Opals great Jackson in frame for Olympics comeback

Lauren Jackson is in the frame for a fifth Olympics campaign after the Opals great was included in the squad to play qualifiers in Brazil.

It would be the second international comeback for the 42-year-old, who came out of retirement and dominated in the World Cup bronze medal game against Canada in October last year.

Jackson doubled down on her retirement plans after that game, the Hall of Famer then injuring her achilles in a February tribute match in what most assumed would spell the end of an incredible career.

But she recovered and returned with Southside Flyers in the WNBL this season, and Jackson is now included in Sandy Brondello's 20-player squad for the February tournament pending fitness.

World No.3 Australia will host Brazil (No.8), Serbia (10th) and Germany (25th) in a round-robin format where three progress to the Paris Olympics next year.

Jade Melbourne (21), who debuted in the WNBA this season, and Adelaide bolter Isobel Borlase (19) have been included in a squad that also features all 12 players who played in the World Cup.

Lauren Jackson (left) and coach Sandy Brondello
Lauren Jackson (left) and coach Sandy Brondello celebrate a win for the Opals.

“The qualifiers in Brazil are definitely a challenge, the standard of women’s basketball globally has lifted considerably since the last Olympics as the game continues to gain momentum,” Brondello said.

“Our squad is a great mix of experience and exciting emerging talent, so we approach the qualifiers with confidence but great respect for our opposition.

"We will have limited preparation for these qualifiers, but we know with the Opals, we lift for the big occasion, and with an Olympics spot on the line we can expect each player to bring it.”

Jackson was a seven-time WNBA All-Star, three-time MVP and two-time champion with Seattle.

She helped the Opals win World Cup gold in 2006, and has three silver and one bronze Olympic medals from four campaigns.

Chronic knee pain forced Jackson into retirement before the 2016 Olympics, an exemption to continue using medicinal cannabis opening the door to a return early last year.

Jackson made the World Cup squad but was used sparingly by Brondello, until she exploded with a 30-point performance against Canada in the bronze medal game.

It was the most points scored in a women's World Cup medal match since her own 31-point haul in the 2002 third-place play-off win against South Korea.

OPALS SQUAD: Rebecca Allen, Zitina Aokuso, Sara Blicavs, Isobel Borlase, Darcee Garbin, Cayla George, Shyla Heal, *Lauren Jackson, *Alice Kunek, Tess Madgen, Ezi Magbegor, Anneli Maley, Jade Melbourne, Stephanie Reid, Maddison Rocci, Alanna Smith, *Stephanie Talbot, Marianna Tolo, *Kristy Wallace, Samantha Whitcomb.

* Pending fitness

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