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Intertwined

On court, Matt Knight and Damian Martin are best known for being highly-skilled, fiercely competitive and pivotal members of the Perth Wildcats championship sides of 2014 and 2016. While they obviously share a close bond on the court, the two also share a very close and unique friendship off it. Remarkably, like school kids who make sure they’re always on the same team in the playground, these two have played alongside each for almost their entire careers. “We’re like an old married couple,” laughs Martin, to which Knight agrees: “It’s been quite a while, like a long-term marriage almost.” To get to the start of the Martin-Knight friendship you have to go all the way back to national junior competitions when the two, representing NSW and Tasmania respectively, would cross paths. “He [Knight] was always one of the best players throughout nationals,” says Martin. “Whenever NSW were about to play Tassie we’d be saying ‘we’re going to come against Matty Knight, 6’8”, broad shoulders’ even back then.” While the two were at the AIS together for nine months and were both part of the Australian team that won the gold medal at the 2003 FIBA Under-19 World Championship, their lives truly became intertwined when they both signed to play College basketball for Loyola Marymount University in California in 2003. “We roomed together the whole four years,” says Knight. “We actually both started studying the same course [Primary School Teaching] and throughout the four years we took the same classes each semester. So not only did we room together, we were in class together, we had study hall together, we were at practice together, so we were pretty much together 24/7 for four years.” While Knight’s recollection of the time suggests the two were nothing but hard working students and athletes, Martin’s raucous laughter when recounting the time makes the mind boggle. “These dorms, they had two single beds basically with about three metres separation and that was he and I for four years… There’s a million stories I could share about Matty but not many he would like me to retell,” he laughs. “We had so many good times at LMU and it just ticked every box you wanted.” When their time at LMU came to an end, you’d think they would have been thoroughly sick of one another. But alas no, the Knight/Martin bond could not be broken and they would be reunited in the NBL at the West Sydney Razorbacks. However, while Martin promptly joined the former Australian U20s coach Rob Beveridge in West Sydney for the 2007/08 season, Knight took a little more time, but Martin wasn’t going to leave it to chance that his great mate would join him. “I was still in LA at the time and he would phone every day after practice telling me how good it was and that he really wanted me to come back to Sydney and be on the same team again. So I packed up and headed back to West Sydney,” says Knight. However, due to financial problems at the club, Martin and Knight’s first season in the NBL was a difficult one. “There was a lot of uncertainty of what was happening,” recounts Knight. “One day we were out, the next day we were back in, then the following day we were out, so it was pretty tough to stay motivated. “But we were a very young team at that stage, so Bevo just had us go out and play and as tough as it was we still had a lot of fun and we got to finish the season, which was good.” It was after the completion of the 2008/09 season, when the club (now the Sydney Spirit) finally dissolved, that Knight and Martin’s paths briefly strayed. Knight, having long wanted to play in Europe was off. But thankfully for Martin, he wouldn’t be gone too long. “I think he must have got sick of me for a year so he took off to Europe, but I like to think he missed me and had to come back,” laughs Martin. After that year away, Knight joined back up with Martin and Rob Beveridge at the Perth Wildcats. Knight may have missed out on tasting championship success in 2010 but has since gone on to win two more championships alongside his great mate and a very close group of core players that includes Jesse Wagstaff, Greg Hire and Shawn Redhage. “We always do things together and our partners really get along so it’s fantastic over here. And with the success we’ve had, you can pretty much say keeping the core group together probably played a pivotal part in that,” says Knight. But just when you thought the bond between these two couldn’t get any closer, it turns out the celebrant that married Matt and his wife Sherelle was none other than, you guessed it, Damian Martin (who had obtained his celebrant’s licence in the first place so he could officiate at the wedding of Greg Hire and his fiancée). As for how long we might see Martin and Knight together playing for the Wildcats, well, a couple more years at least. At the close of last season Knight signed on for another two years, and not long after his great mate’s signature had dried on the contract, Martin signed on himself for a further three years. “I want to win at least another three championships and then I’ll take it from there,” says Martin. Hopefully Matty Knight is a teammate that whole time.”  
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