LAUNCESTON Tornadoes captain Lauren Mansfield is closing in on her Olympic dream after receiving her first national call-up to the 2016 Opals squad.
Mansfield, 26, was named in a 27-player Australian squad announced by Basketball Australia on Thursday.
``It has always been a goal of mine - for the past couple of years it has seemed like a very distant goal but given the call-up after a good WNBL was amazing and I am very excited,'' Mansfield said.
``I think ever since I was a little girl growing up and playing basketball and watching the Olympics in 2000 and after that - I have always wanted to play at the highest level and the Olympic Games playing against the best in the world was something I thought would be the ultimate thing as a basketball player.''
Opals head coach Brendan Joyce said the Adelaide resident had been given an opportunity at the highest level in recognition of her excellent WNBL season with the South East Queensland Stars.
Players named in the Opals squad will take part in four selection camps from March-July in preparation for the Rio Olympics.
The first of four camps will be held in Canberra from Tuesday, March 29 – Sunday April 3.
The following three will be held in late April in Gosford, late June in Canberra and early July on the Gold Coast.
``There will be 27 at the first camp but I am pretty sure there will be cuts for the next camp so I definitely will have to show what I can do and hopefully do well at the camps,'' Mansfield said.
``I have been happy with my form in the WNBL and have been able to play with a great group of girls.
``It is not great that there have been injuries but it definitely provided me with the opportunity after Erin (Phillips) was ruled out for the season with a knee injury to step up to that starting point-guard role.
``And from there I think I grew as a player and really enjoyed the year and I think I played some good basketball in my best-ever season.''
Mansfield is sidelined at the moment following surgery for an ankle injury but was hopeful of starting her rehabilitation in the next couple of weeks and being fit for the first of the Opals camps.
She will line-up with the Launceston Tornadoes for her fourth consecutive SEABL season having captained the club for the past three years.
Other notable inclusions in the Opals squad include 2014 World bronze medallist standout Marianna Tolo who returns after suffering a knee injury in the 2015 WNBA season and Liz Cambage who will return to Australia after a successful stint in Shanghai.
Of the 27 players named, Joyce is excited to have a majority of the bronze-medal winning team from the 2014 World Champs in the squad.
“We will utilise these camps to maintain and continue to develop the team chemistry we had at the 2014 World Championships and transfer that into 2016.
“We have included bigger squads in the past but this year we wanted to start with a tighter squad to develop cohesion.”