Some professional athletes shy away from being role models, but any parent looking for someone for their child to grow up admiring need look no further than Perth Wildcats captain and Rio Olympian Damian Martin.
Martin’s basketball exploits speak for themselves and will leave him one of the most decorated NBL players in history, as a three-time championship winner, two-time title=winning captain, grand final MVP and five-time best defensive player.
He has also been a regular Australian Boomer, topped off with making up for the heartbreak of missing out in London in 2012 to play at Rio in 2016.
What makes Martin truly stand out though, is his remarkable recuperative powers, to make quicker-than-expected returns, his understated toughness and pain threshold, ability to have an impact on his team winning games by making his teammates better, and the way he conducts himself on the court.
There is no better representative for their club, league, sport and country than Martin. There could be no more selfless person, yet his competitiveness is remarkable.
The continued work he does away from the court to help anyone of any description in any way he can truly make him unique.
Martin regularly gives up his time with or without the knowledge of his club to help out a charity, anyone less fortunate, down on their luck, any good cause or simply anyone who has made the effort to ask for his presence, signature, photo or smiling face.
With athletes in the news for all the wrong reasons in any number of sports at any given time, it’s worth taking a moment to acknowledge one player who might fly under the radar given the status of basketball in comparison to the football codes, but who deserves to be put in the spotlight.
Only last week, Martin again showed just how tough and tenacious he is. Having gone down with a knee injury on November 5, not only did he return much sooner than expected but showed how valuable he is.
Martin played a key and crucial role in the Wildcats’ road wins over the Sydney Kings and Brisbane Bullets. While new import Bryce Cotton received the headlines, it was Martin’s return that allowed the Cats to again look like a smooth running machine and to climb to second spot.
Suddenly, with Martin at the helm, the defending champions appear a title threat leading into Saturday night’s return to Perth Arena against the league-leading Adelaide 36ers where Martin goes one-on-one with Sixers superstar point guard Jerome Randle.
What went unnoticed during Martin’s absence with his knee injury was that he again hurt his jaw for the third time in 12 months. That required a third surgery as well, but to watch Martin’s stifling and physical defence is to know that he is anything but worried about a fourth jaw injury.
Martin initially thought the worst and that he could have ruptured his ACL but when that wasn’t the case, he eyed a January return that he achieved. The jaw was a concern too, but the positive out of the knee problem was that the jaw is stronger than before the first fracture.
“The jaw actually copped a cheap shot during the game so I actually had to go in for more surgery on that two days after the game. That little knock unfortunately moved the plate and some of the screws that I had only had put in ten days earlier,” Martin said.
“With one leg in a knee brace, I went and had surgery again and on the bedside table was the two screws and plate they had taken out.
“They also took out my two wisdom teeth because that’s where the fracture was. Because I had time on the sideline anyway, they figured they would try and make sure it was as strong as possible so the jaw is completely healed, which is the silver lining.”
While Martin has suffered jaw, knee, ankle and Achilles complaints over the past 24 months, the fact that all have been caused by impact and not soft tissue related mean that he has no concerns that his body is trying to tell him anything.
“Obviously at 32 years of age, if I was constantly getting calf injuries or was having hip problems, I have seen teammates have to retire earlier than they would like because of their body giving way. Cam Tovey was a prime example of that,” he said.
“Although I’ve had a few injuries this season and the broken jaw last season, they required me coming into contact with another player opposed to running along and something snapping or tearing. Touchwood that’s my injuries for the foreseeable future.”
A big reason why Martin is able to stay positive through the injuries, is because of the remarkable highs he’s enjoyed. Just in 2016 alone, he won another championship, was named grand final MVP and was selected to represent Australia at the Olympic Games in Rio.
His wife, Brittany, then gave birth to the couple’s first child, Maggie, on the eve of the 2016-17 NBL season, so it’s hard for Martin to find much to complain about.
“To go from winning a championship in March to then making the Olympics, to have those ultimate highs in your professional career still doesn’t compare to being at the birth of your child. It’s such a great thing for life balance,” he said.
“I’m a player who brings training and games home, but now I walk through the door and I have a baby’s nappy to change or a baby I find myself staring at for hours. It’s amazing how much you can love someone so little.
“It has turned my life upside down and I’m thoroughly enjoying it even though I have no idea what I’m doing. But with Maggie, it’s good to have such a beautiful young bub. We are excited for the future but it really does take your mind off basketball and keeps everything in perspective.”
Just to further highlight how selfless Martin is, he is already thinking of sitting around with teammates Matt Knight, Greg Hire and Jesse Wagstaff as they watch their children grow up with all four having newborns in 2016.
“It’s beautiful that Greg Hire’s bub is only a few weeks younger than Maggie, Jesse Wagstaff and Steph had a baby four days after Maggie was born, our assistant coach Jamie (O’Loughlin) had one and even Tom Jervis has had one in 2016 and Matty has a newborn this year,” Martin said.
“I love the idea of looking years ahead when we are all retired basketballers and our young kids can grow up together being best friends.
“It’s a beautiful image and hopefully it’s one that comes off where we can sit on the balcony and laugh at the old playing days, but be more excited to talk about our children.
“It’s a sign of how we’ve grown up together and how much time we’ve spent together as teammates, and now we get to be fathers together which is more special than any championship.”
Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Monday
Adelaide 36ers 117 beat Illawarra Hawks at Titanium Security Arena
Cairns Taipans 65 beat New Zealand Breakers 63 at Cairns Convention Centre
Illawarra Hawks 106 beat Melbourne United 88 at WIN Entertainment Centre
Sydney Kings 74 lost to Perth Wildcats 80 at Qudos Bank Arena
New Zealand Breakers 95 lost to Adelaide 36ers 113 at North Shore Events Centre
Brisbane Bullets 68 lost to Perth Wildcats 72 at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre