Former Opals captain Jenna O’Hea has spoken out about the incident that prompted Liz Cambage’s disorderly exit from the national program, alleging unconfirmed claims that the star told her Nigerian rivals to “go back in your third world country” are true.
Cambage has been independently investigated and issued a formal reprimand – but no suspension or fine – after the altercation in last year’s practice game derailed the Opals’ campaign in the United States. Tokyo Olympics.
In the days following the clash with Nigeria, she pulled out of the Games citing mental health issues, then, although she remained available for selection for this year’s World Cup in Sydney , said she would never play for the Opals again.
However, the details of Cambage’s actions on the pitch have remained a mystery ever since.
On Sunday, while O’Hea was a guest on ABC’s Offsiders, she was asked about the incident by show host Kelli Underwood.
“It all started in that practice game, or the pre-Olympic game, when you played against Nigeria,” Underwood said.
“And what happened never really came to light but I had it confirmed by a few sources is it correct that you were playing in Nigeria and Liz Cambidge got her feathers ruffled and she turned to them and said, ‘Go back to your third country in the world’?
“And, of course, Ezi Magbegor is of Nigerian descent, a Nigerian who now lives in Australia and plays for your team, and as a result there was a fight that broke out, and since then you haven’t spoken to him. ?”
O’Hea responded with the assertion, “That’s all 100% correct.”
Another guest, Caroline Wilson, then asked O’Hea if Cambage would represent Australia again. “No,” O’Hea said.
Last July, when Cambage unexpectedly pulled out of the Australian squad on the eve of the Olympics, she called it “literally one of the hardest decisions of my life”.
In a social media post, she also denounced the “lies” and “fake news” surrounding her decision and directly responded to speculation about the incident on the pitch in that scrum against Nigeria.
“Yes, things got heated in the game against Nigeria, there was a physical altercation and words were exchanged,” Cambage said. “But I hear things that are not true at all. Everything that happened and everything that I said is filmed.
The Outsiders also released footage of an ABC interview with Cambage from her base in Los Angeles, where she began playing with WNBA side LA Sparks.
The 30-year-old, who has a Nigerian father, said: “I’m living my best life. I am supported. I’m protected to a level that the Opals or Team Australia never gave me.
“My heart goes out to those who want to protect me and those who want me to be the best I can be, and I never felt that at all at the Opals.”
O’Hea, a longtime Cambage captain, replied, “I can hold my head up high and say I always loved her, always cared for her, supported her, got her back. It is his reality and listeners and observers can believe whoever they want to believe.
“Everyone did more than enough. We sacrificed a lot to try to keep her in the program. She doesn’t want to be here anymore. It’s her choice and we have to go on without her.
O’Hea said the Sparks seemed to suit Cambage. “She always wanted to be in LA,” she said. “I think she’s happy to be here, and when she’s happy she plays really good basketball.”
The Opals struggled without Cambage in Tokyo, but O’Hea said with proper preparation Sandy Brondello’s side will play their ranking – which has long fluctuated between No 2 and No 3 in the world – at the World Cup in Sydney.
Their September campaign could also mark the return of Lauren Jackson, who has dominated at NBL1 level for Albury-Wodonga since coming out of retirement.
“There are so many wonderfully talented basketball players in Australia, so many playing in the WNBA,” O’Hea said. “With the right preparation, we can do very well.
“There are so many great role models…I want the media to focus on those who want to play for the Opals and represent Australia.”