IT might have been unexpected, and it was certainly unplanned, but for Opals superstar Lauren Jackson, any return to Albury is always a sweet homecoming.
The four-time Olympian was, in her own words, “deliriously tired” from her journey following what was a memorable London Games.
Jackson admitted she was still coming to grips with being the Australian flag bearer for the opening ceremony.
Combine that with meeting royalty, breaking the Olympics point-scoring record and winning bronze and it’s little wonder the Albury native needs a breather.
Jackson will rest here and at her parent’s home at Tuross Head before heading to Sydney and the Olympic athletes’ parade on Monday.
She will then fly out to complete the WNBA season with the Seattle Storm before returning to play for the Canberra Capitals, including a game in Albury against Bendigo on November 18 at the stadium named in her honour.
“Delirious still, I got back and had a big welcome home,” she said.
“I didn’t know I was coming back to Australia until about two days before we finished and basically, because I was the flag bearer, the AOC wanted me to lead the march when we got back home.
“The honour of being the flag bearer was just so great and all the stuff around it was a great chance to maximise what that means to me.”
But she never thought she was “qualified” to lead the team.
“To me the flag bearer is always someone who has achieved so much and was a level beyond just an athlete,” Jackson said.
“For me, I’d been to three Olympics and the flag bearers had achieved so much in sport and out of sport.
“I don’t know why I was chosen, it just took me to a different level in my head in terms of maybe how much of an impact I have made.
“It was the proudest moment of my life ... being able to lead the Australian Olympic team into the opening ceremony, you’re leading the best athletes in the world, it’s unbelievable.”
A highlight was meet ing the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, especially given her adolescent crush on Prince William.
“All little girls have crushes on princes, he happened to be the real-life prince,” she laughed.
“We were invited to a function to meet him and Kate and they were beautiful, so lovely to spend time with us.
“They’re everything they’re made out to be, the way they treat people is really humbling and beautiful.”
With her whirlwind schedule, Jackson admitted she didn’t know when she would sit down and fully contemplate the latest chapter in her glittering career.
“It’s been the most wonderful time, the past three weeks and one of my favourites,” she said.
“Coming home was just the greatest feeling (on Wednesday), getting off the plane and then being back in Albury.
“I’m just glad to be back here with people I love and care about and the city I love the most.”