Doyle, known as JD to his teammates and friends, rose up in the sport quickly, making his National Wheelchair Basketball League debut in 2007, before being named in the Rollers team for the first time in 2009, competing in the Paralympic World Cup in Manchester, where the team won Gold.
JD then went on to be named in the Australian Rollers team that travelled to the 2010 World Championship in Birmingham, with the team again claiming Gold.
“He was fast becoming one of our best low-pointers,” said National Wheelchair ITP Head Coach, Ben Ettridge.
“After Beijing we had Brendan Dowler, who was one of our all-time greats, retire and we thought we’d have to wait another 10 years to fill the number 14 jersey and suddenly out of nowhere, little Jeremy Doyle comes in and he was exactly that: he was a work horse. He was very, very smart: he picked up the nuances of low-point play and how to work with the bigs,” he said.
“His uniqueness was his grit and his determination to make himself an elite wheelchair basketball player, which he did fairly quickly. Within 12 months, he was starring for us at a Rollers World Challenge.”
It is a flourishing life and career cut devastatingly short, but the dramatic impact on those he touched in that short time is a reflection of the kind of person he was, with tributes for JD quickly flowing in following the news of his passing. Gliders veteran Kylie Gauci was quick to express her deep sadness at the loss of a close friend.
“JD has only been around wheelchair basketball and wheelchair sports for a short period, but in that short time he has made such an impact on everybody he meets and never let anything stop him from achieving what he wanted,” wrote Gauci.
“Also many of you might not be aware that JD married the love of his life, Mel, just over two weeks ago, even though they had such a short time together they made a lovely husband and wife.”
Ettridge goes on: “The boys will attest to this, but as a teammate, there was no one better. He was first to ask how you were doing on any given day, was the first guy to send you a text or a phone call if something was going wrong or if something was going right, he was never far away from anyone. That just made him a valuable part of what we do. For being as green as he was in the squad initially to fitting in and being a part of what we did from a day-to-day basis and being involved in everyone’s lives like that was just immense. That’s what we’ll miss.
“Given the life that he’d had and the things he was facing right up until the end, even when we saw him last week, he was still like ‘When is the next camp? Which of the boys need to do more work? Who do I need to send an email to, to fire them up?’ He was more worried about everyone else than his own situation. He was a rare human being to be like that,” he said.
According to Ettridge, it was JD’s communication skills that also enabled his career to rise up and earn his place in the best wheelchair basketball team in the world. He learned a lot from playing with the likes of Brad Ness, Justin Eveson, Tristan Knowles and Brett Stibners, some of the best high pointers in world, and his presence on the court to allow them to play the way they wanted to play on the floor added tremendously to his value on that team.
“And he changed his body shape,” said Ettridge. “He hadn’t been an elite athlete and by his own admission, he was a little fatty and then by the end, we roll into the World Championship in Birmingham and he’s got a set of shoulders on him and a set of arms on him and can push for 40 minutes and he turned himself into an elite athlete just through grit and determination and that is how he played. That was his role on the court, to do all the dirty work and he had no trouble at all rolling his sleeves up and doing that for us and that was him as a player,” he said.
“For a guy who came into our team at a relatively late age – I think he was 25 or 26 when he came to his first camp – you saw something in him that you knew was special,” said Ettridge.
“As a person, he was first class. For someone who’d had so much adversity throughout his life, for him to be as successful as he was, he was an amazing guy and an inspiration to everyone that he came in touch with.”
JD passed away surrounded by loved ones. His impact on the Rollers program and his successes within the sport of wheelchair basketball will carry on for many years to come.
Jeremy's funeral will be held on Thursday at Sacred Heart Chapel, Rookwood Cemetry, NSW, at 2pm.