Boomers And Opals To Feature in Double-Header Qualifiers
Australian basketball fans are in for a double treat after it was announced that both the Boomers and the Opals will play their Olympic qualifying matches against New Zealand as double headers.
It is the first time that fans will get the chance to watch Australia’s men and women’s teams compete in a back to back format.
Both teams will be competing in a best of three series against New Zealand, with the winner assured of a spot in the basketball tournament at the 2012 London games.
The first match in the series will be played at the Victorian State Netball Centre on September 7. The second match will be on September 9 at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, while the third match will come from the Sydney Entertainment Centre on September 11.
Basketball Australia CEO Larry Sengstock said this unique series represented a unique opportunity for fans.
“In the past, these series have always been held as separate events but we think there are significant advantages to playing the Opals and Boomers games as a double header,” Sengstock said.
“It is a unique opportunity for Australian sports fans to get behind both the men’s and women’s teams and we believe there will be strong public support from the public for what we expect to be an amazing series.”
While Australia’s world ranking of nine is higher than the Kiwis of 18, Boomers coach Brett Brown said he was expecting a tough series against the ‘Tall Blacks’.
“New Zealand are well coached and have been together as a group for a long time,” Brown said.
“The Breakers team that won the NBL championship was basically the core of the Tall Blacks squad, so they are going to be very comfortable together and we are going to have our hands full.
“We respect the Tall Blacks but we are also going to have a Boomers team that will feature a lot of guys who have been playing professionally overseas. The fans are going to get the chance to see some truly elite level international basketball, so it’s really exciting.”
While the contest between the Boomers and the Tall Blacks promises to be an exciting one, the Opals should have no trouble disposing of the New Zealand women’s team. The Opals will have reigning WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson, and at world number three, are rated considerably higher than the Kiwis who come in at 18.
“You cannot underestimate the value of having a sea of green and gold supporting you when you’re in a tough series against a quality opponent like New Zealand,” said Opals head coach Carrie Graf.
“It lifts you to another level of intensity and we know the crowd will really be into it given the strength of the trans-Tasman rivalry.”
The winners of the respective three games series’ will earn automatic entry in the 2012 Olympic basketball tournament, while the losers will go into a repechage tournament against the other best non-qualifiers.
The Boomers have received a blow ahead of the qualifiers with news that Andrew Bogut will not be able to play in the series because of the ongoing lockout in the NBA.
“Andrew Bogut has always held his national commitments and the Boomers programme as a high priority throughout his career. It is disappointing for us that we may be without him for the New Zealand series but it also highlights the level of player that he is,” said Larry Sengstock.
Boomers coach Brett Brown also said that he was disappointed that the team would be without their best player.
“The NBA lockout has made insurance issues impossible for Basketball Australia and Andrew to feel comfortable that his contract would be fully insured in the event of an injury. As a group we understand and support Andrew,” Brown said.
“I am however excited to compete against New Zealand with the current group of players that are more than capable of representing Australia from a talent perspective and a spirit perspective that we all expect.”