THEY have been Bendigo Braves teammates for 13 seasons and great mates for just as long.
But now, Taylor Bell and Chris Hogan have played their last game of basketball together in the renowned blue and yellow.
Co-captains for the past two seasons, including the club’s 2016 national championship winning year, Bell has called time on his distinguished Braves career, while Hogan is contemplating his future.
For certain, Hogan will not play next season for the Braves, the club he played his first SEABL game for in 2002 and has spent every season since at, with the exception of one brief stint with the Melbourne Tigers in 2006.
Bell arrived in 2003 and, like Hogan, has been an integral feature of the team since, save for a break in the 2012 season.
Together they have been a part of every major Braves accomplishment since their introduction to the team.
Their resume reads: two national championships (2005 and ’16), five conference championships, nine grand finals and key contributors in a club record 17 consecutive wins, stretching from late May in 2016, to round one of this season against the Dandenong Rangers.
The pair sit numbers one and two on the Braves’ all-time games list, Hogan with 397 and Bell with 336.
Both played 25 finals, which puts them equal-fifth in SEABL history.
‘Legends’ and ‘irreplaceable’ were the two words that sprang to mind when Braves coach Ben Harvey was asked to describe his side’s chiefs.
“What more can you say about Taylor Bell and Chris Hogan? The accomplishments speak for themselves,” Harvey said.
“More importantly, I am friend of both of those guys off the floor and I will cherish those friendships for the rest of my life.
“To know I was part of their journey and a successful journey, I am so proud to have been part of it.
“Those guys are irreplaceable.”
Rather than a retirement, Hogan like to consider himself as being on “long-service” leave in 2018, with the dream of playing 400 league games by no means over.
“I’m taking 12 months off and from there I’ll work out my priorities and see what happens,” he said.
“But at least for 12 months, I need to spend some time with my family; (daughter) Grace is growing up and running around, I don’t want to miss too much of that.”
Was the decision a hard one to make?
“Yes and no – I’m very happy with my decision,” Hogan said.
“It was difficult in that basketball has been such a big part of my life for such a long time and will still continue to be with my role at the ADP and Bendigo South East College.
“But it’s not like I am leaving the stadium, it’s just being able to spend time with (wife) Kym, Grace and other family.”
Hogan rated last year’s national championship win, coached by Harvey and played alongside Bell and younger brother David Hogan, with good mate Michael Gibbins as assistant coach, as extra special.
The 34-year-old reserved special praise for the retiring Bell, who it was revealed played through immense back pain during 2016, an ailment which restricted him to just a handful of games this season.
“I think Ben described him as a guy who ‘glues’ the team together,” he said.
“A lot of the things basketballers are measured on are based on statistics and in my experience that’s not necessarily the best way to do it.
“It was easy to see our group was so much more cohesive when Taylor Bell was on the floor.
“His IQ and his ability to get the best out of others was phenomenal.
“And his family always did what it needed to do for the club and went above and beyond to create a family atmosphere.”
Bell and Hogan, alongside Bendigo Lady Braves’ 323 gamer Jane Chalmers, were presented with service of recognition awards at the club’s presentation night on Wednesday.
Taylor Bell: 336 games; 25 finals (equal fifth all-time); 1,355 points; 904 rebounds (248 offensive); 317 assists; 109 steals.
Chris Hogan: 397 games (equal fifth all-time); 25 finals (equal fifth all-time); 1374 rebounds (426 offensive); 397 assists; 107 steals.