AFTER one game of AFL football, Quinton Narkle had captured the attention of the football public.
Brian Taylor had already given the dynamic young Cat a lasting nickname in Sparkle Narkle, and two impressive goals on the run showed he had the game to match the moniker.
Five more games followed in 2019, before the explosive West-Australian lost his place in the side after Round 21 against the Hawks.
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It was the beginning of a prolonged stint at the lower level for Narkle, but one that assistant coach Matthew Knights believes could set him up for success.
“I think sometimes the resilience of understanding that you’ve got to work for your opportunity (is beneficial),” Knights says.
“I think that’s sometimes the best way to come into the team and it’s no issue for any young player to have to earn your spot in the team.
“I think his form in the last month won him his spot in the team which is sometimes a really good thing.”
Just like his first game in the hoops, Narkle dazzled on his return to the bigtime on Saturday night.
Another pair of majors showed the hard-edged mid had lost none of the goal-sense that tantalised fans in 2018.
“The great thing that he did when he came in is that he capitalised on that opportunity,” Knights says.
“It means you’re well prepared when you come in and you don’t take any selection for granted. I don’t think he did that (take it for granted) – he came in with a good attitude to work hard and he had really earnt his spot.”
“To capitalise and kick two great goals really tops off the game. He was good in the contest but managed to hit the scoreboard with two pretty crucial goals and two quite difficult goals – but he did it well.”
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Sparkling finishes aside, it’s the inside grunt work that has really got the attention of the coaches.
“I think the best part of Quinton’s game was the contested part of it,” Knights says.
“His tackling pressure was good and he was also able to support others when they looked like winning the ball in tight, he was able to support them to be a good handball receive type player.”
“He’s got quite a good step and he’s got quite a good fend-off, so he’s got a couple of avenues he uses to evade out of tackles.”
“When he uses the fend it’s quite difficult to bring him down. He knows he has to pick and choose and I think he uses it at the right time. He doesn’t use it all the time which is part of the variety you need as a player. You can’t be doing the same thing every time.”
“I thought his stoppage craft was excellent. He played against good players in guys like Higgins and Cunnington and Jack Ziebell at times, so for him to be able to match them as a young player was quite significant on the night.
The Cats will be hoping Narkle can stick in the side this time around, with a role in the guts on offer for a side ready for finals football.
“(We see him) predominantly as an inside mid at this stage of his development. He’s played predominantly that role in the VFL and done it well so I see him more as that (rather than a forward),” Knights says.
“A lot of the mids in the modern game do have to be able to go forward and play five or ten per cent of game time up there as well and he’s certainly dangerous when he does that because he’s a goalkicker and quite creative.”