Jade Melbourne (left) with Opals star Tess Madgen (7).
Jade Melbourne (left) has been earmarked as a future leader by Opals star Tess Madgen (7). Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS
  • basketball

Opals captain Madgen backs Melbourne on road to Games

Jasper Bruce December 7, 2023

Young guard Jade Melbourne has a strong chance of forcing her way into the Opals side on the road to the Paris Olympics, Australia captain Tess Madgen says.

Melbourne made her WNBA debut with Seattle Storm as the youngest player to participate in the most recent season and has shone in a struggling Canberra outfit since returning to the WNBL.

The 21-year-old leads the league in assists heading into round six and is ranked fifth for most points per game, while her field-goal accuracy (45.3) is also elite among her peers.

Melbourne earned selection in the preliminary squads for last year’s World Cup and featured in the build-up to the Sydney tournament.

Melbourne
 Opals skipper Tess Madgen is predicting a bright future for Canberra’s Jade Melbourne (pictured). Image by Diego Fedele/AAP PHOTOS 

But Sami Whitcomb and Madgen were preferred as point guards for the tournament, in which Australia won bronze, while WNBA duties kept Melbourne out of this year’s Asia Cup.

But as the Opals prepare for February’s Olympic qualifiers in Brazil, Madgen believes 2024 could be the year Melbourne finally becomes a regular on the big stage.

“Jade Melbourne is definitely going to be an Opal, whether that’s at Paris … she’s got a very strong chance of making the team,” Madgen told AAP.

“I really do believe that she’ll be a future leader of the program, she’s just a great quality person, great for culture. 

“She’d be the first one that would be really raising her hand for going for the (Olympic) team.”

Tess Madgen in action for the Opals.
 Tess Madgen has her sights firmly focused on the Opals’ Olympic qualifying matches in Brazil. Image by James Gourley/AAP PHOTOS 

Madgen, who turns 34 shortly after the Paris Olympics, is not yet thinking of the Games as a possible Opals swan song. 

“I’ve got my sights solely set on trying to make this team, go to Brazil to qualify for the Olympics. Anything can happen after that,” she said.

“As a leader of the group, I want everyone to have an equal opportunity to make the team. 

“We don’t necessarily need the best 12 players in the WNBL, we need the best team that’s going to complement the right culture, playing systems that the coaches have in place. 

“It’s going to be a really tough team for the selectors to pick.”

Madgen will come up against Melbourne and the Canberra Capitals on Friday night in what will be the Sydney Flames recruit’s 250th WNBL game.

She joins an elite club of players that includes Rachael Sporn, Michele Timms and Suzy Batkovic in reaching the milestone and earning WNBL life-member status.

“I’m most pumped that I get to go to WNBL games for free for the rest of my life,” Madgen joked.

“To be able to play 250 games in one of the best leagues in the world, it’s something I’m really proud of and definitely something I don’t take for granted.”