FEW who watched Quinton Narkle closely over his formative years as a footballer would deny the indigenous livewire has the potential to be something special.
All that Narkle needs, it seems, is a platform of continuity after a string of setbacks that has included a knee reconstruction and multiple soft tissue injuries during his first three years in the AFL system.
“It’s been tough, but I’m still young, and I’ve got a lot of footy left in front of me,” the 21-year-old told krockfootball.com.au.
“There are a lot of other boys who have been a lot luckier (with injuries) than what I have, but I’m doing what I can, and I’m just grateful to be where I am at.”
Narkle, who has played half a dozen AFL games since being drafted in 2016, made a successful return from six weeks out with a hamstring injury in the gritty VFL win over Northern Blues on Saturday.
The Perth product started in the centre square and gathered 19 disposals through the midfield while on restricted game time.
“I was saying to a few of the boys that I just felt real happy and comfortable out there,” Narkle said.
“It feels like I haven’t even been away at all. It’s just good to be back out there with the boys. We’ve got a real good group, and it was a bonus to get the win.”
Importantly for Narkle, he was able to call upon the strength and power that have been features of his game when fit.
“Physically, I feel pretty good,” he said.
“It’s been pretty hard the last few weeks, just because I’ve had all these niggles going on. I took a few extra weeks to get my body right and came out and got through the game, which is a tick.
“I was blowing a bit in the first few minutes, but after that, 10 minutes into the game, I felt real good.
‘I felt quick and strong, which is what I wanted to come back and feel.”
Geelong VFL coach Shane O’Bree was buoyed by what he saw as Narkle racked up early touches and gave his side drive through the middle of the ground in difficult conditions.
“He was really good and real zippy,” O’Bree said.
“We spoke about his ability to win the contest, take it on, find his gaps and use the ball well, and that was Narks today.
“He played a really good game off a six-week rehab program.
“We’ve got to keep looking after him because we don’t want another hiccup.
“It’s more about how we add more workload into him at training to help him play games.”
Narkle hopes to break the shackles when Geelong takes on fellow VFL finals hopeful Box Hill in Round 14 and is eyeing a possible return to the senior side later this year.
“We’ll talk about it throughout the week, but it looks like I’ll be able to play a full game next week and just try to put good footy out on the park,” he said.
“It would be a goal (to play AFL this season), but right now it’s obviously a hard team to crack into, and I’m just focusing on my body most of all.
“I want to play good footy and hopefully get through the rest of the season, whether that’s AFL or VFL, I don’t really mind.”
Narkle has time on his side, having signed a contract extension in July last year that ties him to Geelong until the end of 2020.