JACKSON STANDS TALL
Saturday, 28 July 2012
Categories: Olympics - Olympics
All that glitters: Basketball captain Lauren Jackson is surrounded by her Opals teammates after leading the Australian team into the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony as flagbearer early this morning. The Opals open their tournament against Great Britain on Sunday morning (7.15am AEST). Main picture: JENNA O'HEA
Lauren Jackson does us proud as flag bearer, now it's time to turn Opals into gold
SHE has led the Australian Olympic team into the Opening Ceremony – the greatest honour in Aussie sport – and now Lauren Jackson will lead the Opals in their chase for elusive basketball gold.
“Bring on the Games, I say. Can’t wait to play,” Jackson said as the athletes left the Olympic Stadium for the comfort of the Athletes’ Village way after midnight London time.
The Opals open their tournament on Sunday morning (7.15am AEST) against the Tom Maher-coached Great Britain.
Melbourne’s Maher coached the Opals at two Olympics for a bronze in Atlanta and Silver in Sydney, and is a legend in the WNBL and the Bulleen Boomers mentor.
Both Jackson, 31, and point guard Kristi Harrower, 37, were in the team at the Sydney Games – the start of the Opals’ run of three consecutive silver medals . They have lost all three gold-medal playoffs to the all-conquering United States.
It is the fourth Games for Jackson and Harrower and their court time against Great Britain will be likely limited by coach Carrie Graf if, as is expected, the Opals dominate the game. Expect all 12 Opals to hit the court.
As is the Maher way, he has talked up his team. Indeed, it has improved dramatically – just five years ago Great Britain didn’t even have a world ranking and recently beat world No.8 France.
He has a reputation for putting life back in to national teams, coaching New Zealand at the 2004 Athens Olympics and China to best-ever Olympics results at Beijing in 2008.
"We'll be surprisingly good if people aren't ready for us," Maher said.
"Obviously I know the Australians pretty well, but I think I know all the others teams pretty well. I'd like to consider myself an expert on all the teams we might face.
"They are honestly just another team for me. It's a really good first game for us, we are at huge long odds so there is no pressure. We can just get our feet wet in Olympic competition and see where that take us.
"Overall our preparation has been spot on, it's the most professional off-court set-up that I've ever experienced and this is my fifth Games.
"Our players might not have the strength in depth but we've had three months together and the girls are conditioned wonderfully well and we can't wait to get started now."
Opal Jenni Screen said it would be dangerous to take Great Britain for granted.
“Tom Maher has done a great job with Great Britain,'' Screen said.
''They lost by four points to Russia yesterday, which was superb. We can't take them for granted. They know us and Tom knows us.
''Although we beat them by 25 a week ago, they're on home soil now. But we hope to stamp our authority early.''
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