COMING off winning the SBL championship, Geraldton Buccaneers coach Dayle Joseph knew he wanted to continue to bring through local young players at the Buccs and that’s why he was so delighted when Johny Narkle decided to commit to basketball.
Right through his teen years in Geraldton, Narkle was successfully able to play both Australian Football and basketball to great effect but he knew there’d always be a time he either had to pick one sport to try to go to the next level, or stay where he was and stay decent at both.
There’s no question Narkle had the ability to at least play state league level football and basketball so that meant that a WAFL or SBL career was in his future – the only thing was one day he would have to decide which he wanted more.
The Geraldton Buccaneers were the reigning SBL champions coming into 2020 and they were desperate to bring Narkle fully onto their roster, but coach Dayle Joseph needed 100 per cent commitment from the hugely talented small forward who stands over 200cm tall.
Narkle ended up deciding it was basketball he wanted to stick with and signed with the Buccs for the SBL season, but then COVID-19 took that away and left him in limbo without sports to play for months.
But the West Coast Classic has now started up in the place of the SBL in WA and Narkle is taking on an ever-increasingly important role at the Buccaneers as they have lost their imports and also key players including last year’s Grand Final MVP Liam Hunt.
That means it has gone from a year of development for Narkle to one where the Buccaneers are going to be requiring him to be a key member of their team who plays big minutes and who can put up points at one end, and help stop them at the other.
Now Narkle is six games into career at state league level and has played all of them away from home, but has shown encouraging signs as a two guard who can play both ways as a dangerous offensive threat and a strong defender.
He can now look forward to his first home game this Saturday night when the Buccs host the Warwick Senators, but he does so with confidence having put in some good performances down in Perth already.
Joseph has long been keeping an eye on Narkle as a player for the future with the Buccaneers, but he also knew he was quite the talented footballer and that it wasn’t going to be an easy to get him to commit fully to basketball.
However, over the off-season Narkle decided it was basketball he wanted to pursue and put everything into and Joseph has been impressed with his performances and work ethic to learn and improve ever since.
“We had a little bit of trouble trying to get Johny to commit there for a little while because he’s a footballer as well and he’s a multi-talented sports person,” Joseph said.
“He had other avenues and he was trying to mix both there for a little which meant sometimes he wasn’t fully committed to basketball, but at the start of the SBL season we had a quick meeting and he committed to basketball, which we were ecstatic about.
“We could see a lot of upside to Johny playing basketball whether it’s a slow start or not, but we think in years to come he can become quite a big part of Buccaneers basketball.
“Not only that, but we don’t have a lot of Indigenous kids playing the game so he can be a leader in that avenue for us as well.
“We do have a couple of others who have come through the system and they go on to become leaders in their own community. So we hope that Johny can do the same and help others follow in his footsteps.”
Narkle has shown some encouraging signs in the opening weeks of the West Coast Classic and his development is going to be fast tracked as he gets accustomed to playing against current or former NBL players, and American imports over the next seven weeks.
“We just have to get him to play with a little bit more energy and for him to have more confidence in his ability to play at both ends,” Joseph said.
“But he’s certainly on the improve and this little mini-tournament that we are playing in will benefit him and a number of our other younger players moving forward when we move into the real stuff with the SBL.
“He might have only played minimal minutes if this was the SBL and I might have had a bit of trouble convincing him to stick with basketball because he could easily go play football for a team.
“But now this is working out really well for him and some of our other younger guys to play, and get a taste of what semi-professional basketball is about and what it takes.”