Where we've been and where we are: Australian Opals v/s Fiji at the FIBA Oceania Championships in New Zealand.
A little over a month ago, during the FIBA Oceania Men's Championships in Australia, Basketball Australia staged its Biennial Induction Ceremony for the Basketball Australia Hall of Fame.
A feature of the night was a tribute to the Australian Opals; World Champions in 2006 but also marking 50 years since the predecessors of the Opals first represented Australia at a Women's World Championship, ironically in Brazil in 1957.
The story of the participation by the pioneering Opals in their first World Championships is part of the fabric of FIBA's 75 year celebration. The team travelled to Brazil on a steamship, they had to pay their own fare and only 7 girls managed to make the journey.
Present day Opals coach Jan Sterling used the history of the Opals as the motivation for her World Champion Opals before tonight's encounter with the Pacific Champions, Fiji.
Her message was simple. Fiji are where we were in 1967. Respect these players from Fiji. They have earned the right to be at the FIBA Oceania Championships by beating all other countries in the Pacific and they, just like you are wearing the national uniform of their country with pride.
There is no doubt the match was a lopsided affair. Number 1 in the world against an unranked contender. And certainly in the first half the Fijians were overawed by their step up to international basketball. However, in the second half they played with much more poise and confidence as the scoreline showed.
To their credit the Australian respected their opponent and continued to execute offences and play defence. They even had the good grace to accept one or two contestable calls from the officials.
In the end, the Fijians got the lesson they needed in what world class basketball is all about and the Opals won the admiration and respect of everyone for the manner they represented their country and women's basketball.
Australia 136 (40;33;37;26) defeated
Fiji 32 (3;2;8;19)