2006 Opals make history for a second time

The 2006 Opals were inducted into the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame last week.

The 2006 Opals made history for a second time when they were inducted into the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday night.

The FIBA World Cup Champions, who 18 years ago became the first senior national team to win a gold medal at international level, are the first team to be bestowed the honour and were celebrated at a function before the current-day Opals played China at John Cain Arena.

Coached by Jan Stirling, the Opals went through the Brazil tournament undefeated on the way to beating Russia, 91-74, in the Final with Penny Taylor crowned tournament MVP and Lauren Jackson the competition’s top scorer.

Stirling, Jackson, Jenni Screen and Jenny Whittle reflected on their achievement and what it meant to be recognised.

Tully Bevilaqua, who at age 34 made her FIBA debut at the World Cup, flew to Melbourne from the US for the event.

It was a double celebration for Belinda Snell who was part of the iconic Opals team and also inducted to the Hall of Fame for her brilliant career as a player.

A triple Olympic medallist, Snell enjoyed success all over the world winning championships in the WNBL, WNBA and in Europe.

Her former national team mate Suzy Batkovic, also a triple Olympic medallist, was also honoured for CV as a successful Opal and WNBL legend. Batkovic accepted her award on stage with her twin daughters, Charli and Layla.

A five-time Paralympian, gold medallist and dual World Champion, Brad Ness spoke of how a workplace accident at age 18 changed the course of his life and led him to become one of the best players in the world.

CJ Bruton, a six-time NBL champion and dual Olympian, shared special insights into the influence of family on his career and life. He joins his father Cal Bruton in the Hall of Fame, the second father-son duo behind Australian Basketball Hall of Fame Legends Lindsay and Andrew Gaze.

Jesse, the son of the late Sharon Arnold, delivered a beautiful speech about his mother and what the game and its people meant to her. A trailblazing official, Arnold smashed glass ceilings and mentored and encouraged many to take up refereeing over her four-decade involvement.

Matthew Nielsen reflected on his career as a Boomer and dual Olympic captain and his success and experiences in the NBL with the Sydney Kings and throughout Europe.

Winners of the Maher Medal (Steph Talbot, 2021 and 2022) and Gaze Medal (Patty Mills, 2021 and Josh Giddey, 2022) were acknowledged as well as Amber Merrett (Hobbs Medal, 2021 and 2002) and Blyth Medallists Jannick Blair and Tom O’Neill-Thorne (2021) and Bill Latham (2022).


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