For the second season in a row O’Hea was able to recover quicker than expected from a late season injury to play in the WNBL Grand Final. As with game one of the 2019/20 Grand Final O’Hea started on the bench and Aimie Rocci remained in the starting line-up.
In the Grand Final on 20 December at Townsville Stadium the Southside Flyers led 48-46 at half-time and were able to gain the ascendancy in the second half to have a 99-82 victory and win the WNBL championship. O’Hea scored five points in the Grand Final, making two of three field goal attempts at an accuracy of 66.7%, took five rebounds and made two assists in 17 minutes and 38 seconds court-time. O’Hea played 13 of a possible 15 games for Southside during 2020 and averaged 11.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game. O’Hea ranked fifth in the WNBL for three-pointers made per game, equal sixth for steals and equal 11th for assists. O’Hea had a field goal accuracy of 47.6%, the second highest rate of her career behind 48.6% in 2019/20.
During an interview with Megan Hustwaite for SBS TAB Courtside 1v1 published on 10 March 2021 O’Hea spoke about her knee injury, saying “Two days before the grand final I tried to do some things and the injury was not responding well at all. I was in tears thinking it was all over. Thankfully, the next day when I woke up the knee was miraculously feeling pretty good so I tried playing a few games of one-on-one against one of the young girls in the team. Somehow the knee felt okay and I knew that I would be able to declare myself fit for the final.”
It was the club’s fourth WNBL Championship, having previously won titles as the Jayco Dandenong Rangers in 2003/04, 2004/05 and 2011/12. Three members of the Southside Flyers 2020 Championship winning team had also played in the 2011/12 Championship – O’Hea, Aimie Rocci, and Steph Blicavs. Each member of this trio was a starter in one of the Grand Final victories and commenced the other Grand Final victory on the bench. It was also the second time that O’Hea, Cambage and Jarry had been teammates on a WNBL Championship winning team, having previously been teammates on the Boomers 2010/11 title winning team.
On playing in the 2020 Championship with the Southside Flyers O’Hea told SBS TAB Courtside 1v1 “There was a lot of emotions after that win. After the lockdowns, injuries, postponement of the Olympics and the whole hub season, there was a lot of emotion on our faces after that win and I think it was very evident how much it meant to us. It was such a great team to be a part of.”
For the last six seasons of her WNBL career O’Hea was the captain of her WNBL team, the 2013/14 season with the Dandenong Rangers and five consecutive WNBL seasons from 2017/18 to 2021/22 comprised of two seasons with the Melbourne Boomers followed by three seasons with the Southside Flyers.
During an interview with Megan Hustwaite for SBS TAB Courtside 1v1 published on 10 March 2021 Hustwaite asked O’Hea “Have you always been a leader?” O’Hea responded “No, I think it is definitely something that you develop into, I think I try to learn from all the teammates and the people that I have been around as I have grown up and I think it has come quite naturally just as I have developed as a human.” On the development of her leadership skills O’Hea commented “Once I went away from Australia, I played over in America and played in Europe and bringing that knowledge back to Australia is when I really think I started to develop those leadership roles I guess in the teams that I was in. I just tried to teach the people in my team all the knowledge that I have learnt across the way, try to teach them earlier than I learnt it I guess.”
Five of the eight Southside Flyers players that averaged more than 15 minutes court-time per game in 2020 returned in 2021/22. The Southside players in this category were O’Hea, Rocci, Blicavs, Cole, and Jarry who have more than 1,000 games WNBL experience between them. Southside recruited 2014/15 WNBL MVP Abby Bishop and 2020 All-WNBL second team member Maddison Rocci.
Against Bendigo Spirit on 4 December at Dandenong Stadium in the opening game of the 2021/22 WNBL season the Southside Flyers starting line-up was Maddison Rocci and Cole in the backcourt along with O’Hea, Blicavs and Abby Bishop in the frontcourt. Other members of the Flyers 10 player main roster were Aimie Rocci, Jarry, Kristy Wallace, Kate Gaze and Emilee Harmon.
After the pre-game team introductions for Southside’s 2021/22 Round 1 home game against Bendigo Spirit at Dandenong Stadium on 4 December Southside unfurled their 2020 WNBL Championship Banner.
The Southside Flyers 2020 Championship Banner being unfurled on 4 December 2021 before the game against Bendigo Spirit at Dandenong Stadium
Against Bendigo O’Hea made seven of 12 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 58.3%, made her only three-pointer, scored 16 points and took four rebounds in Southside’s 94-83 victory.
Jenna O’Hea shooting a jump shot for the Southside Flyers on 4 December 2021 against Bendigo Spirit at Dandenong Stadium
In Bec Cole’s 200th WNBL game on 23 December at Dandenong Stadium the Southside Flyers fought back from an 18 point deficit late in the second quarter to defeat Townsville Fire 86-81. In the victory O’Hea registered a double-double comprised of 12 points and an equal game-high 10 rebounds.
Southside Flyers won two of their four games in December 2021, however as a result of games being cancelled due to COVID-19 they only played two games in the month after their 23 December victory against Townsville, playing games on 12 January against Perth and 15 January against Melbourne Boomers, O’Hea missed both these games.
O’Hea’s 2021/22 WNBL season was disrupted by COVID and injury. When O’Hea was on the panel of ABC TV program Offsiders for the 9 May 2022 episode. Host Kelli Underwood asked O’Hea “From an athletes perspective how difficult is it overcome (COVID)? O’Hea replied “Extremely difficult and obviously everyone deals with COVID differently but I know for me once I was out of isolation it took me another three weeks till I actually got back to training and playing because every time my heart rate rose I would faint. So it really effects the body really differently so I just hope all those West Coast Eagles players can get healthy and get back out onto the field.”
Before a training session on Tuesday 8 March O’Hea announced her retirement to her Southside Flyers teammates. O’Hea had played 296 WNBL games and with only three regular season games remaining for the Southside Flyers in the season O’Hea would play a maximum of 299 games in her career and fall just short of joining the select group of players that had reached 300 WNBL games. At the time O’Hea announced her retirement Southside were out of finals contention. Later on 8 March O’Hea made a post on Instagram saying:
“It’s with many different emotions that I announce my decision to retire from basketball at the end of the WNBL season.
I have given my whole heart, body, soul and mind to this great sport and I simply have nothing left to give.
I have spoken to my family, close friends and teammates – and I am so lucky to have many, many other teammates, coaches, fans and supporters that have been part of this incredible journey. I’d like to thank each and every one of you for your incredible support during my career.
I am extremely excited to see what the future holds during the next chapter of my life.
We have three games left for the season, and Thursday night will be my last on Melbourne soil. If you can make it down to Dandenong Stadium it would be greatly appreciated – and please know I’ll definitely cry big, ugly tears – but they are happy tears, because I know the time is right for me.
Also slip me a business card if you have any job offers 😜” 29
After O’Hea announced her retirement Southside Flyers head coach Cheryl Chambers commented to wnbl.basketball “Jenna has been an incredible player, whether it be for her club or for her country. She is the type of player and person you build a side around. She is a wonderful leader on and off the court and I am fortunate to have been involved with her career and appreciate, not just her ability but her incredible courage. Jenna has continued to set the standards and tone for her teammates in every team she was involved with.”30
O’Hea’s career was celebrated at her final Southside Flyers home game on Thursday 10 March against the Sydney Uni Flames. For this game and the remaining Flyers games of the 2021/22 season Jenna’s teammates as well as Southside coaches and support staff wore warm-up tops paying tribute to their captain with O’Hea and the number 4 on the back as well as the words, teammate, captain, friend. Against Sydney O’Hea scored a team-high 19 points, took three rebounds, made three assists and had an equal team-high four steals in a 66-68 loss.
Southside Flyers head coach Cheryl Chambers wearing the number 4 O’Hea warm-up top during O’Hea’s final home game for the Southside Flyers on Thursday 10 March against the Sydney Uni Flames at Dandenong Stadium
Jenna O’Hea shooting a three-pointer for the Southside Flyers on Thursday 10 March against the Sydney Uni Flames at Dandenong Stadium in her final home game
After the game the Southside Flyers presented O’Hea with some flowers and a framed picture celebrating her career. In the post-game presentation Southside Flyers owner Gerry Ryan commented “I am just going to read out some stats of what Jenna has achieved over her career. 297 WNBL games, one hundred and seventeen games for Australia, 154 WNBA games, three WNBL championships, five WNBL All-Stars, two Olympic Games and three World Championships, and last, but not least, one Commonwealth Games. What a champion. It is not only what she has achieved, she has been a fantastic role model for basketball, for every young girl and boy growing up. What a great ambassador to the sport and to your parents. We all love you Jenna and congratulations, two more game to go.”
O’Hea said “I haven’t prepared a speech today which I probably should have in hindsight so going off the cuff here a little bit. First and foremost I want to thank everyone who came down tonight. There are just so many people in the crowd that I am so thankful for and you’ve all been a massive part of my basketball career. My coaches along the way, all my teammates along the way. I see you guys in the corner there, thank you for coming. To my wonderful family, who are all here as well. Basketball has been my love since pretty much I was born. Mum, dad, you have followed me around the world, supporting me and you’re just the best parents. I don’t want to cry too much today but you know how much I love you. My extended family who are all here today as well just for all the love and support, can’t thank you enough. I am so happy to be finishing my career here with the Southside Flyers, Gerry you have just been an amazing supporter of sport and women’s sport in particular and I am so thankful for you guys. Thank you all for being here.”
In a post-game interview with Fox Sports former team-mate Steph Blicavs asked O’Hea “We were just wondering are we going to see you in any coaching aspirations after this?” O’Hea responded “As I said I’ve given my whole heart and soul to basketball and so I am going to be taking some time away from the game but I never say never, I feel like I have a lot to offer so maybe down the track it will be something I get back in to but for right now I want to finish these two games, get some w’s, two more wins and then I will be stepping away from the game and just taking a breath and see what opportunities come my way.”
Against Townsville on 13 March O’Hea put on an exceptional shooting display to score 21 points, making eight of 10 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 80%, shot an unblemished five of five three-pointers, took four rebounds, made five assists and blocked two shots in Southside’s 100-79 victory on the road at Townsville Stadium.
During her 299th and final WNBL game against Adelaide Lightning on Saturday 19 March at the Lights Community and Sports Centre O’Hea started in blistering fashion to score 11 points in the last four minutes and 15 seconds of first quarter comprised of a lay-up followed by three three-pointers to play a major role in Southside leading 22-14 at quarter-time. With the scores tied at 74 apiece the Southside Flyers number 4 O’Hea made the last field goal of her career, a three-pointer to put Southside up 77-74 with four minutes and 44 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Southside retained the lead from that point on and won 87-79. O’Hea finished the game with 14 points, four rebounds, five assists and an equal game-high two steals.
In a post-game interview with Fox Sports after Southside’s victory against Sydney Bec Cole commented “Honestly I think it has been very overwhelming for everyone, right after we won the game we huddled and there was tears everywhere and people weren’t really quite sure why they were crying.” Ben Waterworth asked “Bec you have been able to spend the past couple of seasons working closely with Jenna O’Hea both at the Southside Flyers and previously at the Melbourne Boomers as well, what has she meant for you personally as you have progressed as a basketballer?” Cole responded “Not only is she one of my best friends and I am so proud of her and her career, she has really been a leader and a confidant, just someone who gets into my soul, gets me thinking, challenges me but is also my biggest supporter. The fact that I have been able to share the floor, share the gym room and the team room with her, someone who I absolutely adore and love, I am absolutely honoured and privileged. I am just so proud of her and love her to bits and this next chapter is going to be absolutely amazing for her.”
In the post-game interview with Fox Sports after the Southside Flyers victory against Adelaide O’Hea commented “I think since I announced my retirement I just felt a sense of release, a weight off my shoulders, I have been playing really free and I can give it everything because I know I have got nothing left to give so it has been fun to play and my teammates are so amazing, they have made the last two weeks extremely special and I have been quite emotional because I’ll miss them so much and everything they have done for me. You said it looked fun and it was fun to play and that’s how we should always be. Super proud of the team and how we went about it tonight in particular.”
Southside’s five starters for the opening game of the 2021/22 season all averaged more than 29.0 minutes and 10.0 points per game, however due to a combination of injuries and COVID-19 the Flyers rarely had their entire starting five all playing in the same game. The Flyers finished the 2021/22 season in seventh place with five wins and 12 losses.
During 2021/22 O’Hea played 13 of Southside Flyers 16 games and averaged 10.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.9 steals and 30.6 minutes per game. Among players that played at least five games for the season O’Hea ranked 15th in the WNBL for minutes played, equal 15th in the WNBL for assists per game, equal 22nd for rebounds and 26th for points. O’Hea made 16 of 17 free-throws to have an accuracy of 94.1% – ranked fourth in the league among players that had at least 10 attempts.
Since December 2021 articles have been published on Milestones and Misses to celebrate the following WNBL games milestones:
Ally Wilson 200 WNBL games
Sara Blicavs 250 WNBL games
Carley Ernst 250 WNBL games
Kiera Rowe 100 WNBL games
Chelsea Brook 100 WNBL games
Sami Whitcomb 100 WNBL games
Abbey Wehrung 150 WNBL games
Maddy Rocci 100 WNBL games
Kelly Wilson 400 WNBL games
Steph Talbot 150 WNBL games
Bec Cole 200 WNBL games
Aimie Rocci 200 WNBL games
Abby Bishop 250 WNBL games
Below are links to the WNBL milestone games category of Milestones and Misses as well as the home page and a Jayco Southside Flyers player profiles and preview of the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL article.
Since O’Hea retired from basketball in March 2022 she has done some media work, mainly broadcast work at the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup in held in Sydney from 23 September to 1 October and during the 2022/23 NBL season.
During the 9 May 2022 episode of the ABC TV program Offsiders. O’Hea was one of the panel members and a wide range of sports were covered including basketball. Another panel memberCorbin Middlemas commented “I feel like with Liz they (the Opals) look like a podium team or are almost a guaranteed podium team every (inter)national tournament they play in. Without Liz, we saw what happened at the last Olympics Games and unfortunately they are almost scratching around trying to be a quarter final team, is that unfair Jenna?”
Jenna responded “In all due respect she (Cambage) pulled out seven days before our first game at the Olympics so we didn’t have a lot of time to prepare without her. I think there is just so many wonderfully talented basketballers in Australia. We‘ve got so many playing in the WNBA at the moment, there is plenty here in Australia as well. So with the right preparation I think we can do really well. On home soil at the World Cup this year and there are so many great role models that play basketball that young boys and girls can look up to so I really want the media to focus on those players that want to be Opals and who want to represent Australia and are really dedicated to Australia and I think that’s really important.”
At the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup held in Sydney O’Hea was a member of ESPN’s television broadcast team. On Shooting The Breeze EP88: Jenna O’Hea Forever an Opal published on 14 October 2022 co-host Paul Camillos asked O’Hea “How did you find being part of such a huge event?” O’Hea responded “It was awesome to be a part of. I wasn’t quite sure when I retired how much I wanted to be a part of basketball. I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to take a big step away and I think originally I did want to take a step away. As it got closer I was like actually I think I would like to be a bit more a part of this then I originally thought. ESPN called and offered me the opportunity to be a part of the broadcast. John Clark the producer put in a great pitch. I loved that they had so many females on the broadcast for a Women’s World Cup, I thought that that was awesome. It was great to be a part of it and I felt part of a team which I think a lot of athlete’s talk about missing the most (after retiring) is not having that team environment. To have our little broadcast team and we would have our production meetings and then meet before we go air. Then have our winddowns after we got off air, it was really nice to be a part of that. It was a pretty easy job for me, I got to speak about the game I love and speak about the Opals who are all some of my nearest and dearest friends. It was just the perfect opportunity for me and I loved every single second of it.”
Shooting The Breeze co-host Jacinta Govind asked “Paul and I were also at the event and spent some time in the Media Tribune area and where you were set up with ESPN wasn’t actually too far away us, it was just the balcony above. What I noticed which I thought was really interesting was how early yourself and your team actually had to arrive before the broadcast. So you guys would be there a good couple of hours early in terms of preparation. Was that something going into the role that you expected?” Jenna replied “Absolutely not. I had no idea what I signed up for, I think I was just like ‘Yeah I would love to do that, I have no experience, I know nothing about it, but let’s do it.’ A couple of weeks before Timmsy called me and was like ‘We need to do some scouting, we don’t know the other teams.’ I was familiar with the other countries, I had played against them a bit obviously but there were some new names there were some new teams.”
“As a player the scout is just given to us, we read it, we watch video its all good. This was sort of all on our own back so the preparation to have so much time on live air I definitely did not know about. The Opals mainly played at 8.30 at night, I was getting in the cab from the hotel at about one o’clock, then we would get there for hair and make-up. We had production meetings, I would be doing my prep for the game that was coming up. We were on air I think at either 4 or 4.30, it varied, a little bit, we were live for 90 minutes and then the first game was at 6 and then we would have from the end of that game until the end of the Opals game so there was a lot of time on-air, a lot of prep work so that winddown at the end was definitely needed. I can tell you after those 10 days I was exhausted. It was a big 10 days but I wouldn’t change anything because it was an incredible experience.”
On the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup O’Hea told Shooting The Breeze “The amount of pride I have that Australia were able to put on an event like that. The standard of play of the women basketballers that were in our country, putting on just an absolute showcase, to have so many fans in the crowd.”
At the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup in Sydney Australia won four of their five Group B games to finish first in their group and in the bronze medal game defeated Canada 95-65 to return to the podium.
In relation to Australia’s performance at the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup O’Hea told STB ”The intent of changing the narrative around this Opals team was more what it was about, to show their growth, to show that they are different, to show that they have learnt. Tokyo was just a different beast. A lot has been spoken about it. I want to speak about what the Opals are today and that is a gritty, determined, relentless, I just have so many words for them because I just have immense pride for how they have been able to overcome so much and perform like that on home soil and to be able to inspire a nation and see their passion. Like Steph Talbot showing emotion, like fist-pumping and smiling, too see that come out of her just see how much they were enjoying themselves on the court was incredible. There has been so much work go on behind the scenes for them to get that bronze medal. Its incredible and as I said I just have immense pride for every single member of that group.”
During the STB episode published on 14 October 2022 Jacinta Govind asked O’Hea “What was it that attracted you to following broadcasting rather than something like coaching?” O’Hea responded “Coaching I don’t want to do right now, definitely not. I feel like I gave everything as a player. I think in my retirement statement I said I have given my mind, body and soul and I can’t give any more. I feel like coaching as very all-consuming, probably even more so than a player and so I know that mentally I am not prepared for that yet. Maybe in time I will get back into it because as I said I do love the game and do want to give back but right now I needed to take some time to myself and really step away from it in that way.”
“For the broadcasting bit the opportunity was presented to me and I felt like I couldn’t knock it back and I had a lot of fun doing it. I was in Cairns last night for the NBL doing some sideline commentary which I love, that is the first time I have done sideline and I really, really enjoyed that. Listening in on time-outs and getting a feel for the different coaches in the NBL. It is a really great way to be involved and I love basketball, I love talking about basketball, I love analysing basketball so I think that suits me quite well until mentally I am more ready to be all consumed by it but right now I am not ready for that.” During the 2022/23 NBL season O’Hea was living in Brisbane and did sideline commentary for games in Brisbane and Cairns.
Jenna O’Hea was born into a basketball family, followed in the footsteps of her two older brothers Matt and Luke and started playing junior basketball at five years of age. Playing in the WNBL for the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra as a teenager O’Hea realised that it was possible for her to have a career as a basketball player.
O’Hea well and truly achieved this aim and in a 15 season WNBL career played 299 games and averaged 12.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game. O’Hea ranks 5th on the WNBL’s All Time list for assists and 16th for scoring.
WNBL All-Time Assists Leaders
Rank Player games assists
1 Kristen Veal 372 1,617
2 Kristi Harrower 329 1,503
3 Kelly Wilson 431 1,492
4 Belinda Snell 323 1,109
5 Jenna O’Hea 299 1,075
6 Michele Timms 285 1,070
7 Robyn Maher 369 1,044
8 Rachel McCully 323 1,015
9 Michelle Landon 190 966
10 Leilani Mitchell 172 952
At 186 centimetres tall and with a wide-ranging skill set O’Hea was able to play as a guard or a forward and adapt her role to what her team most needed. Playing for the Dandenong Rangers in 2013/14 O’Hea averaged 20.7 points per game to win the WNBL’s Leading Scorer award. O’Hea averaged at least 3.0 assists per game in 11 consecutive seasons from 2007/08 to her final season in 2021/22 with the Southside Flyers.
O’Hea was selected in the WNBL All-Star Five five times, 2009/10 and 2010/11 with the Bulleen Boomers, 2011/12 and 2013/14 with the Dandenong Rangers and 2019/20 (when the team was known as the All-WNBL First Team) with the Southside Flyers. O’Hea was one of only two players along with Suzy Batkovic that was selected in at least five WNBL All-Star five’s/ All-WNBL First team’s in the past 15 years which highlights the sustained excellence Jenna delivered throughout her career.
During her career O’Hea played in three WNBL Championships, 2010/11 with the Bulleen Boomers, 2011/12 with the Dandenong Rangers and 2020 with the Southside Flyers. In 2010/11 and 2020 the Boomers and Flyers were the dominant teams in the regular season however O’Hea suffered a late-season injury in both seasons and missed several games. With resilience O’Hea was able to overcome her injuries, start these Grand Finals on the bench and contribute to her team winning the WNBL Championship.
After representing Australia at the 2010 World Championships and being a member of the Opals bronze medal winning team at the 2012 Olympic Games O’Hea had to wait six years to get the opportunity to represent her nation at a major championship. Making the recall even more special O’Hea was named the Opals captain for the 2018 World Cup in Tenerife, Spain. After missing the first three games of the tournament O’Hea made her return for the quarter final and was the captain of the Opals silver medal winning team at the 2018 World Cup. O’Hea was also captain of the bronze medal winning Opals at the 2019 Asia Cup and at the 2020 Olympics where Australia were defeated in a quarter final.
In addition to playing in the WNBL and representing Australia O’Hea played six WNBA seasons in the USA and three seasons in France. O’Hea was a member of the Lattes Montpellier that won back-to-back French Cups in 2014/15 and 2015/16 and also won the French Ligue Feminine de Basketball Championship in 2015/16.
Some of O’Hea’s greatest strengths throughout her basketball career have been a high basketball IQ, versatility, reading of the play and leadership, even before she had the title of a leader. O’Hea was her WNBL team’s captain in her last six seasons in the league and also captained the Australian Opals at several tournaments. With her leadership O’Hea was a positive influence on many players both at WNBL clubs and with the Australian Opals.
Off the court O’Hea displayed vision and leadership to be the driving force behind the Lifeline Round being introduced in the WNBL in 2018/19. With the work O’Hea has done in the well-being and engagement space together with Lifeline Round she has played an important role in the community to reduce the stigma around mental health and encourage people to engage in conversations. Jenna O’Hea has a significant legacy, both with her incredible accomplishments as a basketball player and with the work she has done with Lifeline Round to raise money and awareness about mental health and suicide prevention.
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