COACH David Hogan, his players and the Bendigo Braves organisation are being flooded with well-wishes ahead of this Saturday night's NBL grand final - some from unlikely sources and in unusual circumstances.
Among the unexpected were those personally delivered by former Braves fan favourite Sam Fotu.
The popular 2005 national championship guard is back in Bendigo this week with wife Karina and their three children, to watch his daughter Alira represent Western Australia at the School Sport Australia National Championships.
He was naturally stoked to discover on his arrival back on Sunday, that the Braves men had secured their place in this weekend's inaugural NBL1 grand final against Nunawading Spectres with a stirring win over Frankston Blues last Saturday.
"The Braves just have a culture of winning now," he said.
"When we came through in '05 and had such an amazing year, they've always been in the playoffs, grand finals.
"No matter where I go, most people around basketball know who the Braves are, and a lot of that is about the success they have had over the years - and now the facility."
Most thoughts for Fotu, as the Braves prepare for grand final battle, are with his former team-mate and club games record holder Chris Hogan.
The veteran is the sole survivor from the '05 championship team, with the former point guard continually amazed by Hogan's durability and longevity.
"Anything over 400 games is phenomenal, but to do it with one club that is an absolutely amazing feat," said Fotu, who recalled Hogan being a "chirpy youngster, trying to get inside my head', when the pair were on opposite teams in the early 2000s.
"To stay fit and to stay relevant in a team, which he has been able to do, is a credit to him.
"He was a great team-mate to play alongside. I couldn't be happier for a bloke to reach such a milestone and I just hope he finishes with a win."
Fotu laughed at the irony of Alira's first national tournament appearance for Western Australia coming in the city where she, her older sister Leila, 13, and brother Sonny, 8, were born.
"When we heard it was Bendigo, we straight away thought how awesome it would be to come back after playing so many years here," he said.
"It's a real buzz for Karina and I and a big thrill for Alira."
I couldn't be happier for a bloke (Chris Hogan) to reach such a milestone and I just hope he finishes with a win."Sam Fotu
Fotu, who also won a national championship with Mount Gambier Pioneers in 2003, said he could only feel jealous wandering around the redeveloped Bendigo Stadium.
"I just hope that everyone who gets to play in this amazing venue knows how they lucky they are to play here," he said.
"I was lucky enough to play around the country and there's nothing like what the Bendigo players get to play in. I'm pretty jealous."
Alira, who like her father is a left-handed point guard, is relishing her first time representing her state, with Western Australia's under-12 girls team in third spot on the ladder after Tuesday's round of matches.
"Our team is pretty good, we've got a few bigs. Height is a real factor in this tournament," she said.
"It was a good win this morning (by one point over New South Wales).
"We will be in the bronze medal game. Victoria and Queensland have strong teams."
Alira still retains several friendships from her early years in Bendigo, most notably with Lily and Mia Harvey, the daughters of former Braves star and coach Ben Harvey.
So where did Fotu, who wore the #42 jersey for the Braves from 2005 to go after he left Bendigo and what is he up to these days?
"I was working for a media company Hit FM and Triple M and a job came up in the west, which was a little closer to home," he said.
"We've been in Bunbury the last eight years.
"I played one more year of SBL there, just to clock up 200. But as we have discovered, everywhere we go, sport is such a great way to meet people and get involved in the community.
"Now I am a coach and a parent with my kids, and still with the radio station.
"All the kids were born in Bendigo, so to bring them back here to see where I played a lot of my career has been a bit of a buzz for them and me too."
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