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Keith Narkle Inducted Into WA Football Hall Of Fame

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - 9:55 AM
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ANOTHER richly-deserved honour has been provided for Keith Narkle with the triple Swan Districts fairest and best winner and premiership player inducted into the West Australian Football Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2017.

If you reflect on the career of Narkle, it was only a matter of time until he joined the WA Football Hall of Fame and his time came in 2017 in what turned out to be a historic occasion held at Subiaco Oval as the venue prepares to farewell football with the opening of Optus Stadium at Burswood.

Narkle had a remarkable career with Swan Districts having started his senior football career with Bunbury in the South West Football League.

He arrived at Swan Districts for the 1971 season and up until the end of 1985, he had put together a career for the ages.

Along the way, Narkle played in Swans' hat-trick of premierships in 1982, 1983 and 1984. He was captain of the last two of those. He was also the Swan Medal winner as fairest and best at Swans in 1977, 1978 and 1984.

Being captain, fairest and best and of course a premiership player in 1984 made it a remarkable season in its own right for the then 32-year-old.

Narkle retired at the end of the 1985 season having played 254 games for Swan Districts and kicking 162 goals. He also represented WA on three occasions.

Since retirement the accolades have continued to be bestowed upon him, including being named to the Swan Districts Team of the Century and inducted into the Swan Districts Football Club Hall of Fame.

Now his legacy is cemented by entering WA Football's Hall of Fame joining younger brother Phil who was inducted in 2006.

Narkle was initially somewhat taken aback when he found out he was to be inducted, but pride soon took over as the overriding emotion.

"I was surprised when I was told about the honour of going into the Hall of Fame, but now that I have had time to think about it, it feels really good," Narkle told the South West Times.

A slightly built wingman with great pace and exquisite skills, Narkle rose from humble country origins to become a multiple premiership player and captain with Swan Districts. 

He retired with the third highest game tally in club history (254), and his three club best and fairest awards have been surpassed by only two players.

Narkle was born in Narrogin but the family spent time in Brookton, Boddington and Midland where he began playing football in junior ranks and progressed through to under-16s. Despite his diminutive stature, Narkle's football ability was well noted and he won several fairest and best awards with Midland. 

With the family moving to Bunbury, he joined Bunbury and won a league premiership in the SWFL.

Narkle became known for his outstanding skill and courage in Bunbury and, in the days before country zoning, was soon approached by several WAFL clubs. Ultimately Swans won his signature and he joined Swans in 1971 at the age of 18. 

But he will always be grateful for those hard lessons learned in Bunbury.

"I started out playing down in the South West and I played in a premiership with my uncle Max McGuire in 1970," he said. 

"I had some protection from the older guys and they sort of looked after me, but you learnt to look after yourself because if you're a good young player, you got whacked around a little bit. 

"Then I left my family had to board up in Perth to play at Swan Districts. It was good, though, because Swans recruited five or six guys from regional WA and we moved into a house together."

Narkle played in a thirds (now colts) premiership upon arriving at Swan Districts and made his league debut in the final round of 1971. By his fourth season, he was a league regular and by 1977, with brother Phil also joining Swans, he produced some of his most brilliant football and displaying excellent consistency under new coach John Todd.

He won the Swan Medal in both 1977 and 1978, and represented the state for the first time. 

Then following the breakthrough premiership win of 1982, the retirement of Graham Melrose mid-season in 1983 saw Narkle assume the captaincy.

He responded to the challenge superbly. A modest leader who led by example, Narkle led the club to a second consecutive premiership victory over Claremont.

He continued as captain in 1984 and his last full season was one of his finest as he played every game, won a third premiership, and also his third fairest and best award in a premiership season. 

He retired the following the year but it was being pushed out of his comfort zone to be captain and the support he received in that which will always be one of the proudest moments of his career.

"I'm not the type of guy who expressed myself a lot but Toddy liked the way that players responded under me," he said.

"Gordon Casey was also a big help. He taught us to be one, we were like a family. That is when we started performing and achieving some success as a team."

Joel Corey, Derek Kickett, Simon Black, Alan Johnson, Frank Walker, Peter Bosustow, Charles Doig, Mike Ball and Bob Shields were the other 2017 WA Football inductees. 

Haydn Bunton Snr was elected to Legend stats, joining his son Haydn Bunton Jnr in that honour, who was player-coach when Swan Districts won its first hat-trick of premierships in 1961-62-63.

By Chris Pike.