Older Opals Will Lead From The Front

20/08/2015 6:45 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST
FILE - In this Aug. 7, 2012 file photo, China's Gao Song, right, tries stop Australia's Lauren Jackson during their women's quarterfinal basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Basketball Australia says Seattle Storm forward Jackson is expected to make a full recovery from a persistent right hamstring injury after undergoing surgery in Melbourne this week. Orthopedic surgeon David Young was quoted in a statement Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013 said Jackson's the surgery was "highly successful," with several problems being addressed in relation to the three-time WNBA most valuable player's injury, and the medical opinion that she will make a full recovery. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)

Age has historically been used as an excuse or at the very least a consideration when evaluating the sporting life-span of top athletes.

But is it any longer a relevant factor?

Training regimens, medical and sports therapy treatments are now so technically and scientifically advanced, the decline of an athlete’s capabilities, past the age of 30 years, is negligible.

If we look to the AFL, many of its players still regarded to be performing at the top level are over 30, the likes of Pavlich, Hodge and Ablett are the stars still relied upon for performance.

In Rugby League, while many young stars are coming through the ranks, it is still the veteran players such as Thurston, Cronk, Smith and Parker who are considered the elite week in and week out.

So should the factor of age come into the evaluation of a team’s potential to succeed?

This week, Australia’s Men’s and Women’s basketball teams qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Expectations are high for the Women’s team given the calibre and experience within their ranks.

In Rio, the Opals will be competing at their sixth successive Olympic Games, having won a medal at every Olympics since 1996.

That experience is also indicative of an ageing side, the majority of which have contested previous Olympic campaigns but consistently being relegated to bridesmaid status by the all-powerful USA team.

The average age of the broader Opals’ squad is 29 years, a fact of which coach Brendan Joyce is well aware. But at this highest level of elite competition, is this any longer a factor or is it outweighed by the wealth of experience combined with the high performance capability of these players?

Four-time Olympian Lauren Jackson has a strong feeling about this team believing it will be the one to break the stranglehold the USA has had on competition at Olympic level.

She says there is an air of success about this team which is essential when going into a championship tournament.

“I really believe we can do something special in Rio,” the 34-year-old told AAP.

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