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Australia’s Jenna O’Hea confirms reason for Liz Cambage rift

Jenna O'Hea and Liz Cambage won a WNBL title together in addition to their time on the national team. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

Former Australian national team basketball captain Jenna O’Hea sat down for a tell-all interview with Offsiders on Saturday, shedding light on the Opals’ perspective of Liz Cambage’s controversial exit from the team last summer. Cambage withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics in July, citing her mental health, after she was reportedly involved in a physical altercation with the Nigerian national team during a closed-door scrimmage.

Cambage recently told ABC News that she didn’t feel supported by the Australian national team. When asked to respond to Cambage’s comments, O’Hea called it “her reality.”

“I can hold my head up high and say that I always loved her, always cared for her, always supported her, always had her back,” said O’Hea, Cambage’s teammate with the Opals and the Southside Flyers. The players won a WNBL title together with the Flyers in 2020.

O’Hea then confirmed that there was a falling out during an exhibition game between Nigeria and Australia in the lead-up to the Olympics. Cambage, O’Hea verified, told the Nigerian players to “go back to your Third World country,” to which Ezi Magbegor, an Australian national team player and Nigerian native, took offense. The exchange led to an on-court brawl and a messy aftermath.

“That is all 100 percent correct,” O’Hea said when asked to confirm the report, adding that she didn’t think Cambage would ever play for Australia again. Following the incident, Cambage announced her withdrawal from the Olympic roster. In November, Basketball Australia issued her a formal reprimand after conducting an investigation into the incident.

Cambage later said that the Olympic break saved her season. Without Cambage, the No. 2 Opals lost in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics.

O’Hea said part of the reason for Australia’s disappointing finish was that Cambage pulled out seven days prior to the Olympics.

“We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare without her,” she said. “I think that there are just so many wonderfully talented basketballers in Australia. We’ve got so many playing over in the WNBA at the moment, there’s plenty here in Australia as well. And so with the right preparation, I think we can do really well on home soil at the World Cup this year.”

Cambage was again absent from Australia’s FIBA World Cup roster in December, saying that her interest in competing for the national team was “zero.”