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Jackson, Taylor to again lead the Opals
20:26 AEST Fri Mar 12 2010

Lauren Jackson and Penny Taylor headline a 24-strong initial Opals squad announced to defend their title at the basketball world championship later this year.

The Australian women won their first ever major international gold medal with a stunning performance at the last worlds in Brazil four years ago and will hope for a repeat effort in the Czech Republic.

Eleven members of the silver medal-winning team from the Beijing Olympics are in the squad, including Jackson, Taylor, Suzy Batkovic-Brown, Belinda Snell, Kristi Harrower and Tully Bevilaqua.

Exciting teenager Liz Cambage has also been selected by coach Carrie Graf, while Rachael Flanagan and Hanna Zavecz have been named in an Opals squad for the first time.

"The squad obviously reflects the star talent that has been there for a few years," Graf said.

"With our core players Lauren Jackson, Suzy Batkovic-Brown, Kristi Harrower, Penny Taylor and Belinda Snell in particular, we are fortunate that three of these have played in the WNBL this year.

"We've added some players that have performed very well in the WNBL after coming back from US college and European legs of their careers."

As is typically the case, Graf will have some challenges preparing the squad as the likes of Jackson, Taylor and Snell will again be away competing in the American WNBA this coming season.

Australia will have a camp in Dandenong starting on March 29.

The world championship runs from September 23 to October 3.

Opals squad: Suzy Batkovic-Brown, Tully Bevilaqua, Abby Bishop, Elizabeth Cambage, Rohanee Cox, Rachael Flanagan, Hollie Grima, Kristi Harrower, Natalie Hurst, Lauren Jackson, Kathleen MacLeod, Jenna O'Hea, Elyse Penaluna, Erin Phillips, Alicia Poto, Samantha Richards, Jennifer Screen, Deanna Smith, Belinda Snell, Laura Summerton, Penny Taylor, Marianna Tolo, Carly Wilson, Hanna Zavecz.