DELIVERING long overdue silverware to those invested in their basketball teams is something Nathan Sobey takes immense pride in.
He was the star in Warrnambool Seahawks' 2016 Big V championship and a role player, eager to provide spark off the bench, when Australia's men's basketball team collected its maiden Olympic medal in Tokyo last week.
To those looking in, the feats are worlds apart.
But for a basketball-mad kid whose mum had to write a letter asking for her then six-year-old son to play for Warrnambool's under 10 program 25 years ago both hold significance.
The Seahawks is where it all started; selection for the Boomers a culmination of a lifetime of hard work.
Now Sobey, in hotel quarantine with his bronze medal in safe keeping, wants to help his other team - Brisbane Bullets - end their own championship drought.
The point guard will return to the Bullets' fold - after a well deserved break with wife CC and daughter Harley - as they strive for their first NBL title since 2007.
"I just want to win a championship. I'd love to bring that here to Brisbane as well," Sobey told The Standard from a Brisbane hotel where he is serving a 14-day quarantine period imposed on all international travellers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I am still yet to get one and it's the ultimate goal, so we'll do what we can in the pre-season to get everyone fit and healthy and ready to go to start the season well and give ourselves every chance to get back into the playoffs."
Sobey is still on cloud nine; the enormity of the Boomers' achievement in Japan yet to sink in.
A medal had eluded the Australians in their first 14 Olympics. They'd finished fourth four times.
Champions, such as five-time Olympian Andrew Gaze, were left in tears after the Brian Goorjian-coached, Patty Mills-inspired team defeated Slovenia.
"It is so raw, what we've done, and being a part of something special, I think it will take some time to sink in," Sobey said.
"I'll have to sit down, unwind and fully recognise what has gone in to get this outcome.
"That is going to top anything, that game. It was amazing to be a part of. Even though I didn't play a whole heap, I don't really care.
"This is for all those people who have put work, blood, sweat and tears into the Boomers' program and culture over the years and set the tone of what it means to play for your country and be a Boomer.
"It just feels so good to bring that medal back."
Sobey's own journey to the dais endured twists and turns too.
Overlooked for state teams as a junior, he embraced the chance to play college basketball in America, finishing at the University of Wyoming, an NCAA division one school.
He earned a chance with Cairns Taipans as a development player on his return to Australia but game time was limited. Adelaide 36ers came calling.
A chance to spend the NBL off-season with Warrnambool in 2016 proved a turning point.
He willed the Seahawks to the title - their first in 18 seasons - and then went bang, becoming an overnight sensation at the 36ers.
"I came home and enjoyed playing basketball especially with X (Xavier Johnson-Blount), Tim (Gainey), Dion (Smith) and being around family for so long," Sobey said.
"I really enjoyed being home and found the passion and took confidence out of that and continued to work on stuff. It definitely helped me for sure."
Sobey soon found himself in the Australian program and went onto win gold at the Commonwealth Games in 2018.
He was then, somewhat surprisingly, left out of the Boomers' initial 24-player squad for the Tokyo Olympics.
But his form, which was rewarded with a spot in the All NBL first team, saw him earn a late call-up.
He then did enough to impress Goorjian and make the final 12-player roster.
"They just wanted me to be me, try and get after on the defensive end and do what I do on the offensive end and put pressure on the rim and make plays for others," Sobey said.
"I thought with the chances I got I did pretty well with that sort of stuff.
"I was glad I was able to get some minutes and help the team as much as I could."
It was an Olympic Games like no other, as was the Boomers' preparation in the USA.
Crowds were banned owing to Japan's COVID-19 numbers.
But Sobey and the Boomers soaked up as much atmosphere as they could in the athletes' village.
They were also among a small group of Australians who took part in the opening ceremony.
"When we first got to the USA and we were in California it was a lot better because they're back to sort of normal and we were allowed outside a bit there," Sobey said.
"But as we moved on and went to Vegas it was a lot stricter because we were about to be in that two weeks before the Olympics' window.
"We couldn't leave our hotels and whatnot and couldn't even go down to the lobby.
"We were pretty much stuck on our floor for most of it.
"In Tokyo they were still in a state of emergency outside of where we were but once we got into the village there was a lot more freedom than I thought we would have.
"We were allowed to walk around the village, chat to other people and teams and other countries and they had a big dining hall there."
On TV the 'fake crowd noise' helped give the illusion of a full house.
It was a different story inside the stadium.
Australia defeated Nigeria, Italy and Germany in its pool games before meeting eventual gold medallist America in the semi-finals.
A loss there set up a bronze medal clash against Slovenia.
"There was no fans at the games and that was the only disappointing thing but it is what it is," Sobey said.
"A couple of the girls' teams came and swimmers, like Cate Campbell, came to some games. We could hear them."
Sobey, 31, described the Boomers' team as being "an unreal group to be around" and savoured the chance to celebrate after the bronze medal game with his teammates and coaching staff.
Now, as the dynamic point guard awaits to be reunited with his family and spoil Harley after missing her second birthday, he can start to reflect on his journey.
"We were riding on a high and celebrating the last two days we were there and coming here (into quarantine) yes, I know I have the medal but not being able to celebrate it with everyone has put a hold on that (sinking in)," Sobey said.
"It will start to sink in when I can show the girls (CC and Harley), my family and my friends my medal.
"I want to come home to Victoria to also see family and friends and celebrate with them.
"With the way everything is right now (with state border closures), I don't know if that will get to happen (before the NBL pre-season starts).
"I would love to have Warrnambool basketball come together and be a part of it because they have been a huge part of me."
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