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Jackson tips Opals for greatness

  • Jackson tips Opals for greatness

    Lauren Jackson believes France, Spain and the US are Australia's chief basketball threats at Rio.

Lauren Jackson has tipped the Opals to finally land Olympic gold in Rio, with a few caveats.

The legendary basketballer won't take to the floor in Rio after retiring in March due to ongoing knee trouble.

But she remains the side's biggest cheerleader, and sees her former teammates claiming the gold medal that eluded her through her playing days.

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The Opals have picked up three silvers and two bronze medals in the past five Games, but Jackson sees a breakthrough in Rio led by centre Liz Cambage.

"If they play their best basketball and stay injury free, which is something we haven't been able to do for a long time, they definitely have a chance at winning," she said.

"If Liz is firing, that's the key.

"That team is going to do amazing things in Rio. It's going to be really exciting to watch as a fan and as an ex-Opal."

Alongside Cambage, Jackson said coach Brendan Joyce was the team's biggest asset.

She said his leadership was crucial in helping the team head off well-publicised issues earlier this year, when Cambage accused teammate Alice Kunek of racism on social media.

Kunek had posted a picture of herself in blackface as she impersonated Kanye West at a dress-up party.

"I didn't think for a minute there was going to be any drama. I knew the minute they got together that they'd be fine and they were," Jackson said.

"(Joyce) is special. He is unique in the sense that his excitement and his enthusiasm brings that out in every one around him.

"You can ride off that energy, the energy he's got."

As for opponents, Jackson sees threats to Australian gold from Europe along with traditional powerhouse the United States.

"Spain might give them a run. France too," she said.

Jackson was unveiled as the new commercial operations boss for WNBL club Melbourne Boomers on Wednesday morning.

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