Lauren Jackson lifts lid on amazing Opals comeback: 'Real head game'

·3-min read
Aussie women's basketball great Lauren Jackson says the mental challenge has been the biggest obstacle to her international comeback. Pic: Getty
Aussie women's basketball great Lauren Jackson says the mental challenge has been the biggest obstacle to her international comeback. Pic: Getty

Aussie women's basketball legend Lauren Jackson has made a staggering admission about her extraordinary return to the national side.

The 41-year-old is this week set to play her first competitive match for the Opals since her international retirement in 2013 after 220 appearances.

SO SAD: Basketball world rocked as wife of NBA legend dies at 50

KIND: Vanessa Bryant's $23 million gesture after court win over Kobe photos

'LOST A LEGEND': Basketball world in mourning after death of Bill Russell at 88

Jackson is part of the Aussie squad whose FIBA Women's World Cup campaign gets underway against France in Sydney on Thursday.

A three-time Olympic silver medallist with the Opals, Jackson was forced to retire before the 2016 Rio Games due to chronic knee injuries.

However, the most decorated Aussie women's basketball player in history has enjoyed an extraordinary comeback as she joined the Opals' camp on the Gold Coast earlier this month.

Chronic knee injuries forced Lauren Jackson into retirement but the Australian basketball great says the mental rather than the physical requirements of her comeback have been the greatest challenge.

The seven-time WNBA All-Star said returning to match fitness and reaching the standard of her peers was never going to be the biggest stepping stone to her return to the international stage.

Jackson says the mental side of things has offered a much greater challenge.

"It's been a real head game, just because of the injuries and everything," Jackson told reporters.

Jackson's knees have held up while training with NBL1 side Albury-Wodonga this year and playing home games at a stadium named in her honour.

But despite averaging 31.86 points a game in her first year on court since 2016, Jackson said she never expected an Opals call-up.

"Right up until I got told that I'd made the team, I didn't think I was going to make the team," she said.

"We're all the same, we all have self-doubt.

"(Self-doubt) comes in every day and that's no lie."

Lauren Jackson insists the 'pressure is off'

The five-time WNBL champion credits her work with a sports psychologist with helping her navigate the mental doubts associated with her injury history.

"I guess it's how you respond to (self-doubt)," she said.

"For me, I've always had a pretty positive outlook. It's just putting one foot in front of the other.

"It doesn't matter what's happened. You've just got to go out there and keep going."

Seen here, Lauren Jackson driving to the basket for Australia during a 2022 FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup test event against Belgium.
Lauren Jackson drives to the basket for Australia during a 2022 FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup test event against Belgium. Pic: Getty

Plenty of eyes will be on Jackson when she comes off the bench against France on Thursday, but the 41-year-old insists the hardest part is behind her now and she can't wait for the "fun" to begin at the World Cup.

"The pressure is off now," she said.

"I don't need to prove anything, I just need to go out there and really complement my teammates and what they're doing.

"I've never had so much fun playing."

As well as France, the Opals' group also contains Serbia, Japan, Mali and Canada.

with AAP

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.