‘Aussie ball’ mindset behind versatile Boomers squad

Murray Wenzel |

Ten of the Boomers’ Tokyo bronze-medal winners have been picked in the initial Paris Games squad.
Ten of the Boomers’ Tokyo bronze-medal winners have been picked in the initial Paris Games squad.

Brian Goorjian will lean into Josh Giddey’s resurgent NBA form when the Boomers activate “Aussie ball” in Paris. 

But the coach has opened the door for some selection surprises after naming an initial 22-man Olympic squad.

Teenagers Johnny Furphy and Rocco Zikarsky stand out on the list confirmed by Goorjian on Thursday, the squad including 10 players from Australia’s Tokyo 2020 bronze medal-winning side as well as current NBA standouts Giddey and Dyson Daniels.

Patty Mills, Joe Ingles, Josh Green, Matisse Thybulle, Dante Exum and Jock Landale are all available, although the injured Ben Simmons is now officially out of the frame for a Boomers return after back problems ended the Brooklyn guard’s season early.

Brian Goorjian addresses his team at Tokyo Olympics.
Brian Goorjian address his team during the 2021 Olympic semi-final against the USA in Tokyo.

Goorjian must narrow his squad to 12 before the Games begin in July, and faces some tough calls – particularly given veteran guard Matthew Dellavedova’s strong NBL form since he was overlooked for last year’s World Cup.

But the coach has hinted there’s still room for some left-field picks and the inclusion of 17-year-old centre Zikarsky and 19-year-old college guard Furphy – as well as NBL talents Jack McVeigh, Will Magnay and DJ Vasiljevic – shows Goorjian’s desire for shooters and front-court versatility.

Kansas star Furphy has moved up to No.28 on ESPN’s draft projections while Brisbane’s Next Star Zikarsky was crowned MVP of champion Australia’s under-18 Albert Schweitzer Tournament campaign this month.

The Boomers’ path to the podium is precarious, with Australia drawn to face an NBA-stacked Canada and two qualifiers that could include Spain, Slovenia, Greece or Croatia.

Matisse Thybulle (10) dunks for the boomers v Slovenia at Tokyo 2020.
Matisse Thybulle (10) dunks against Slovenia during the men’s bronze-medal match at the Tokyo Games.

Reflecting on a disappointing World Cup in 2023, Goorjian told AAP the team would attack more directly and not fall into a European style of offence. 

He also aims to field the best defensive team in the world.

That will play into Oklahoma City guard Giddey’s hands, the 21-year-old’s fast-break offence clicking during a March purple patch that included 25, 31 and 23-point games in succession followed by a triple-double.

“The consensus is that the tournament will be at an unseen level with the talent and international NBA star-power across the teams,” Goorjian said.

“I will emphasise and instil with the group that we’re not aiming to match or replicate the style of game heading our way from other nations. Our goal is to beat them.

“We’re going to play Aussie ball. And we’re going to go at them with all we’ve got.”


Dyson Daniels, Matthew Dellavedova, Xavier Cooks, Dante Exum, Sam Froling, Johnny Furphy, Josh Giddey, Chris Goulding, Josh Green, Joe Ingles, Nick Kay, Jock Landale, Will Magnay, Will McDowell-White, Jack McVeigh, Patty Mills, Keanu Pinder, Duop Reath, Matisse Thybulle, Dejan Vasiljevic, Jack White, Rocco Zikarsky.