The West Australian has averaged 20 disposals per game across nine matches so far this year and booted 8.4. Image: AFL Photos.

WHEN Essendon list manager Adrian Dodoro strolled onto the grass at The Hangar just after 7.30pm on Wednesday night to bring a VFL training session to a halt, Quinton Narkle hoped it meant his AFL career had a pulse again. And it does. 

Seven months after being delisted by Geelong following 41 appearances across six seasons at GMHBA Stadium – and three months after being left shattered when Richmond went with Kaelan Bradtke instead of him at the end of the pre-season supplemental selection period – the 25-year-old is back in business, back in the business.

It is not often a list manager from one club delivers the news that you've been selected by another club, but that is the pure, unadulterated magic of the Mid-Season Rookie Draft. Lives change, as the seasons have transitioned from autumn to winter overnight. 

Narkle opted to join Essendon's program under Leigh Tudor in March over playing with the Tigers' reserves because he thought it was his best chance of landing a second chance. WAFL and SANFL clubs picked up the phone, but it was Dodoro's interest that led the West Australian to settle in Melbourne and use the VFL as a showroom to a bigger, grander stage. 

Instead of picking Narkle, Essendon used pick No.9 to select WAFL key forward Jaiden Hunter, a 21-year-old from the Perth Demons who can provide security in the absence of Harry Jones, before Port Adelaide pounced two selections later. 

West Coast had maintained interest in Narkle across the summer and heading into the Mid-Season Rookie Draft and Richmond wasn't completely out of the picture, but it was the Power who flicked the switch late. 

Port Adelaide snapped up Narkle with pick 11 in the AFL mid-season draft. Image: AFL Photos.

Port Adelaide list manager Jason Cripps organised a meeting with Narkle and his manager, Anthony Van Der Wielen from Empire Sports Management, inside the Pullman Hotel in East Melbourne on Saturday. The Power were in town to play Richmond and senior coach Ken Hinkley and GM Chris Davies wanted to sit down with the midfielder ahead of Wednesday night.   

"It is pretty special. I don't know if a lot would understand where I've been through over the last eight or nine months since Geelong let me go," Narkle told  

"There were a few things that I needed to tighten up in my game if I wanted to get back in the system. I thought I did that at Richmond in terms of body comp and fitness; I thought I was doing really well and putting myself in the best position possible at Richmond, but things didn't pan out my way. 

"It was a big build-up. It was pretty special to find out. All day I've been on edge, not sure of what was going to happen. It was definitely really special because I was prepared if it didn't happen. The reason for being at Essendon was to try and get on that list, but things don't always work out the way you plan it to."


Sam Powell-Pepper sat in on the meeting inside the team hotel on the weekend and walked out of it with his great mate daring to dream what could happen. Although they didn't want to get their hopes up, given what transpired in February at Punt Road with another of their tightest friends.

Narkle, Powell-Pepper and Shai Bolton all met at school in Perth where they received scholarships to Wesley College. They played school and state footy together, where they became more like brothers than friends. The game has taken them to the top, but not without a few bruises along the way.  

"It's been pretty crazy. Over summer I thought I was going to be at Richmond with Shai, who is one of my closest mates. Shai, Sam and I are really close. We went to school together. We played school footy, got drafted together and have remained close. I thought I was going to end up at Richmond with him and things didn't go my way," Narkle said.

"Now I'm at Port, it is pretty special. Sam and I are so close; he has been through a lot and supported me along the way through a lot of things and I've supported him along the way through a lot of things. To be there with him is so special; I know he is going to have my back, show me the way and help me fit in as well as I can."

Narkle already has a few friendly faces at Alberton, joining ex-teammate Frank Evans and childhood mate Sam Powell-Pepper. Image: AFL Photos.

The move feels like fate. Narkle and his partner are expecting their first child in two months. They are due a week before Powell-Pepper and his fiancée are expecting the arrival of their second baby. 

"It is almost like it was meant to be. That is something to look forward to in the next two months. Definitely going to be busy, but my partner and I are pretty excited to start our next chapter," Narkle said.

When Geelong told him his time was up in the days after Chris Scott's side won its 10th premiership last September, Narkle believed he still had more to offer another club. He just needed a lifeline. 

But when Richmond used its final spot on someone else and then failed in its late bid to convince the AFL to allow them to sign Narkle when Jason Castagna retired days after the pre-season supplemental selection deadline, the Perth Demons product thought the ship may have left the harbour. 

"It felt like my chance had gone. At times, I thought maybe this isn't meant to be for me," he said. I had a lot of support along the way and I had a lot of people telling me I had a lot of footy left. I knew that and I believed in that, but because I faced disappointment at Geelong and disappointment at Richmond, it got hard, really hard. My partner and my manager and my family were always behind me. They reminded me that I could still play at the highest level. I think I have a lot to offer to the footy world."

Marlion Pickett is the poster boy of the Mid-Season Rookie Draft. His story is different to Narkle's, given he had never been on an AFL list when Richmond plucked him out of the WAFL at 27. But he went from playing for South Fremantle in May to becoming the first player to debut in a Grand Final in 67 years that September. 

Narkle will head to South Australia in the coming days to start the next chapter of his life, joining a side that has won eight straight games and is two games inside the top four. The plan isn't to play in the SANFL for too long. He has a contract for the rest of 2023 and wants to play a role for Ken en route to September. If that happens, his future at Alberton will take care of itself. 

"I'm definitely not there to play reserves. I want to try and break into that side. They are playing really well; I like the way they play, they play with a lot of heart. I definitely want to be a part of that. But I understand how it works. If it takes a bit of time to learn their game style or play some good footy over in the SANFL, I'm prepared to do that," he said.

"Hopefully things work out and I'm lucky enough to break into the side some time soon. They look like they are going to play finals, so it would be so good to play some finals footy as well."

Scarred but not broken from brutal decisions in the past seven months, the West Australian heads to South Australia with a greater perspective and greater appreciation for the opportunity in front of him. 

Narkle worked in the welfare department at Essendon, focusing on the Indigenous players during his time in Tullamarine and is hopeful of continuing that at Port Adelaide. But for now, football is the focus. Sparkle Narkle is back in business.