Melbourne helps Opals qualify for Paris Olympics



Et voilà! The Australian Opals are en route to the 2024 Paris Olympics, after securing qualification in Brazil.

Only needing to finish in the top three from their group of four, the Opals secured the right to advance to Paris with wins in their first two games.

Traralgon’s Jade Melbourne could well be on that plane to France later this year, after playing a part during the final qualifying stage.

Australia only just survived a late scare from Brazil in their opening game of qualifying, getting over the line by five points.

Despite being 10 points up at the half, and extending that lead into the third quarter, Brazil came firing back to only trail by two points at the final change.

Next to no scoring was had in the final quarter, as Australia edged evermore slightly ahead to claim a five-point victory.

Unless something crazy was to happen, the Opals had all but secured their ticket to Paris by this stage, but another win would make that a certainty.

And boy, did they make certain of it.

In their penultimate qualifier, Australia thrashed Germany to claim their ticket to the Olympics.

The Opals were up by as much as 14 points after the first quarter, extending that margin to 30 by the end of the half, the job seemingly done.

Germany put up a fight in the third quarter, not letting Australia get much further away, but they couldn’t stop them for long, with the Opals recording a 33-point win.

Melbourne scored six points in what was a very all-rounded game from the Opals, which saw every player on the roster score at least two points.

Melbourne also took down two boards and provided two assists, proving difficult to come toward with a steal to her name.

In a shock twist, Australia’s best-ever women’s basketballer, Lauren Jackson, announced her retirement after qualification was secured.

Jackson was set to join the Opals in her fifth Olympics, after the Australians qualified for the Olympics for a 10th time.

She initially retired in 2016, before returning ahead of the 2022 World Cup.

“When I say this has been a privilege, I mean it,” Jackson said on Instagram.

Jackson represented Australia at four different Olympics (Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012), winning three silver and a bronze medal.

She won Gold at her only Commonwealth Games – fittingly in Melbourne in 2006, and also claimed Gold during the same year at the 2006 FIBA World Cup.

Melbourne was boosted into the starting five for the Opals’ final game against Serbia, putting up 10 points, four rebounds and four assists, as the Aussie swept the qualifiers.

Despite trailing during moments of the final quarter, Melbourne was electric, using her pace up and down the court to put points on the board and deny points at the other end.

Playing over 20 minutes, Melbourne definitely showed what she can bring to the table, and was one of six Australians to score more than 10 points.

The Opals completed the qualifiers on top of the group, progressing before their final game, while Serbia and Germany also progressed, leaving Brazil to miss out – despite playing the qualifiers on their home deck.

From the 12 teams qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics, Australia will remain the third seeded team, behind the US (No. 1) and narrowly behind China (No. 2) on FIBA ranking points.

Germany is the only outlier from the qualified teams, ranked 25th in the world, while the other 11 countries rank within the top 12. Brazil were ranked eighth.

All that’s left to be answered is: will Melbourne be in that squad going to Paris?

Gippsland Farmer

The Gippsland Farmer is a monthly agricultural newspaper reporting on rural news and distributed FREE and direct to an area covering from Cann River through to South Gippsland. For more than 40 years Gippsland Farmer has reported on a range of issues and industries including dairy, beef, vegetables, sheep, goats, poultry, organic farming, and viticulture.