TWO of the Bendigo Telstra Braves' finest players of recent years will retire at the end of the 2007 South East Australian Basketball League season.
Jason Cameron and Sam Fotu yesterday announced they would hang up their singlets, just 12 days out from the Braves' grand final at the Schweppes Centre on August 11.
That match will be the last they play at home, with the ABA National Championships in Melbourne later this month their last games should Bendigo win the SEABL grand final.
Cameron, 33, joined Bendigo in 2004 from Queensland side South West Metro Brisbane, and has been co-captain of the side with Ben Harvey for the past three years.
He was the MVP in Bendigo's 2005 ABA National Championship winning team, and an integral part of the Braves' SEABL title the same year.
Fotu, 31, joined in 2005 after five years with Bendigo's south conference rival Mount Gambier, where he was a member of the Pioneers' 2003 SEABL and national double winning team.
Originally from Perth state league team Willoughton, Fotu has remarkably played play-offs every year in his eight-year SEABL career.
"I'm happy when I reflect on my career," Fotu said yesterday.
"I'm definitely going to miss playing at the Schweppes Centre, but I'm looking forward to spending some more time at home.
"Family's always come first for me and with another baby on the way, I'm looking forward to playing a bigger role at home.
"The Braves is a big commitment, and it shows in how successful we've been.
"But I couldn't go into another season without that full commitment, so it's time to hang them up."
Cameron has played 118 games with the Braves, averaging 13.7 points and a 43.4 per cent field goal record.
Like Fotu, Cameron was yesterday pleased with his decision to retire from the SEABL.
"It's been a very successful four seasons with the club and I think it's good timing with the young guys," said Cameron, who also played eight years in the NBL with the Townsville Crocodiles and the Brisbane Bullets.
"Obviously guys like Kevin Probert, Pat Jennings and Taylor Bell are coming through, so it's good timing to step aside for those guys.
"I won't be retiring as such, but the SEABL and the Braves are a big commitment, and if you're not 100 per cent committed to the training, then it's probably a good time to step aside.
"Right now my focus is on winning a championship and then hopefully a national championship.
"Once that's all done and dusted, then I'll start making decisions on my future and where I'm going to go."
Both Cameron and Fotu said winning championships and establishing "lifelong" friendships had been the highlights of their time in the game, and were hoping to leave the Braves with another SEABL title.
Braves coach Wayne Larkins said a victory on August 11 would be a fitting way to send the pair off.
He also paid tribute to Cameron and Fotu's work with the younger players in his squad.
"It's a sad day, but also a day of celebration and it means there will be a new era of Braves players coming through," Larkins said.
"They've had such great and distinguished careers at ABA level, and Jason also played NBL, but I think the biggest influence they've had at the Braves has been on the younger players.
"Guys like Kevin Probert, Pat Jennings, Taylor Bell, Warren Randall and Chris Hogan have learnt as much off Sam Fotu and Jason Cameron as they have off the coaches.
"They are constantly working with the young guys, and leading by example at training, and I'm sure them leaving will give us added motivation to win."