TAYLOR Bell has been around long enough to know that things haven’t gone to plan for the Bendigo Braves so far this season.
He’s also been around long enough to know that it can be turned around.
The Braves veteran plays his 350th game tonight, becoming the second active Braves player to reach the milestone behind Chris Hogan.
The long-time co-captains have played much of their career alongside one another and even decided to retire – and then come back – in concert last year.
“Last year was probably one of my most fustrating years, I’ve been lucky that I haven’t had many long-term injuries before so being able to only play six games especially when the team struggled was really frustrating,” he said.
“Toward the end of the year my back still wasn’t right and with where I was with my work career I thought maybe it was time to walk away and Hoges kind of indicated that he was going to take some time off as well.
“Then I first got contacted by (Jeremy Kendle) and he said he wanted to come back, which got my mind going a bit, and then Hoges said he was going to play and it’s hard to walk away from those guys and those relationships you make.”
Bell said this week he felt he had unfinished business after a bitterly disappointing 2017 in which the defending champion Braves missed the playoffs.
“I probably wasn’t happy with where the team was at the end of last year, to leave it where it was last year where our culture probably wasn’t great and our results definitely weren’t there didn’t sit right with me,” he said.
“I feel we’re in a better position this year although our form still isn’t great, we’re a bit up and down, I do think the club’s in a better place.”
They face Mount Gambier at home tonight as the first match in a stretch in which the team plays eight games in five weeks including three double-headers.
The Pioneers and Braves have been fierce rivals for the better part of the last decade, a rivalry that Bell, Hogan and coach Ben Harvey have been big parts of.
“I’ve had that question a bit this week and I actually like it, we’ve had some great battles and this year they’re probably in a similar position to us where their form hasn’t been what they would like,” Bell said.
“I really enjoy playing against them. Some people think it’s this rivalry where we hate each other but it’s not at all. They’re a good group of lads and there’s a real respect there.
“Hopefully it’s the start of a stretch where we really turn things around.”
– Joel Peterson