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Newcastle Herald

Falcons out to take shine off Jackson comeback

UNSTOPPABLE: Opals great Lauren Jackson has averaged 32 points and 14 rebounds a game in her return season for Albury-Wodonga. Picture: James Wiltshire

NEWCASTLE Falcons coach Chloe Mullaney has no doubts that Lauren Jackson could play a role for the Australian Opals - she's Lauren Jackson.

Jackson's comeback roadshow stops at Broadmeadow on Saturday when the Falcons host Albury- Wodonga in an NBL 1 East showdown.

At age 41 and after six years in retirement, Jackson has dominated, averaging 31.8 points and 13.6 rebounds per game.

"Loz is killing it," said Mullaney, who has known Jackson for more than 20 years. "She is in great shape. She has a personal trainer and is dialled in. Absolutely, I reckon she could play internationally for the Opals."

Opals co-captain Cayla Francis agrees.

The Opals are playing a three-game series against Japan, culminating in Newcastle on Tuesday night.

Jackson has been tight-lipped about her intentions. She won't be involved against Japan, but playing in a World Cup in Australia later this year may be a tempting.

"It'd be really cool," Francis said of a potential Opals return for Jackson. "She was a phenomenal player and at her peak the best in the world, and at 41 still would be super valuable."

LEGEND: Lauren Jackson. Picture: James Wiltshire

First for Jackson is the NBL 1 East and a date with the Falcons.

"If we can try and keep her to 20 points and 15 rebounds max, I think we will be in a good position," Mullaney said. "It is a matter of limiting where she gets her shots.

"Before Lozz's first game back, I didn't know where she was physically. She scored 15 ponits from the three-point line. I thought she may not be wanting to bump around inside. Next game she scored 40 points and most of them were in the paint.

"She will come on and do what they need her to do, get them in front, get them their buckets, then she has a bit of a rest."

Mullaney's daughter Chyra and fellow young gun Ameila Raidaveta will have the job of trying to restrict Jackson.

Chyra was part of an Emerging Opals squad which came from behind to beat Japan in a friendly in Sydney on Tuesday. The 18-year-old is averaging 21 points and 13 rebounds a game in the NBL 1 East.

"I remember when Chyra was 6 or 7, Lauren was at Broadmeadow watching a friend play in the Waratah League with Canberra and Chyra went and got her basketball signed," Mullaney said. "Chyra never talks about who she is playing against or what she needs to do. Inside, she is probably thinking this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. "

The women's game tips off at 5pm followed by the men, who are out to extend their winning streak to six games.

With import JaShaun Smith still awaiting a clearance, Ryan Beisty and Myles Cherry have led the way.

Beisty was everywhere for the Falcons in a 86-85 win over Illawrra, posting a team-high 29 points - including five three-pointers - to go with 15 rebounds, three assists, a steal and a blocked shot.