WHENEVER a cool head was needed in their preliminary final battle against Frankston Blues, his Bendigo Braves team-mates looked to Chris Hogan.
And why not?
While the cast around him has continued to revolve and evolve in recent seasons, the one constant has been the Braves dependance on their two-time national championship player for his veteran leadership.
That cool control was again evident last weekend in Frankston, as the Braves set up a NBL1 grand final showdown against Nunawading Spectres with an 18-point win over the Blues.
Playing game number 444 for the Braves, the club games record holder tipped in 13 points and had three rebounds.
But it's the stuff not reflected on the scoresheet that continues to endear Hogan to team-mates and command their unrelenting respect.
"It's like having a third coach out there, he knows what to do in every situation," said import Deonte Burton.
"The Frankston crowd was crazy and we loved it, but Hoges was poised, never panicked and was never sped up or in a hurry."
"It's great learning from Hoges."
The heart and soul of the Braves gets his opportunity at a third national championship in Saturday night's inaugural NBL1 grand final.
It's a chance Hogan, who started with the Braves in 2002, intends to grab with both hands.
It's like having a third coach out there, he knows what to do in every situation.Deonte Burton
While the Braves were largely written off from contention after scraping into eighth place with an 11-9 record, Hogan - who played in championship wins in 2005 and 2016, said there was always a belief among the playing group they could get this far.
"We did in our own team, but I also understand lots of other people didn't think we'd go close,' he said.
'But it's one thing to think it and it's another to make it come to fruition. It's exciting, but we've still got some work to do.
"We're playing with a lot of confidence, but at the same time, we are about to go to war with a very well-drilled and well coached outfit in Nunawading."
Speaking of coaches, it's been a season of change for the Braves and Hogan, with his younger brother David taking over the reins and leading the team to a grand final in his first season.
Asked if the relationship had been tested at all during the season, Hogan admitted to a 'a few disagreements, but nothing major'.
"I'm sure I'll tell him I'm proud of him if we win on Saturday," he said with a laugh.
"But in all seriousness, he's done a very good job for someone in his first year.
"By his own admission he's learnt a lot along the way, but he has a put a very good team together and has a team that trusts him and wants to play for him.
"He also has an incredible support network around him that includes his family and blokes like Michael Gibbons, Taylor Bell and Justin Cass.
"There are some heads that are there for the right reasons, but also have a tremendous amount of knowledge."
For his part, coach David Hogan admitted he was proud of Chris, but could not resist a jibe at his elder brother, who at 36, will be the second oldest player on the court on Saturday night behind Nunawading's Simon Conn, who was born 70 days earlier in 1983.
"He's maybe not quite as athletic as he used to be, battening down the hatches in the big man department," he said.
"But down the other end he still gets to shoot his threes.
"It's a super-effort for Chris (to get another shot at a grand final) and a testament to the way he prepares on and off the court to play close to 450 games for the club and still be doing it at such a high rate.
"We've had our words at times, but I am lucky the whole group has been nothing but respectful through this whole first year, and that is reciprocated by our coaching staff."
Chris Hogan believes the Braves had every right to be confident of adding their first national title since 2016 - and the first in the new league - but is wary of the old adage anything can happen in finals.
As to whether Saturday night might be the last time we see him in a Braves jersey, Hogan chuckled before delivering a measured response.
"You can ask (wife) Kym at about 9.30pm Saturday night," he said.
"Win Saturday and I'll let you know."
It's a super-effort for Chris and a testament to the way he prepares on and off the court to play close to 450 games for the club and still be doing it at such a high rate.David Hogan
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