BRAD COLE THE ADVOCATE Tucked away in a Devonport physiotherapy practice is a man who has had plenty of responsibility in his hands this year.
His name is Ryan Carroll, and to the casual basketball fan, he may be recognisable as the North-West Thunder’s go-to guy for various muscle and joint ailments during the NBL1 season.
But without wanting to be disrespectful to the stars of the game on a local level, Carroll list of clients in 2019 have a following that outstrips anything the Thunder have ever put on the court.
Yes, that team which included national basketball royalty like Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills, Joe Ingles and Matthew Dellavedova.
He was also part of history in the lead-up to the World Cup, helping the team during its two warm-up games against the USA at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium which attracted record-breaking crowds of over 50,000 on both occasions.
As a fan, Carroll was in basketball heaven when he received the call-up, but as a professional, he knew he had a job to do.
“They selected three physio’s for the World Cup, along with a strength and conditioning coach and a doctor – it was a pretty decent medical staff,” Carroll said.
“It wasn’t something I was expecting to get – there are plenty of other physios going around that are more qualified than I am.
“It was a humbling moment but daunting as well in the lead-up – these guys are grown men who have been performing in elite systems and know their bodies pretty well.
“There was definitely an element of nerves involved, not so much during the tournament but definitely in the lead-up as you get to know them.
“My fellow work colleagues hyped it all up but from a work point of view, and I’ve had some other dealings in different sports, you’re not there to be a fan, you’re there to work and that professional nature has to kick in.
“But you are certainly in awe, and the strange thing is that you know who they are because of their profile before you meet them.
“It was an interesting way to start things off.”
Looking after the stars of the game is undoubtedly the highlight in Carroll’s career, but by no means was it his first time with a national team.
He received his first appointment in 2015 for an Australian development camp, which he has now attended three times, and in 2017 worked with the under 17 team at the Oceania titles.
Last year saw Carroll travel to Germany with the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence, and the under 18 Asian Cup before linking up with the team again for the under 19 World Cup this year.
Carroll said being in the system helped him secure the role with the Boomers.
“I applied for an under 19s job in 2014 and didn’t get it, but then six months later Basketball Australia called and said they had this development camp which they use not only for players, but for coaches and staff as well,” he said.
“They asked if I would be interested and I said yes.
“I then spoke with the head physio last year about the juniors at a course up in Sydney, trying to get some continuity with them as they aspire to become Boomers.
“He had started with the team after the Olympic Games in Rio and was looking to make some changes with the NBA guys coming in and having different expectations.
“It was a case of just being in the system and the timing of the opportunity.”
At the World Cup, Carroll had a courtside view as the Boomers began to compile a winning run to get into a medal-winning position.
He said it was hard not to get caught in the emotion of the tournament as it progressed.
“I’ve done that with any of the teams I’ve been involved in, especially in finals at all levels,” Carroll said.
“Because I’ve always played team sports and love that environment, you do ride the highs and lows, and the World Cup was a 5-6 week tour where you are in each others pockets a fair bit through the good games and the bad games, along with the injuries.
“The travel was different – we were in six different cities through the tournament, but we knew the schedule going in so it wasn’t unexpected.
“It was all about travel, recovery, treatment and then prepare for the next game.”
By the time the semi-finals came around, the Boomers suddenly found themselves in contention to play for the gold medal, but fell in heartbreaking circumstances to Spain in double overtime.
That result was then compounded in the bronze medal game against France, which they lost by eight points.
“From the started they wanted a medal after never winning one before and they got close again,” Carroll said.
“The last two games weren’t how they wanted to finish off and it was very quiet in the rooms.
“But we all got together afterwards and it was a good way to finish off as a group.
“What you see is what you get with the team and the way they act on the court is the way they are off the court, which is very genuine.
“There were plenty of different personalities in the group, but they were all very welcoming which made it easier for the staff.
“There were still plenty of positives to come out of it all – it was still our best World Cup result and the team has now qualified for the Olympic Games.”
While the team is assured of a spot in Tokyo, Carroll’s position has no guarantees.
But even if he does miss out, he’s still pretty content at being able to combine the both the sport and job he loves.
“If I couldn’t be at the top level as an athlete, I always thought about how I could still be involved, and that’s why I started doing phyiso,” Carroll said.
“The World Cup gave me a taste of why I got into it and shows how much I want to be in that space.”