MAHER MUST BE CRUEL AS LAST CUT LOOMS

The first cut may be the deepest but the last is the cruellest. And although Great Britain’s Olympic roster will not be made official until later this month, the 12 women on the plane to Turkey this week can expect to be in London.

Following two friendlies in Edinburgh against Canada, Tom Maher must now make or break dreams. He has been here before, of course. But the Australian says it never gets any easier.

“A normal human being doesn’t take any joy from cutting somebody’s heart out,” he declared with typical candour.

“It’s a horrible time. But it’s much much worse for the player who’s omitted. You can’t talk about how bad it is for you. It’s uncomfortable. But it’s much worse for them. But if you can’t do it, you shouldn’t be doing the job.”

Two must be prised out.

One decision will be simple. Under international rules, each country can field only one naturalised player. Australian-born Natalie Stafford, who led GB in scoring in both Canadian ties, will be chosen ahead of American-raised Steph Gandy.

The pair have long known their fates were inter-twined.

“We just want to win. That’s all that matters,” said Stafford.

Gandy, who has been hampered by injury, agrees it is nothing personal.

“If I am the one to go, I’ll miss the players more than the basketball side,” she declared. “Because I’ve made lots of new friends. This is my third year with the programme. I’ll still be following it.”

The front court looks settled. Dominique Allen and Temi Fagbenle came into training camp as possibles but are now certain choices.

Allen has made a nonsense of her limited role at Oral Roberts over the past four years. She looks still short of self-assurance. When that comes, the potential for more is immense. While Fagbenle hardly appears a player who had to red-shirt a year at Harvard. Maher, no mean judge, thinks the Londoner has WNBA potential. It’s hard to disagree.

So the last axe to fall will come in the backcourt. Rachael Vanderwal and Rose Anderson have flaws but also grit. Critically, they have Maher’s trust, gained over time.

Hence, the final cut will almost certainly be a double-barrelled exit. Lauren Thomas-Johnson played six minutes on Sunday and missed her sole shot. Jeneya Wade-Fray had almost ten minutes on court making two free throws and as many turnovers.

Splitting the two will be tricky. But you sense it will be the latter who will be cruelly left behind as the journey to London moves onward.

Main pic: wooller.com

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