I vividly remember Lauren Jackson struggling to walk to the weekly media conferences at Tilley’s in the final couple of years of her playing days with the UC Capitals.
Lauren’s knees, hips, hamstrings and back (you name it) were shot. She was in constant pain. She finally called it quits in 2016, but she had been battling to play for some time before then.
That was six years ago. It was an inglorious end to the glorious career of the greatest women’s basketball player in the history of the game.
Having been there when she starred for the AIS as a teenager to her ultimate retirement prior to the Rio Olympics in 2016, I thought I had seen the entirety of her playing career.
Nobody, not even Lauren at her retirement media conference at the AIS, mentioned or thought about a comeback to the national team well down the track at 41 years of age.
Now feeling fitter than she has been for a while, Lauren is back in the Opals squad for the 2022 World Cup in Sydney, nine years after she last played for the Australian women’s team.
Her comeback to the game with Albury in the NBL 1 competition has been nothing short of sensational, scoring an average of 32.6 points a game coupled with 11.6 rebounds.
Her presence in the Opals team can’t be underestimated. Her record, which includes two WNBA titles, five WNBL championships, and three Olympic silver medals, speaks for itself. It’s a record achieved by no other Australian player.
Lauren was a key player in the only World Cup gold medal won by the Australian women’s team in 2006.
Her return has added enormous momentum to the World Cup to be held later this year in Sydney.
Imagine the interest if Australia does well through the tournament with Lauren playing a key role?
How would it fit into the context of great comebacks in Australian sporting history?
Would it rate alongside Kieran Perkins winning gold against the odds in the 1500 metres freestyle at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics?
Will it rank alongside Allan Langer’s return from England for the deciding game in the origin series in 2001? Or Bobby Simpson coming out of retirement at 42 years of age to lead the Australian cricket team in a series win over India?
If Lauren leads Australia to victory in Sydney this year, given the state of her injuries when she retired in 2016, it would surely rank among the greatest comebacks ever.