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Lauren Jackson says the Opals have learned the hard way that an Olympic medal, of any colour, is hard to win following today's capitulation in Rio.
Megan Hustwaite

17 Aug 2016 - 3:02 PM  UPDATED 17 Aug 2016 - 3:02 PM

Australia’s greatest ever basketballer believes the Opals were complacent, unprepared and reactive and have paid the ultimate price with their worst Olympic result since failing to qualify for the 1992 Barcelona Games.

The Opals went on to win their first medal, bronze, four years later in Atlanta before claiming silver in Sydney, Athens and Beijing then bronze again in 2012 in London.   

“I feel sometimes we’re a little bit complacent in the sense we’ve been so successful over the last 20 years and those medals are very, very, very hard to come by ,” Jackson said.

“Everything’s got to work, you’ve got to do everything you possibly can and you’ve got to have mental toughness.

“Every Olympic campaign there’s going to be ups and down, for instance 2012 and our loss to France. We had to regroup, come back and to be honest it was a good thing it happened in the preliminary rounds because it made us fight a little bit harder to get that bronze medal.”

Jackson says the Opals deficiencies were exposed by a Serbian team which out-hustled its opposition.

“It really is a disaster; I don’t know what to say. I think anyone who’s represented the Opals is heartbroken right now. I’ve spoken to a lot of the girls today, a lot of my old teammates, a lot of the girls that were playing and everyone’s just shattered,’’ she said.

“I think the girls definitely learned a lesson because every game they had to come from behind and you can’t go into an Olympic Games, or any tournament, playing like that because it’s going to bite you on the backside eventually and it did.

“Questions are going to be asked and the right people at Basketball Australia are going to have to answer them honestly and impartially as well.  

"I think the biggest thing for us as spectators, fans and even from a commentary standpoint was that they were just so inconsistent. Against the better teams they were never going to be able to come back in the fourth quarter the way they had been in the preliminary rounds, in fact they were lucky to get through a few of those games.” 

The four-time Olympian, who called the women's basketball for Channel 7, said there were alarm bells ringing throughout the Opals campaign.

“There were some pretty scary times early on. To be honest I thought they would’ve used their days off and the practices they had to work on defence, changing the offence a little bit so there was a bit more movement to get people like Penny (Taylor) open,’’ she said.

“I feel like she was just driving into a mess in the key, there was no room for her to move and create. Of course Liz (Cambage) did all she could, she really did, but sometimes it’s just not enough.

“You can’t pinpoint one thing that went wrong because there isn’t one, it was a build-up of things that ultimately come today they didn’t have it in them.

“There were signs throughout the tournament, that they had to change some things, like their pick and roll defence, it was just so obvious teams were getting wide open lay-ups to the basket and it just was killing us.

“At the beginning of today’s game it looked like they’d come out with more intensity defensively and it looked better but in the same breath Serbia didn’t look like they were playing well at all yet scores were level at quarter time. As much as Australia was in control, they weren’t at all.

“At the end of the game, when that defensive stuff really mattered, it all went away, all the good stuff they did in the first quarter disappeared and they reverted back to the preliminary rounds.  So my question is did you work on that because that's something that should've been changed and they had two days off to prepare for this game. Whether it was tweaking the offences, because the offence was pretty stagnant at times, there were a number of things.

"You can’t blame one thing, it was a whole lot of things that didn’t work for the Opals and it just wasn’t their tournament.

“But Basketball Australia need to regroup now, re-evaluate it and then re-build.”

Jackson says Australia looked lost and lacked composure in the dying stages of the Quarter Final when the game was on the line to be tied or won.

“Even in the last 10 seconds it actually looked like the girls had no idea what they were going to do, they had no play,’’ she said.

“On every team you practice end of game situations so that when it happens, and invariably it always does, you can get a shot off, or you know where you’re going, everyone knows what their role is in that scenario because that is so important.

“I don’t think they actually knew what they were doing. Every team I’ve been on has historically always had at least one end of game scenario play for a situation like that.”

Australian Opals' Olympic dream turns to Serbian nightmare
The Opals’ dream of an elusive gold medal is over after they experienced a Serbian nightmare in Rio overnight. Zela guides you through Australia’s shock exit.