Former Opals captain Jenna O’Hea says Liz Cambage told Nigerian players to ‘go back to your Third World country’ during a training game
Posted On May 8, 2022
Former Opals captain Jenna O’Hea has rejected suggestions she and the team did not provide enough support to Liz Cambage and said she does not think the WNBA star will play for Australia again.
Liz Cambage withdrew from the Opals squad ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, saying she had been having panic attacks about going into a COVID bubble
Former Opals captain Jenna O’Hea says she and Cambage have not spoken since an incident during a training game against Nigeria last year
Opals coach Sandy Brondello has said the team is “more united” without Cambage
O’Hea also backed allegations about an incident in a training game for the Opals against Nigeria prior to the last Olympics, where it was suggested that Cambage had told Nigerian players to “go back to your Third World country”.
Last November, Cambage was issued with a formal reprimand by an independent panel leading from a Basketball Australia investigation of the game with Nigeria in July.
The panel determined that Cambage “did engage in conduct brought Basketball Australia in to censure”.
The panel found Cambage guilty of one offence, but not guilty of three other alleged incidents.
No detail was given about the incident that had drawn the reprimand, or the three other alleged incidents where she was found not guilty.
Days after the game, Cambage withdrew from the Opals squad for the Tokyo Olympics, saying that she had been having panic attacks about the prospect of heading into an Olympic COVID bubble.
O’Hea retired from basketball in March after a long career that included captaincy of the Opals and two Olympic Games — she played with Cambage both in the Australian team and in the Southside Flyers side which won the 2020 WNBL grand final.
O’Hea, a panellist on ABC’s Offsiders on Sunday, was asked about the Nigerian game, and whether Cambage had made the comments to opposition players, triggering a brawl, and whether O’Hea and Cambage had not spoken since.
Last week, Cambage — who is now based in the United States playing for the LA Sparks in the WNBA — told the ABC she was now “living my best life. I’m supported, I’m protected on a level that the Opals or the Australian team never gave to me”.
O’Hea was asked about Cambage’s comments.
“I think that is her reality and I think listeners and watchers out there can believe who they want to believe. But, yeah, I can hold my head up high.”
When questioned over Australia’s performance with Cambage and without her, and whether she made the difference between the team challenging for medals and missing out — as in the team’s quarter-finals loss in Tokyo — O’Hea replied:
“In all due respects, she pulled out seven days before our first game at the Olympics, so we didn’t have a lot of time to prepare without her.
“I think that there is just so many wonderfully talented basketballers in Australia. We’ve got so many playing over in the WNBA at the moment, there’s plenty here in Australia as well, and so with the right preparation I think we can do really well.
“I really want the media to focus on those players who want to be Opals and who want to represent Australia and who are really dedicated to Australia”.
Coach Sandy Brondello has said she feels the Opals are “more united” without Cambage as Australia plans a new path without some of the sport’s more well-known players.
O’Hea rejected suggestions Brondello should have done more to keep Cambage in the team.