Opals’ bigs make right impression

For the Opals, it was another win built on living large.

Australia’s size advantage proved the key in securing their Olympic Games women’s basketball qualification and the Oceania series clean sweep sealed against New Zealand in Sydney on Sunday.

Yet again it was Australia’s tall players – Abby Bishop and Suzy Batkovic – who shone in the 25-point win to round off a 3-0 series victory.

Bishop turned in an exceptional performance in the Opals’ 82-57 win at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, pouring in 21 points and eight rebounds to add to solid performances in games one and two.

Batkovic also imposed herself for a third successive match as the Tall Ferns were unable to combat her size, scoring 13 points and collecting seven boards.

For Opals coach Carrie Graf, 30-year-old Batkovic’s return to top form after 12 months battling injuries was a welcome sign moving towards next year’s Games in London.

“To see Suzy Batkovic back in some international form – she wasn’t part of our world championship side in 2010 – so that’s been a really good part of this series,” Graf said.

“It’s been about our emerging talent and we got an opportunity to look at those players with seven or eight players that aren’t here.

“It’s probably not their time now, but they showed the ability to play for the Opals in 2016 and beyond.”

Graf was also taken with Bishop’s efforts, as well as small forward Hanna Zavecz, who worked tirelessly and selflessly in all three matches.

Emerging tall Elyse Penaluna also impressed in game two, and collected 10 rebounds in Sunday’s match.

The Opals trailed by three points at the end of the first quarter, but asserted their superiority with a big second term to open up a 15-point halftime lead that never really came under threat.

With qualification sealed, now comes the task of working seven regular players who missed this series – led by Lauren Jackson – back into the Opals’ mix ahead of London.

The Opals will have a concentrated three-month lead-in to London, with most of their star players so far committing to being part of the intensive program planned ahead of the Games.