Liz Cambage saga is in the past according to Opals coach Cheryl Chambers, Shyla Heal

New details about Liz Cambage’s outburst in an Olympic practice match have come to light but the Opals aren’t spending any time thinking about them.

The Opals are determined not to let new developments in the Liz Cambage saga derail their preparations for this year’s World Cup, where they’ll look to bounce back from an Olympic campaign torpedoed by Cambage’s sudden exit from the team.

News Corp revealed exclusively on Sunday that Cambage physically lashed out at Nigerian players during an Olympic practice match last year and referred to them as “monkeys”.

On the afternoon that the developments in the saga became public, the Opals faced Japan in the second of three friendly matches ahead of the World Cup this Spring.

The understrength Opals had already defeated Japan, the reigning Olympic silver medallists, in the first and went down by only one point in the second.

Stand-in coach Cheryl Chambers insisted that the news hadn’t registered a blip on the Opals’ radar as they prepared for the game.

“That’s in the past for us,” she told News Corp.

“None of that really touches us today. We’re thinking about Japan and how to be better come the World Cup.

“I haven’t even thought about (Cambage’s outburst) for a while to be honest.”

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Aussie forward Sara Blicavs stood up with 16 points and 12 rebounds on Sunday to push her case for World Cup selection.

Shyla Heal and Tess Madgen put their bodies on the line in strong individual performances of their own.

Chambers confirmed the coaching staff was pleased with the caliber of talent in Australian basketball and that Cambage was not part of the Opals’ future plans.

“We’ve been down there, we’ve tried that and it didn’t get us the success we wanted so we’re going to move forward,” Chambers said.

Chambers declined to comment on whether Basketball Australia’s punishment for Cambage’s outburst, a formal reprimand, was suitable given the new details that have come to light.

Heal said the Opals playing group wasn’t in touch with Cambage and that she and her teammates were focused on restoring the culture of the Australian side.

“We’re really trying to build a good culture now and get ready for the World Cup so we’re moving forward,” she said.

Australia and Japan locked up at 1-1

The host of Opals stalwarts are currently playing in the WNBA so the side’s three-match series against Japan has presented Aussie-based players with a golden opportunity to impress selectors ahead of the World Cup this Spring.

Blicavs, one of only three Olympians to feature on Sunday, grabbed her chance with both hands.

The 29-year-old forward went ballistic early, sinking 10 of the Opals’ first 12 points to open up a buffer for the home side almost single-handedly.

She got to work under the basket as well and pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds to confirm her double-double.

“I think she’s maturing, she’s really versatile, she can play inside outside and she can defend,” Chambers said.

“And now she’s becoming really poised. There’s a lot to her game to like.”

Japan amped its signature defensive pressure up in the second quarter and points were harder to come by for the Aussies.

The Opals did themselves no favors with some ordinary shooting but Heal ensured they stayed in touch with the tourists by netting three shots from deep between the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth.

The daughter of Aussie basketball legend Shane, Heal was coy on whether or not the display would help her chances for World Cup selection.

“There are so many good people in the squad so it’s going to be tough either way,” she said.

“I’m just trying to help my team win and prepare for the World Cup even if I don’t make it.”

Down by three points, the Opals had one last roll of the dice with seven and a half seconds remaining on the clock when Japan awarded a five-second violation.

Maddison Rocci drove to the basket to cut the margin to one with as many seconds left to play but Japan held on to record a hard-fought victory.

The winner of Tuesday’s clash in Newcastle will take the series out and receive a massive confidence boost ahead of the World Cup.

Originally published as ‘None of that touches us’: Opals shrug off shock new Cambage revelations


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