Liz Cambage’s ugly exit from the Australian team on the eve of the Tokyo Olympics still haunts former Opals captain Jenna O’Hea.
Australia is competing in its first major international tournament since Cambage’s infamous meltdown which started with a disappointing 70-57 loss to France to open their FIBA World Cup campaign on Thursday night.
The fallout from the warm-up game against Nigeria ahead of the Olympics resulted in Cambage dropping out of the team days out from competition but the impact was heavy on her teammates.
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“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,” O’Hea told ESPN.
“Rough is an understatement to say.”
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The Opals went down to the USA in the quarter-finals in Tokyo, a result that deeply was linked to Cambage’s exit, according to O’Hea.
“Such a main player leaving, all our offenses were geared around her, our defensive schemes, much were geared around here,” O’Hea said.
“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.”
The 31-year-old announced in August she had “decided to step away” from the WNBA after she split from her WNBA team the LA Sparks.
As for the Opals, rising star Ezi Magbegor and veteran comeback hero Lauren Jackson have been tipped to give the team an edge, despite the team’s disappointing opening performance.
“I think there’s a more cohesive group now,” former Opal Jennie Screen said.
“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.
“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.”
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