NZ Breakers star Corey Webster has revealed the mental toll of the Australian-based NBL season, admitting there were occasions when he and his teammates wanted to return to New Zealand.
On Sunday, the Breakers touched down in Aotearoa for the final seven-game stretch of their campaign, after 153 days across the Tasman.
Regional COVID-19 outbreaks saw the Breakers forced from state to state without a solid base, with games often cancelled and postponed at just a moment's notice.
The Tall Blacks guard admits that uncertainty, and the demands of being separated from friends and family had he and his teammates longing for the comforts of home, but ultimately, professional obligations prevailed.
"Everyone wanted to come home," Webster says. "I'm not going to downplay the mental health side of it - I struggled and I know that a lot of the other boys did too, but you've got to keep going.
"We're getting paid to do this. We're still lucky to play the sport we love and if we didn't do it, then possibly may not have been an NBL season this year.
"We had to make a huge sacrifice and we did that. Now we can try and put that behind us, and move forward."
The constant change meant the nomadic Breakers were often forced to cancel team practices, putting them on the back foot in many contests, before the opening tip.
On an individual note, the 32-year-old only found glimpses of the vintage form that established him as one of the league's premier guards.
"It was really hard to prepare," Webster notes. "Things were changing so much, we just had to be ready to be on the move at the drop of a hat.
"It was a lot of basketball to hotel rooms, no normal life. Can't go have a coffee with friends, no family around, don't get to sleep in your own bed
"All those things were quite draining, especially when you do it that long.
"I've got to be honest, it was a rough trip. It felt like the longest tour ever."
Those issues were exacerbated by their on-court struggles, as the lone Kiwi side in the competition found themselves mired at the bottom of the ANBL ladder and without a playoffs berth.
But after just a day back in New Zealand, Webster already feels like he's had a "breath of fresh air", and is rejuvenated and ready to close out their campaign with some wins for the Breakers faithful, who have waited so long to see their beloved team back on the court in the flesh.
"To see the kids, and see how much they've grown and changed, and reconnect with them, reconnect with family, it was just awesome," he says. "Everyone's happy and smiles around here now.
"Now we've got to just to get back and play some good basketball. We've been up and down as a squad, due to a lot of different factors.
"We've got a chance to regroup, play some games in font of our fans, get everyone in the basketball community engaged with us again."
The Breakers begin their homecoming stretch against Sydney King at Auckland's Trust Arena on Thursday night.