Opals coach Brendan Joyce says Abby Bishop faces tough road back from blood clots

Abby Bishop is racing the clock to be fit for the Rio Olympic Games. Photo: Marina Neil Lauren Jackson announced her retirement in Canberra last week at an Australian Opals camp. Photo: Jamila Toderas
Nanjing Night Net

Australian Opals coach Brendan Joyce admits Abby Bishop faces an uphill battle to win selection for the Rio Olympic Games after being ruled out for three months while on a course of blood-thinning medication.

The Opals will go into camp in Gosford next week without Bishop, recently retired Lauren Jackson and forward Marianna Tolo as she continues her recovery from a knee reconstruction.

Former Canberra Capitals skipper Bishop has been told she risks serious injury or even death if she is part of full-contact training over the next three months after doctors found 24-centimetres of blood clots in her arm.

That has put her Olympic hopes in jeopardy as she races the clock to be fit in time to press her claims for selection.

Joyce conceded the Opals coaching staff had “some tough choices” to make in the coming months as they attempt to trim the squad.

“Abby was in camp with us in Canberra and we were looking at some [team culture] stuff as a group, we brought in injured players for that but when we’re away from Canberra we don’t have the resources to accommodate them,” Joyce said.

“Abby’s injury does make it very difficult because she won’t get to make it to any of the tours for the build-up work and we’ve got some decisions to make as coaches.

“It’s crunch time now. Every tour we go on or camp we go into, we’ll be cutting players. We’re trying to develop cohesion and get this thing down early … we’re having discussions about everything now but we haven’t reached a decision yet.”

Bishop is allowed to shoot and do fitness work as she attempts to stay in shape for a potential call-up.

Blood clots can be potentially life threatening if they go undetected for a long period and are pumped around the body to either the heart or brain.

ACT Brumbies player Ita Vaea missed two years of Super Rugby action after doctors discovered a clot in his calf and a heart condition forced him to watch from the sidelines while he recovered.

Bishop’s illness was a rare reaction to medication for a hamstring injury that has plagued her for the past 12 months and follow up scans have shown signs of blood clots.

But the blood-thinning medication means she has to avoid being knocked around on the court for her long-term health.

Bishop was set to return to Seattle to play with the Storm in the WNBA but it remains unclear if she will be able to go back given the season starts next month.

The 27-year-old is expected to be cleared for game time in June with the Opals to name their final Olympic squad in July and Joyce has cut the group to 16 for the next camp.

“The situation does make it pretty tough for her, there’s no doubting that given the time we’re up against and trying to get the squad sorted,” Joyce said.

“I knew we had to try to develop players to give them international exposure and over the past two and a half years there’s been 52 players through the Opals program.

“Abby was a role player at the 2012 Olympics … she hasn’t been in the program much the past few years and has only played a handful of games.

“The good thing is that I believe a large chunk of players have proven themselves at the world championships and a large chunk of those players will go to the Olympics because we need stability.”

Rising Capitals star Steph Talbot is fighting for her Olympic dream and is in contention to be included in a 12-strong squad for a tour of Japan in the coming months.

Jackson ended her glittering career last week after doctors told her there was no way her troublesome knee would be ready to be on court in Rio.

Jackson could be in Rio to commentate on the Games with Channel Seven, and Joyce was hopeful she would still be able to impart advice on players if time permits.

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