ONCE the dust settled on Australia’s agonising 71-73 quarter-final loss to Serbia overnight, the next thought hit the basketball world like a freight train.
That was the last time we’ll see Penny Taylor play.
We knew it was coming, but even now that it’s here it doesn’t seem quite right.
You could see that conflict of emotions in Taylor’s televised post-game interview – her face painted a picture of a thousand swirling thoughts.
Pain, guilt, sadness, regret, disbelief.
But above all Penny, our Victorian born and bred superstar, remained proud.
Nothing can ever take away from the immeasurable feeling of representing Australia – win, draw or sadly in this case, a heartbreaking loss.
“Turnovers, defence – we struggled to contain them,” Taylor said to Channel 7 commentator and fellow Victorian basketball legend Andrew Gaze after the match. “They spread us out pretty well…. not the way we wanted to play obviously.
“This sucks, but I’m always proud to play for my country.”
Ever since we saw her take to the international court for the first time in 2002… we knew something special was about to unfold.
After dominating the WNBL, it was only a matter of time before she’d head overseas and make her name into a reckoning force on the world stage.
The WNBA gleefully accepted her as she flourished with Cleveland… before heading to Phoenix to cement her league status.
But she always had time for us – Penny was always ready to suit up for the country.
2006 captivated the world as Lauren Jackson and Taylor showed the world that Australia won’t just be content with silver or bronze. We wear green and gold on the jerseys and we want that gold around our necks too.
Olympic campaigns reaped her two silver medals in Athens and Beijing as the superstar shone brighter and brighter with each passing day.
But those are just a few of the countless accolades, achievements, championships and honours that will line the trophy cabinet for Penny Taylor.
As Taylor settles into life off the court, plenty of questions will be asked about what we do now.
Where we take the side from here. How Australian basketball can even match up to her achievements, let alone surpass them.
It hurts to not play off for a women’s basketball medal – especially one to send Taylor off – but we should never think it’s a right to take for granted.
We became a basketball powerhouse on the international stage on the back of some incredible players – and we’ll have to find the next out-and-out superstar now.
Because honestly, anything less than a phenomenon will not be enough to replace Penny’s output.
Taylor’s coolness under pressure.
The security we all felt when she demanded the ball in clutch moments.
Her last Australian stat-line – two points, nine assists – will be glossed over in time as champions deserve to be remembered by their extraordinary achievements first and foremost.
The last word on Penny Taylor’s story shouldn’t be centred around disappointment though.
We were always truly blessed to have Penny running around – whether it was her first steps on court at Belgrave South Red Devils, all the way through to Dandenong and Phoenix Mercury in the elite leagues… or when she always made the time to come back to don the Australian jersey time after time.
There remains a small chance, a minute hope more than anything realistically, that there’s a bit more in the tank for Taylor. She’s been through the wringer with injuries and she’s 35-years-old… but we still want one more match.
One more series.
Another time leading our nation out on court.
That this can’t be the end for her as it’s not the ending she deserves, so perhaps that will drive the tenacious Taylor to go around again.
Another world championship tilt, returning to Australia in the WNBL… but if it’s not to be and this truly is it, then we were lucky to have her in the first place.
So thank you Penny.