It's not bad to end a sporting career with a trophy named in your honour and your face on a sports drink bottle. That's how it is for Gloucester native, Damian Martin as he farewells the National Basketball League (NBL).
"At 35 I'm lucky to have as long a career as I've had," Damian said.
He was enjoying a celebratory lunch in Perth with some mates on Wednesday (July 22) after a whirlwind 24 hours following the official retirement announcement at 11am Australian Western Standard Time on Tuesday (July 21).
His decision to retire has come a little sooner than expected after he tore his Achilles tendon during round four of the season-proper. The injury happened when the team was playing on the road. He played the next three games in a great deal of pain.
"I had an MRI and when I took it to the doctor he said, 'well I guess this is your career ending injury'," Damian recalled. "I was lucky enough to have a supportive team that let me continue to play before having the surgery and be able to go out on my own terms."
Deciding to put off the surgery meant he could see out the remainder of the season. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the season didn't go to the grand finals and in March his team, Perth Wildcats, was declared the champions.
So he went out with a win, albeit a weird one. But he knows how fortunate he is to have lasted so long in professional sport.
"I'm the oldest player on the team. You can clearly tell who's in charge of the music during training. If it's Cold Chisel or Pearl Jam, then it's me. If it's someone I've never heard of, then it's one of the young ones," Damian joked.
A few hours after Damian shared his news, the NBL announced it was naming its defensive player trophy after the six-time winner of the award. The award will now be known as the Damian Martin Trophy for the Best Defensive Player of the regular season.
He's been with the Wildcats for 11 seasons. It's early days yet but he already knows what he's going to miss.
"When my family comes to a game, my three year old introduces herself as Maggie Martin from the Wildcats," he laughed.
But slowing down in retirement isn't on the cards for Damian. He'll be stepping up his involvement in things like the Global Roaming Pilbara Foundation which uses basketball to help underprivileged children. You can also expect to see his face on a new sports drink being launch in Australia by Everlast.
Any future plans of relocation back to his hometown?
"I told my wife if we could ever afford a farm in Gloucester we'd move back in a heartbeat," Damian admitted. "I'd love to raise my kids in Gloucester. I love it there."
But for now, he will focus on recovering from the reconstructive surgery he had on his Achilles in March, enjoy playing pain-free with his two daughters, Maggie and Bonnie, and staying involved in the community that has been so supportive of him over the years.
"Growing up in Gloucester I never thought I'd end up in Perth and this city has been so good to me," he said.
Due to COVID restrictions in Western Australia, he hasn't been able to come home to visit his parents. Damian's looking forward to when this will be possible.
"Facetime is good and everything, but my parents are really missing hugging the girls. I don't think they're worried about not seeing me though," he joked.