|FIBA World Ranking||No. 2 (tie)|
|How Qualified||2011 FIBA Oceania Championship for Women Champion|
|Key Veteran||Forward/center Lauren Jackson|
|Rising Star||Center Liz Cambage|
|Medal Record Past Olympics||Gold - none; Silver - three (Beijing 2008, Athens 2004, Sydney 2000); Bronze - one (Atlanta 1996)|
|Medal Record World Championships||Gold - one (2006); Silver - none; Bronze - two (2002, 1988)|
|Preliminary-Round Group||Group B|
Australia will arrive in London anxious to learn whether three months of intensive training together as a team -- a luxury they have not previously enjoyed -- has provided the alchemy needed to transform its impressive string of silver-medal Olympic finishes into gold in 2012.
To do so, they will have to overcome a devastating blow in the loss of veteran co-captain Penny Taylor to an ACL tear. Insiders agree that the Opals have no single player who can replace the athleticism, experience and firepower of the 6-0 forward who earned Women's World Championships MVP honors in 2006 while helping lead Australia to the one gold it has won in elite international competition.
"No one can replace Penny Taylor," said Tully Bevilaqua (Indiana Fever), who retired from the Australian National Team after the 2010 Worlds. "It will take everyone doing a little bit more."
Still, it isn't all gloom and doom for the Opals, who will likely put the most powerful post alignment in the field on the court in London. Anchored by three-time WNBA MVP (not to mention the assortment of similar accolades she has accumulated while playing in Australian, Korean and European leagues) and team captain Lauren Jackson; 6-5 veteran center Suzy Batkovic (reported to be back in top form after injuries kept her out of the 2010 Worlds) who accounted for 11.9 points and nearly nine boards per game in the Beijing Olympics; and 6-8, 21-year-old post prodigy Liz Cambage (Tulsa Shock) who posted 13.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in her major competition debut for the senior National Team at the 2010 Words and seems to get better with every game she plays, the Opals have more size than anyone. And if that weren't enough, that trio is backed up by 6-2 center Abby Bishop (formerly of the Seattle Storm), who has also improved by leaps and bounds since her first major senior-level competition at the 2010 Worlds and last year's 16.7-point, 7.7 rebound-per-game performance at last year's Oceania Championship for Women, and 6-3 reliever Laura Hodges.
Australia could, if it wished, field a starting five consisting of nothing but bigs. At the very least, it gives head coach Carrie Graf the option of going big by moving Jackson, who is more than capable of nailing a three, to small forward, and then dropping back into a 2-3 zone.
No need to do so, however, since the Opals have, if not a star, then at least a steady-Eddie point guard in 37-year-old Kristi Harrower, who averaged 9.2 points, 3.9 boards and 4.4 assists per game in Beijing. Though some have questioned the decision to leave veteran point guard Erin Phillips off the squad after she opted to spend the summer playing for the Indiana Fever rather than joining the Opals for their extended training camp, Harrower will have at least some backup in 5-6 point Samantha Richards, who averaged 3.3 points and 0.8 assists per game in limited minutes off the bench at the 2010 World Championships.
Meanwhile, newcomers Rachel Jarry, a 20-year, 6-1 small forward, who performed exceptionally well in the 2009 U-19 World Championships and late-bloomer Kathleen MacLeod, a 5-6 shooting guard who hasn't appeared in senior-level competition for the National Team since the Oceania Championships in 2007 but who impressed in training camp, will complement a trio of veterans: 6-1 small forward Jenna O'Hea (Los Angeles Sparks), who will be making her second appearance with the senior National Team after a solid performance off the bench at the 2010 Worlds; Belinda Snell, a 6-0 small forward who averaged 11.4 points, nearly six boards, and 2.2 assists in Beijing; and reliever Jenny Screen (5-11, small forward), whose numbers are negligible, on the wing.
So far, the new look seems to be coming along reasonably well, as the Opals have won six of their eight prep games, including a split with Russia, a meaningful win over a strong opponent in the Czech Republic (67-48), and a three-game sweep of Brazil, the last one with a score of 102-58 as the exclamation point. However, an 85-76 loss to Hungary, which did not even qualify for the Olympics, is enough to raise eyebrows, and a closer-than-expected contest with potential quarterfinal opponent Turkey, which Australia won by a margin of 57-49, suggests that there is still work remaining to be done over the next two weeks.
And without Penny Taylor, that job is much much harder.
- London 2012: Angola -- Just happy to be there
- London 2012: Brazil -- With Castro Marques gone, so are Brazil's medal hopes
- London 2012: Canada -- Needs a little luck to advance
- London 2012: China -- It's been a struggle since Beijing
- London 2012: Croatia -- Here's the upset special
- London 2012: Czech Republic -- Experience plus size could equal a medal
- London 2012: France -- It's now or never for Les Bleus
- London 2012: Great Britain -- Hosts hoping for a win
- London 2012: Russia -- As usual, an enigma
- 2012 London: Turkey -- Plenty of size, but shooters are the key
- London 2012: The United States -- Only gold will satisfy