The West

Liz, Lauren form our Games dream team
Australian basketball player Liz Cambage arrives by Eurostar to St. Pancras International Station in London.

Help has finally arrived for Lauren Jackson.

After carrying the Australian women's basketball team on her broad shoulders for more than a decade, the Opals have got solid support for their 195cm superstar.

And there is no doubt that Liz Cambage can provide a big hand to her idol. The 20-year-old with the physique of an AFL ruckman but the moves of a ballroom dancer could be the missing piece in the Opals' Olympic jigsaw puzzle.

At the three previous Games, the Australians have challenged the mighty US team only to return with silver.

The Opals were so sure they had let the golden opportunity slip in Beijing that the shine of their medals was washed away by the tears on the dais.

But 203cm Cambage wasn't around then. Fast forward to 2012 and she is the rising superstar of Australian basketball and those inside the team believe she could be the difference between success and disappointment.

Suddenly the pressure isn't just on Jackson. After an outstanding debut season in the WNBA with Tulsa Shock, after being the competition's No.2 draft pick, Cambage is poised to replace Jackson as our greatest female basketballer.

Just don't call Cambage the new LJ.

"No one will be able to replace Lauren Jackson," she said.

"No one will ever be the new Lauren Jackson because she is one of a kind. She is the world's best player.

"At training I can catch myself not focusing. I'm just watching her. She is such a force.

"She is so determined. She has got such great skill from years and years of playing.

"I looked to be a bit of a relief for her at the world championships. She was targeted at the championships. So hopefully with our dominating presence - the twin towers - I can help her.

"She will probably play a lot of outside because she is just so versatile. She can play inside or outside. I'll be working inside while she does her stuff outside."

Opals guard Kristi Harrower, a veteran of four Olympics, was adamant that Cambage gave the Australians the chance to beat the US.

"We believe this is the best time for us to win a gold medal," Harrower said.

"We have some great kids coming through, we have a lot of depth and Liz Cambage has been fantastic for us in the last six games over here (Europe).

"The Opals have never had someone stand six foot eight who can play six foot eight.

"Jenny Whittle has always been our tallest player at six-five, six-six and was an unbelievable player for us, a great role player who could knock down the three.

"Somebody like Liz that is such a focal point inside for us - we've just never had it before."

After going to the AIS at 16, it was only a matter of time before Cambage had an impact at international level.

The Opals bombed at the 2010 world championships with a surprise loss to Czech Republic sending a shiver of concern through the Olympic program. Yet the setback helped them refocus on their attempts to knock off the US.

"It was a big wake-up call losing the Czechs. The Opals have been such a dominant force that we needed a shake-up going into the Olympics," Cambage said.

The West Australian

Latest News From The West

Motorists in the US State of Arizona must have thought they had taken a wrong turn and ended up Down Under when an emu was spotted wandering along a highway on Friday afternoon.

One person has died and another suffered serious injuries in a crash around 10km east of the Pardoo Roadhouse in the Pilbara.

Popular videos

Our Picks

Follow Us

More from The West