Liz Cambage Olympics saga still haunts ex-Opals captain, Australia vs France game

Former Opals captain Jenna O’Hea says she is still haunted by Liz Cambage’s ugly exit from the Australian team on the eve of the Tokyo Olympics.

Australia begins its FIBA ​​World Cup campaign on home soil tonight in the first major international tournament since Cambage’s infamous meltdown in a practice game against Nigeria.

Watch every game of the 2022 FIBA ​​Women’s Basketball World Cup Live & Free on ESPN with Kayo Freebies. Register now, no credit card required.

O’Hea was once close friends with Cambage and said she is still coming to terms with her shock departure from the Opals squad just days out from the Olympics last year.

“A lot has changed, still something that I’m dealing with today… seven days before that first game at the Olympics last year, she left our team,” she said on ESPN on Thursday.

“Rough is an understatement to say.”

Cambage was the focal point of the Opals for several years and her sudden departure left a gaping hole in the Australian team, which lost to the USA in the quarterfinals.

“Leaving such a main player, all our offenses were geared around her, our defensive schemes, much were geared around here,” O’Hea said.

Liz Cambage and Jenna O’Hea in happier times.Source: News Limited

“So for her leaving in the circumstances that she left in, it really shook us and I think that showed with our performance and with our result at the end.”

Earlier this year O’Hea confirmed Cambage told the Nigerian players “go back to your third world country” during the warm-up game and said she will never play for the Opals again.

Cambage’s professional basketball career is hanging by a thread after she split from her WNBA team the LA Sparks as damning details emerged about her mid-season exit.

The 31-year-old announced in August that she had “decided to step away” from the WNBA.

It means the Opals enter a new era at the World Cup in Sydney and get the chance to push for a medal with a fresh team that includes rising star Ezi Magbegor and veteran comeback hero Lauren Jackson.

“I think there’s a more cohesive group now,” former Opal Jennie Screen added.

“The energy isn’t directed just at one player. We get to spread the load in terms of what happens on the court, where the energy is directed off the court.

The Opals begin a new era without Liz Cambage. Photo: Katharine Lotze/Getty Images/AFPSource: AFP

“There just seems to be a nice system right now and you can see that the girls are ready. They’re excited to play and I think that chapter’s gone, we’re done, we want to move on and we get to do it on home soil.”

The Opals take on France in their first group stage tonight, while the USA began their quest for a fourth consecutive World Cup title with a comfortable win over Belgium.

Opals World Cup squad: Rebecca Allen, Sara Blicavs, Darcee Garbin, Cayla George, Lauren Jackson, Tess Madgen (c), Ezi Magbegor, Anneli Maley, Stephanie Talbot, Marianna Tolo, Kristy Wallace, Sami Whitcomb

Watch every game of the 2022 FIBA ​​Women’s Basketball World Cup Live & Free on ESPN with Kayo Freebies. Register now, no credit card required.


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