Star News Group - Jarrod Potter
DANDENONGíS fiercely loyal basketball community will be wired on coffee staying up late to watch a plethora of Australian Opals test their mettle in the London Olympic Games.
Itís a great credit to the Dandenong Basketball Association to see the list of players in the womenís Olympic squad who have, in some shape or form, come through the doors at the stadium.
Included in the Opals team are current WNBL Dandenong Rangers, Jenna OíHea and Kathleen MacLeod, former WNBL Dandenong Ranger Sam Richards, a veteran of eight seasons in the green and gold and to top it off, junior Dandenong Rangers representatives Liz Cambage and Rachel Jarry - who have gone on to star in the WNBL and WNBA.
This is Australiaís best chance in a long time to finally beat the Americans and a good percentage of our talent has walked through the doors at Dandenong Basketball Stadium in one form or another. Lauren Jackson, Suzy Batkovic and Liz Cambage form a dynamite tall trio with Jenna OíHea taking the outside shots. Kathleen MacLeod will hopefully see some decent minutes on court, as her time has been limited in the lead-up to the Olympics as the third-choice guard.
Australia is drawn in Group B, away from the United States, and with a little persistence, chances are these are the two teams that will contend for the gold medal.
Letís not forget Dandenong Rangers star recruit Krista Phillips, who recently guided the Canadian national team through the qualifying rounds to earn a spot in London.
Greater Dandenong also has links to our Australian hockey and table tennis teams, with Chris Ciriello, 25, originally from Endeavour Hills now living in Perth, representing the Kookaburras after being brought up on the sport by his grandfather, Rudy Pacheco, at the Springvale/Noble Park hockey club.
Ciriello is on the Australian menís hockey team after successful stints with the Victoria Vikings in the Australian Hockey League and success at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Ciriello has impressed recently, appearing in most of Australiaís pre-Olympic warm-up matches.
The Kookaburras will never tolerate anything besides a gold medal finish and with their recent successes against all the strong hockey nations, including their fourth straight Champions Trophy victory in December, gold is not only possible, but very likely to come to fruition.
Our final Olympic hopeful is Robert Frank, 22, from Dingley, who was named in the Australian table tennis team, to compete with team-mates William Henzell and Justin Tan.
Frank earned his spot in the London team spurred on by the anguish of falling four points outside of qualifying for Beijing.
He started playing table tennis with the Greater Dandenong Table Tennis Association.