Taipans veteran retiring with pride
CAIRNS Taipans champion Alex Loughton has the balance.
It is a quality a perennial leader in a professional sporting club has to have - for the respect of the playing group, coaches and the fans of the team, as well as the ability to hold teammates and coaches accountable for their actions when it is required.
Loughton joined the Taipans in 2010 and played the second-most games in the club's history - and he could put his arm around a teammate when they needed it, crack a joke in a team meeting or tell a teammate when they needed to be working harder or were not pulling their weight.
The popular forward describes his nature as always looking at the bigger picture, never focusing on how bad or positive the situation is in the moment, and trusting the process that if you do the work, you will receive the outcomes you desire.
Leading into his final home game this afternoon in the Far North, former teammates recalled stories of team barbecues organised by the power forward when the team was in a low patch, or Loughton wearing ugly T-shirts just for a laugh.
In his retirement press conference, Loughton spoke of wanting to have his teammates feel comfortable around each other, making jokes and telling stories, which led to better basketball on the court.
"He is the best captain I ever played under," 16-year NBL veteran Matt Burston said.
"His passion and the way he gets players to interact, he brought the imports, the coaches and the development players, everyone in between, on to the same page.
"When he speaks, people listen and they have trust about what he says."
During Loughton's decade in orange, the Taipins had their greatest success as a club, reaching two grand finals series.
Former Snake Dusty Rychart, who played for a handful of NBL franchises, said there was no luck about the fact Loughton was with the club when they nearly reached the pinnacle of Australian basketball.
"That was one of the reasons why we had success, he kept guys accountable and that starts with the captain," Rychart said.
"It starts from the top.
"But he always brought the humour to the locker room as well, he was passionate.
"You could not ask for a better teammate, I can't remember him ever talking down to a teammate or not buying into the program."
Born in Perth, Loughton would spend his first two seasons in the NBL with his hometown club, the Perth Wildcats.
Throw in a stop in Spain as well.
But where he found his niche, and where he will remain with his family post-hoops, is in Far North Queensland.
As countless former teammates and coaches have outlined, he bleeds orange - always having time to speak to fans of the community-owned club, giving the crowd a fist-pump after a game-changing three, or just chatting in a coffee shop.
"People listen to him because he is so passionate and he cares," Burston said.
"There are team meetings that I can remember when he welled up in tears, that is how passionate he is for the club.
"That showed with the way he played."
Loughton's NBL career started in 2007, but before that he was in Spain, played four years of college hoops, which is basically as professional as playing in the NBL.
In his own words, he is ready to hang up the boots after two decades of early morning wake-ups for training.
"I feel mentally and physically really good about moving forward, and moving on into life after basketball," Loughton said.
"I'm really proud of how I've gone about my business, and proud of the players I've played with and battled alongside.
"My family have been there supporting me, and the team has been really supportive of me and this decision.
"It'll be an emotional time for me, but it's always been about the hoops first."