China Tour Yields Valuable Experience for Opals

A young Opals squad return home after a five-game friendly series in China.

The Opals have returned home from China with valuable experience and learnings as preparations continue for next year’s Paris Olympics.

With head coach Sandy Brondello and seven players currently involved in the WNBA season, Australia took a young group, with a dash of international pedigree, away for a five-game tour against the World No.2.

The team featured Alice Kunek, Anneli Maley, Shyla Heal and Amy Atwell who were part of the Opals bronze medal Asia Cup team, 2021 Asia Cup bronze medallists Zitina Aokuso and Alex Sharp as well debutants Shaneice Swain, Nyadiew Puoch, Saffron Shiels and Isla Juffermans.

Coach Cheryl Chambers said travelling, preparing and playing overseas together was beneficial for the group.

“You notice while you’re going through it the growth that’s happening as a group because you can’t get that sort of experience playing here against yourselves,” she said.

“China are one of the most physical and well-drilled teams in the world so coming up against that and learning different ways to score, get open and defend and just prepare for games and mentally be ready, all those things were invaluable.”

China has had a huge 12 months with monumental campaigns in Sydney, which netted silver at last year’s FIBA World Cup then a gold medal at July’s Asia Cup, and have developed a blueprint Australia can learn from.

“They didn’t have Han Xu and Li Meng (WNBA), a few didn’t play the first few games but returned and there were a few on injury watch. Like us, they wanted to win,” Chambers said.

“What you learn about China is they train so much so they are highly organised, drilled and physical. I think they’re getting stronger every time you see them, they are getting better and better.

“They want to stay up second in the world, you can tell.”

Game 1 China defeated Australia 70-65
Game 2 Australia defeated China 78-71
Game 3 China defeated Australia 74-62
Game 4 China defeated Australia, 73-67
Game 5 China defeated Australia, 69-64


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