Opals respond after shocking new accusations against Liz Cambage

Liz Cambage is unlikely to play for the Opals again, with the national team still unhappy over her pre-Olympics outburst.
Liz Cambage's career with the Australian Opals appears all but over, with the team having no contact with the WNBA star since the controversy leading up to the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) (Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Liz Cambage's career with the Australian Opals is likely over regardless of if she decides to play for Australia again, with the Opals still keeping their distance from the WNBA star.

The lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics likely spelled the end of Cambage's international career, after an altercation with members of the Nigerian team in practice being taken way too far.

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A report in the Sunday Telegraph outlined further accusations against Cambage and how she behaved in the game, with the 30-year-old allegedly labelling members of the Nigerian team 'monkeys' and becoming involved in a physical altercation.

It had earlier been reported this year that Cambage had also told members of the Nigerian team to 'go back to your third world country', to the anger and disappointment of Opals teammates.

Cambage subsequently apologised for her actions, was excluded from the Olympics team and eventually handed a formal reprimand for the outburst by Basketball Australia - a punishment many in the basketball community considered too lenient.

The Opals are in the midst of a three-game exhibition series on home soil against silver medallists Japan, winning the first game and losing Sunday's game two by just one point in a game that went down to the wire.

Stand-in coach Cheryl Chambers, taking over from Sandy Brondello while she coaches the WNBA's New York Liberty, said Cambage hadn't been a factor as the team prepared for both the Japan series and this year's FIBA Women's World Cup.

“That’s in the past for us,” she said after Sunday's game.

“None of that really touches us today. We’re thinking about Japan and how to be better come the World Cup.

“I haven’t even thought about it for a while to be honest.”

Chambers also all but confirmed Cambage would not be a part of the national team's plans in the foreseable furture.

“We’ve been down there, we’ve tried that and it didn’t get us the success we wanted so we’re going to move forward,” Chambers said.

Opals lose game two to Japan in last-minute thriller

Without the star power of their WNBA stars, the Opals fought hard against Olympic silver medallists Japan in Sydney on Sunday.

The Opals scored the last four points of the game on Sunday, but Japan held on to level the series going into the final match in Newcastle on Tuesday.

Australia scored the first nine points and led 13-2 in the first quarter, but both sides defended tenaciously and struggled offensively in a low-scoring grind at the Quaycentre.

The Opals shot 30 per cent from the field and 20 per cent from three-point territory, with Japan shooting 28 per cent and 25 per cent respectively, with the two teams combining for just 13 of 56 long bombs.

Forward Sara Blicavs stared for Australia, top-scoring with 16 points and a match-high 12 rebounds.

Young point guard Shyla Heal added some spark off the bench, hitting three long bombs in the second half, finishing with 11 points, as did forward Darcee Garbin.

Guard Tess Madgen and centre Cayla George each dragged down 10 boards to help Australia to a 55-44 rebounding advantage, but between them made just three of 21 from the field.

Tess Madgen provided toughness on the glass for the Opals against Japan, but couldn't find her shooting range as the home team went down by one point in Sydney. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
Tess Madgen provided toughness on the glass for the Opals against Japan, but couldn't find her shooting range as the home team went down by one point in Sydney. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Monica Okoye troubled the Opals with her inside-outside game, scoring a match-high 20 points in just under 24 minutes, hitting seven from nine from the field, including three of five from long range.

With several of her most established players unavailable due to overseas club commitments, Chambers gave all 11 of her squad court time to give them opportunity to press for a place in the squad for the world championships in Australia later this year.

Up 14-6 at quarter-time Australia went five-and-a-half minutes without a field goal in the second quarter, but led 19-17 at halftime.

With their perimeter shooters struggling, Australia got more pay from pounding the ball down inside to Garbin in the third quarter.

The Opals made just two of their first 21 three-point attempts but hit their last three of the third quarter with two to Heal and one to Madgen, to trail 44-42 at three-quarter time.

Reigning WNBL MVP Anneli Maley will make her Opals debut on Tuesday after returning from America, where she had a brief stint with WNBA side Chicago Sky.

With AAP

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