Rio test will give Opals an edge says Joyce
12 January 2016
BASKETBALL: The chance to test Rio's main basketball venue will give Australia a huge advantage going into this year's Olympic Games, says Opals coach Brendan Joyce.
The women's team - medal winners at every Olympics since 1996 - have been invited to play three games at Carioca Arena 1 in a mini-tournament this weekend against hosts Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela.
While the timing of the event isn't ideal, being at the tail end of the WNBL season, it's an opportunity Joyce couldn't pass up.
"I think it's a huge advantage," he told AAP.
"There's no doubt when you get to play in a venue (beforehand), you don't get as overawed."
The Opals had a similar opportunity before the 2014 World Championships in Turkey, and went on to win the bronze medal - an impressive effort giving they were missing two of their best players.
The situation is not much different for this event, with big names Lauren Jackson, Liz Cambage, Penny Taylor and Laura Hodges all unavailable.
Jackson suffered another injury setback last month, partially tearing an ACL while recovering from earlier knee surgery, while Cambage and Taylor are busy playing in China and Hodges in France.
It gives Joyce an opportunity to put some of his younger charges to the test - including Abby Bishop, whom he is yet to coach on-court.
Bishop hasn't played in the green and gold since withdrawing from Australia's world championship campaign over a controversial childcare policy.
"We've got a good feel as coaching staff now for what we need, but this is an opportunity for this group to go away and put their hand up and say `hey, I'm pretty good, I can play international basketball'" Joyce said.
"I can tell you that we'll be doing different things. I'll be experimenting.
"That's what you play these games for, to test people out. Test our players out, test your team out, test yourself out.
"Don't get me wrong - we'll be coaching to win. But I've got 12 players and I'll be giving opportunities for all of them to play."
Tess Madgen was a late withdrawal after failing to pass a fitness test last week, and has been replaced by Sara Blicavs.
All bar one - Erin Phillips - in the 12-women squad play in the WNBL, which has scheduled a bye weekend to ensure no team is disadvantaged.
The Opals play Argentina early Saturday morning (AEDT), followed by Venezuela on Sunday and Brazil on Monday.