It’s surprising that Opals veteran Liz Cambage suggests she has “no friends” in the Australian team, leading sports columnist Peter FitzSimons says.
Cambage sensationally quit the Tokyo Olympics team on Friday, citing mental health concerns regarding bubble conditions at the Games. She said that she had been suffering panic attacks in anticipation of entering the bubble.
“The thought of going into one of the most high-pressure situations, that is already in a bubble,” she said on Instagram. “With no fans, no friends. I’ve never played without fans.”
Cambage, 29, has played for the Opals for more than a decade but will now be unable to add to an Olympic bronze medal won at London 2012.
“One thing that surprises me is where she says, ‘On the road, no family, no friends’,” FitzSimons said on Nine’s Sports Sunday.
“It surprises me that in an international team, all those women that she’s been playing with must have come up through the ranks with her in Australian basketball. It surprises me she doesn’t have very close friends in the team.”
Cambage may simply have been making a distinction between teammates and non-basketball friends. However, former Boomers star Chris Anstey claimed last week that Cambage could be a difficult teammate.
“At her best, Liz Cambage is one of the best couple of basketball players in the world,” Anstey told SEN.
“At her worst, she’s unbearable to be around as a teammate. You kind of cross your fingers and hope a little bit with Liz.
“Clearly being in Vegas and being in COVID protocol hasn’t suited her personally. It’s disappointing that they can’t stay in the bubble for a short period of time because it really can impact all their teammates, and I suppose us as a basketball public back home.”
Cambage previously cast doubt on her participation in the Olympics due to an Australian team promotional photo shoot, which she claimed had been racially “whitewashed”.
She decided that she would not participate last week and slammed “lies” surrounding the decision, insisting that it was made only for mental health reasons. There were claims that she may have been stood down from the team, with the backing of teammates, had she not withdrawn.
It was reported that Cambage behaved poorly, both physically and verbally, in a warm-up game against Nigeria. The WNBA star denied having breached the team’s bubble in Las Vegas, as was also reported.
Cambage’s old sparring partner, Boomers great Andrew Bogut, criticised her behaviour in a Herald Sun column.
“Everyone knows she has got mental health issues, even leading into her withdrawal from the Olympics, and you want her to get healthy, but at the same time mental health doesn’t excuse poor behaviour and behaviour detrimental to the team and the people around you,” Bogut wrote.
“Poor behaviour and engaging in poor team culture can be a separate issue from mental health. Yes, ones behaviour can be erratic when facing a mental health battle, but this does not give you permission to behave in the way Liz reportedly has.
“I believe her withdrawal from the Olympics, in my opinion, is the repercussions of her behaviour.”
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