Flames duo to spearhead Opals’ charge in Brazil

January 17, 2024 | Sydney Flames news

The Australian Opals, spearheaded by Sydney Flames’ Tess Madgen and Cayla George, will need to negotiate Brazil, Germany and Serbia at next month’s FIBA qualifying tournament in order to compete at this year’s Paris Olympic Games.

The 12-player team tasked with qualification will include eight members of the 2022 World Cup bronze medal campaign including Madgen, George, Marianna Tolo, Lauren Jackson, Ezi Magbegor, Bec Allen, Sara Blicavs and Sami Whitcomb.

Tokyo Olympian Alanna Smith rejoins the team as does Jade Melbourne (for the first time since the 2021 Asia Cup) while 19-year-old rising star Isobel Borlase and point guard Steph Reid will debut.


The qualifying tournament runs from February 8 to 11 in Belem, Brazil with world No.3 Australia needing to finish top three in its pool to book an Olympic ticket.

Opals head coach Sandy Brondello said while injuries to key players named in the squad had impacted selection the team was focused and ready to hit the ground running.

Steph Talbot, Kristy Wallace, Darcee Garbin and Alice Kunek were unavailable for selection.

“I’m really happy to finally announce the team, we have been hit with some injuries for sure but that’s the nature of what we do so we prepare for that,” Brondello said.

“Brazil is first up and with the home crowd they will be tough, Germany is a team on the rise and we have a really competitive history against Serbia, so there are no easy games.

“We have limited preparation time for this window but we will take that as a motivator, this is where our experienced players will really make a difference. We are completely locked in now on the three games and securing our Olympic spot.”

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Olympian and Flame #220 Tess Madgen said the team would harness the meaning of the uniform and the women who had gone before them as the Opals strive to qualify for another Olympic campaign.

“Qualifiers are always tough, the competition continues to improve, we have long distances to travel and limited time to prepare but we know how to win and the green and gold always brings out the best in us.”

The Australian-based Opals will fly to Brazil on January 30 where they will link up with Brondello and Europe-based players Tolo, Magbegor and Smith.