BENDIGO Braves stalwart Taylor Bell has turned his back on retirement to continue his 336-game career with the SEABL club.
The Braves’ 2016 championship co-captain announced his decision to retire at the end of last season, but will instead line-up for an incredible 15th season.
Bell, who sits second on the club’s all-time games played list behind only long-time team-mate Chris Hogan (397), appeared in just six games in 2017 before a debilitating back injury brought a premature end to his season – and seemingly his career.
But following an extensive rehabilitation regime, Bell has declared himself fit and hungry to resume his playing career with the club has represented with distinction since 2012.
The veteran leader revealed it was returning import and 2016 SEABL most valuable player Jeremy Kendle, who first reached out to him about a possible return.
“Jeremy reached out to me in November just before he signed and naturally Chris Hogan has been at me and at me to see what I am doing,” Bell said.
“To be honest I didn’t think I would be playing, I thought I was totally done – my back wasn’t in a good position.
“Fortunately I have been able to spend a fair bit of time in the gym with Arj (Perera) at The Human Mechanics and I am making some good progress from the injury, so I’m going to pull the boots on again and see what happens.”
Bell further praised Brendon Smits, from CrossFit By Design, for his role in kick-starting his road to recovery.
The 31-year-old admitted disappointment with how the 2017 panned out, as the Braves missed the finals for only the second time in coach Ben Harvey’s reign.
There was also frustration that he could not contribute more while sidelined both during practice and on game day.
“Before Jeremy contacted me I really hadn’t given any thought to playing again, but it made me sit back and think how disappointing, not just the result was, but the way I would have been leaving the culture of the group,” he said.
“One thing that Chris and I pride ourselves on as being captains is we always had a good culture within our team and last year that wasn’t there and it probably showed in our results and on the court.
“To go from winning a championship and having the best culture in the league both on and off the court, to having a pretty terrible culture did not sit well with me.
“That was a major reason for coming back, to rectify that.
“And not only that, we have some great young talent coming through, and whatever I can do to give them some of my knowledge, I am keen to do.
“It doesn’t worry me how much I play; I just want to be involved.”
Faced with the prospect last August of being without both his veteran leaders this season, coach Harvey was rapt to have both Hogan and now Bell back on-board.
“Taylor is such a great leader; he’s not what he was 10-years ago body-wise, but he is really working on his fitness and is going to be a really valuable player in more ways than one,” he said.