Lauren Jackson in action for the Opals.
Australian basketball superstar Lauren Jackson has been named in the Opals squad for Paris 2024. Image by Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS
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Jackson’s presence in Paris would make us giddy: Meares

Murray Wenzel March 27, 2024

Anna Meares predicts Lauren Jackson’s Paris presence would send the Australian Olympic team giddy, after the door was left ajar for the Opals great to feature in a fifth Games.

Jackson announced her retirement in February after helping Australia qualify for the Paris Games in July, when the Hall of Famer and 2006 World Cup winner will be 43.

But on Wednesday the mother of two was included in Sandy Brondello’s 26-strong squad that will be whittled to 12 after a training camp and as many as 10 pre-Olympic fixtures.

Jackson had spoken of the “mum guilt” and heartbreak of leaving her children at home while she competed. 

The single mother told the Nine Network an Olympic campaign was out of the question unless Basketball Australia (BA) helped cover the cost of travelling with her two boys, aged five and seven.

A BA spokesperson told AAP the agreement remained confidential, but that it prided itself on being a family-friendly organisation and had historically prioritised similar requirements for mothers to ensure optimal performance.

Two-time track cycling gold medallist and mother-of-two Meares will act as Australia’s chef de mission in Paris.

“She’s a great legend of sport, let alone Australian basketball, and has been very clear that her participation in Paris is pertinent to her sons being OK about her competing and the impact on them,” the 40-year-old said.

“She’s a remarkable role model on so many levels, and me being a young mother, I know the guilt that it takes to have a young family and have to commit to work and travel.

“It’s amazing what the presence of a great like Lauren would do (in the Olympic village) … just seeing them inspires you and you also get a bit giddy.

“It’s important for my daughter and son to see me working hard towards something I love and am passionate about.”

Jackson has won four Olympic medals, including silver at three consecutive Games, starting with Sydney in 2000 when she competed as a teenager.

Paris would be her first Games since 2012, a debilitating knee injury forcing her into retirement ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

She made a shock return to lower-tier basketball in 2022 and earned selection in Australia’s World Cup later that year, starring in the bronze medal game.

Jackson, who had surgery on a ruptured achilles last year, returned from Brazil’s qualifying tournament and led her Southside Flyers into the WNBL grand final series with a 38-point, 11-rebound semi-final display.

The Flyers went on to win the title, 25 years after Jackson’s first. 

Brondello told AAP the ball was now in Jackson’s court to be part of a team she thinks can win gold.

“In the end Lauren has to make that decision and we’ll support it 100 per cent,” she said.

“We’ve been in big moments, and that experience helps.”

The world No.3 Opals missed the medal rounds in Tokyo, but Brondello is confident their versatility, experience and some fresh faces will have them better equipped this time. 

“I feel good about this team, but we have to go out there playing our best in Paris,” she said.

“I’m excited about it.”

The Olympic draw, conducted last week in Switzerland, has the Opals grouped in Pool B alongside Canada, Nigeria and host nation France.


Rebecca Allen, Zitina Aokuso, Georgia Amoore, Amy Atwell, Chloe Bibby, Isobel Borlase, Keely Froling, Darcee Garbin, Cayla George, Shyla Heal, Lauren Jackson, Alice Kunek, Tess Madgen, Ezi Magbegor, Anneli Maley, Jade Melbourne, Lauren Nicholson, Stephanie Reid, Maddison Rocci, Lauren Scherf, Alex Sharp, Alanna Smith, Stephanie Talbot, Marianna Tolo, Kristy Wallace,
Sami Whitcomb.