Simon Kerle Back as NBL Commentator
Kerle Back A Changed Man As NBL Commentator
Published by nbl.com.au
24 Oct 2018 11 mins read
Written for nbl.com.au by Chris Pike
Basketball was his life up until the end of his 381-game, 16-season NBL career but Simon Kerle has had a complete break from the game and it's that fresh approach that's bringing a new set of views back to the sport in #NBL19 from the commentary booth.
Basketball was always in the blood of Kerle given the legacy his father Brian had already made on the sport and especially in Queensland, and he certainly didn’t fail to deliver quite the spectacular career starting at Brisbane in 1988.
While unfairly Kerle might be remembered for his array of hair styles and colours, and his volatile temperament, he deserves to be remembered for his outstanding performances on the court over the course of 381 matches.
He was just 16 when he debuted with the Bullets and by the time he retired at the end of 2004/05, he had amassed 381 games with Brisbane, Westside Melbourne, Southern Melbourne, South East Melbourne, Geelong, Townsville and then finishing at the Bullets.
Along the way, he hit 750 three-pointers and his career-high was 49 points against the Sydney Kings in 1997. He once hit nine triples in a game against the Magic in 1998 and his best season, at least points per game wise, was 2000/01 when he went at 24.9 a match.
While in the middle of that basketball journey, Kerle never saw himself wanting to be involved in anything but the sport.
However, once he retired he needed a break and that has turned into his life going down quite a different path and it means the man now sitting in a commentary booth this season is very different than the one running around on the NBL courts.
"When I came back from Italy, I signed a five-year contract for Brisbane and didn’t play that last year, but it worked out good even though I felt I could have still play at a good level," Kerle said.
"My life got started after basketball a year earlier and I don’t think I'd be where I am now if I played another year of basketball. It was one of the best things to happen in my life and it worked out really well that way."
Kerle turned his attention health and well-being, and personal training after his career and now his main focus is running his Raw Power Yoga business in Brisbane, which not only is tremendously successful, but has had a remarkable impact on his life.
"I love working with anyone that comes into Yoga, but especially athletes because I just know that if I had it when I was playing, I believe I would have been 30 or 40 per cent better. That's a big difference to an athlete with your efficiency and what you can do," he said.
"I played with a lot of aggression and hatred, and that's what spurred me on. That can be very good to a point and gets you to a certain level, but it can also be very detrimental. In Yoga, we talk about having a good balance so you can still be aggressive, but don’t let that boilover into a negative.
"Use it as a positive but I used to let the referees get to me too much and I wouldn’t do that now. Before I got into Yoga after basketball I worked with a woman called Maureen and that was life changing.
"I felt there was an imbalance in me as a person that I couldn’t put my finger on, but I was a person who saw the world as either black or white. But spending time with her and learning things from her, the world became colourful again and I had a lot more understanding of what other people would think."
Coming off a partial hip replacement means that Yoga's not currently possible for Kerle, but when the opportunity presented out of the blue to join the NBL commentary team, he was keen to give it a go.
"It was weird because I only just had a hip replacement eight weeks ago and the doctor told me it'd take six weeks to get back working full-time, but after two weeks I was back. I think they were used to dealing with people who aren’t former professional athletes," Kerle said.
"But I pulled into my physio and was there early and Jarvis Hunder was there. He told me that my name had been put up to do some commentary. I asked him if he realised I've only watched probably one game in the 13 years since I retired.
"I wasn’t sure why they were interested in me, but he was such a good guy and so good about it that it did pique my interest. Having been out of the game for so long, it wasn’t something I thought of and I really only kept on eye on Perth in the finals because I'm good mates with Matty Nielsen.
"But we continued to chat and I went away and thought about it, and it kind of worked well. I spoke to some friends and the big thing that kept coming up was how big a part of my life basketball since the age of four was and it felt like time to get back involved.
"And just seeing what Larry and everyone at the NBL is doing with the league, it's quite phenomenal and I thought I might want to be part of it."
It's only natural for someone to judge their own performances harshly, but Kerle found it hard going watching his commentary debut back for Brisbane's home-opening loss to the Cairns Taipans. That drive to improve should make him a natural to settle into the booth though.
"I was quite outspoken as a player and an in your face type of person, but I'm not that type of person anymore. I was hoping they weren’t expecting that same person because he has been gone for 12 or 13 years. But they just wanted me to be brutally honest about what I think and see," Kerle said.
"A good mate of mine is Tim Cleary, the CEO of Croc Media, and I asked him for some advice and he told me I'm actually in a pretty good position because I don’t have any friends in the game anymore so I can just call it the way I see it.
"In the last two weeks I've tried to watch as many games as I can to get familiar with the faces, but I don’t just watch the games, I listen to the commentators because I want to see what they are doing. I actually cringed when I watched it back and listening to myself was so cringeworthy.
"I would rather have had Stacker or Goorjian breaking down my game and yelling at me what I was doing wrong. To me that would be so much more enjoyable than having to listen to myself commentate.
"It was quite torturous analysing myself, but Steve is someone I've known for a long time and I'd enjoy doing a game with him and Matty Russell. I'm looking forward to meeting him but it's one of those things where you want to be good and to do it well, but there is just so much to learn.
"I felt like 20 per cent was good, 30 per cent was OK and 50 per cent left a lot of work to be done."
When he reflects on his basketball career, Kerle is rightfully proud of what he achieved in the NBL. But it was half a season as an import in Italy that might take the cake.
"Probably my most fun time in basketball that I loved was being recruited to go and play in Italy for the end of the 2001 season. That was amazing and it was something that I always wanted to do," he said.
"I was only there for eight games and four playoff games because it was the end of the season, but to average 19 a game in that league was amazing. Nobody knew who I was but they saw someone who came to training early, the Italian kids were teaching me Italian words and in return I taught them Australian slang swear words from Carlton.
"They also liked me because I made an effort to hang out with the Italian guys and get to know them where the American imports would have nothing to do with them. It was awesome to be part of the crew, but as an import I had to keep performing.
"I loved that pressure and my coach didn’t speak English, so I didn’t have to listen to him. He just told me to shoot if I was open and told them to pass me the ball all the time. It was so much fun and it was an amazing experience."
While most of that time in Italy was memorable, the way he was treated for one playoff game will stick with him forever.
"I was going out with Penny Taylor back then and she was playing in the WNBA then, and it was before our first playoff game that Sunday and she called me Saturday night at midnight. Then after I got off the phone to her, I spent the next 12 hours in the bathroom being sick," Kerle said.
"I had got an infection in my small intestines and I couldn’t move. The general manager and the manager of the team had to get the key off my landlord, break into my apartment, clean me up at about 11am and put me in a car to go to the arena.
"I was a mess and couldn’t move but we got to the game, and they sat me up and put a drip in my arm and taped my ankles, put my shoes and uniform on. They walked me out to the halfway line and made me actually start the game, and I was thinking this was just insane.
"The ball got tapped to me and I grabbed it, took four steps and fell over on my face. They carried me off the court, put a drip on me on the end of the bench and just when you think it couldn’t get worse, it does.
"We are down by two points with three seconds to go, we have the ball on the baseline of our end and the coach calls a timeout and draws up the play for me to shoot. I didn’t even think I could lift my arms above my waist so when I caught it, I just prayed to god I hit the side of the backboard.
"Somehow I got open and it at least hit the side of the backboard. It was crazy and we ended up losing that series 4-1 but apart from that, everything about Italy was incredible."
It's the people of Townsville from his stint at the Crocs for the 1997, 98 and 99 seasons that still resonates with Kerle though 20 years on.
"When I look back, I really enjoyed going to Townsville when they had never really been a really respected team. They had done OK, but the first year I went up there with Clarence (Tyson), (Derek) Rucker and the other guys on the team, and we played great basketball," Kerle said.
"Going into the final four or five games, we only needed to win one game but Clarence blew his knee out and we might have lost three games by about two points. That was a fun year but after that everything changed.
"But I have good memories of going up there because for me, the Townsville fans were amazing. They were so supportive and I felt amazing early in the next year, but couldn’t hit a shot.
"The Townsville people were so good to me and uplifting. For the rest of that season I played really well and the people were so great. Then there were the last three years in Brisbane when I had three complicated ankle surgeries and I really struggled coming back from those, and there were times where my pain level was incredible every single day.
"There would be people in Brisbane yelling stuff out to me from the crowd and that does hurt when you are doing everything you can just to get out on the floor. It obviously was only a few people, but to me the support I got in Townsville was the best I had anywhere in my career."