Starved of international tours in recent years, a young Seven Consulting Opals team is making the most of a five-game series against World No.2 China.
Australia has a 1-2 record after games in Yulin and Xian with two more fixtures to come this weekend in Yinchuan.
Coach Cheryl Chambers, leading the group while Opals head coach Sandy Brondello and a host of national team players are involved in the current WNBA season, says the tour and friendly games are important preparation ahead of February’s qualifying tournament for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
“It is so fantastic to have the opportunity to experience international competition. It has been invaluable to our group and will help develop some on our exciting up-and-coming players,” she said from China.
“We have had a lot of players contribute over the first three games which has been really pleasing.”
Alice Kunek, Shyla Heal, Anneli Maley and Amy Atwell are the four players from this year’s FIBA Asia Cup bronze-medal winning team who are part of the China tour with teen young guns Nyadiew Puoch, Shaneice Swain, Saffron Shiels and Isla Juffermans all wearing the Opals uniform for the first time.
“Shyla has been fantastic leading the team at the point in what have been very physical games,” Chambers said.
“Anneli has been tenacious in the possession game, Zitina (Aokuso)’s ability to score in the paint has been a real weapon and Alex Sharp has shown her flexibility at both ends of the court.
“Nards (Nyadiew Puoch) and Swainey (Shaniece Swain) have been wonderful sparks off the bench and have shown why they will be players in the future.”
Chambers adding that Kunek, who earned Asia Cup All-Star Five selection in July, had provided great leadership to a young Opals group.