JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.



Howlett puts name in lights

Showing quality: Essendon midfielder Ben Howlett.

Showing quality: Essendon midfielder Ben Howlett. Photo: Pat Scala

ESSENDON coach James Hird, interviewed on SEN the other day, was asked a question about the importance of the lesser lights to a team's continued improvement.

After responding appropriately, he was asked a question about midfielder Ben Howlett. Hird paused for a moment. Sounding almost taken aback, he responded: ''I wouldn't call him one of our lesser lights. He was outstanding on the weekend, and has been outstanding all year.''

Which, in a nutshell, said plenty about the course Essendon has plotted since the return of old boys Hird and Mark Thompson to take over the coaching reins.

For while the arrival of whiz-kid Dyson Heppell and the upward developmental curves of early draftees David Zaharakis and now Michael Hurley have helped, it has been the improvement of a range of once less-heralded types that has had as much to do with the Bombers now being seen as a side with sufficient talent and depth to do far more than make a token finals appearance over the next few seasons.

Stewart Crameri seemed to come from nowhere to become a major forward target. The once injury-prone and erratic Courtenay Dempsey has become a reliable contributor. But even they haven't had the sort of impact Howlett has had this year in a midfield for a long time dismissed as paper-thin and far too reliant on skipper Jobe Watson.

While Howlett's is a name that isn't among the first mentioned by those outside Windy Hill, after finishing in the top 10 in last year's best and fairest, this year he has taken another stride that's been so considerable that if the count was held now, he would have to be running second or third to Watson.

To shut Essendon's supply down is no longer nearly so simple, and last week's important win away to Port Adelaide was a perfect example. With Watson and Brent Stanton well held early, Zaharakis out injured, and Heath Hocking serving an untimely suspension, it was Howlett who held things together, so well that the out-of-sorts Dons were able to still stay in touch with, then overrun, the Power. ''He works extremely hard, he and [midfield coach] Simon Goodwin have done a power of work together,'' said a clearly admiring coach. ''I thought on the weekend he got us over the line with his continual hard running and his ability to win the contested footy, but also use it pretty well now.''

Howlett is one, though, for whom former Bomber coach Matthew Knights also deserves some credit, taking a calculated punt to elevate him from rookie status days before the start of the 2010 season after an outstanding pre-season. He hadn't been an initial part of Knights' senior plans, but forced his way in through sheer weight of numbers in the practice matches.

And gradual improvement has been pretty much the Howlett story since, his numbers in the most important statistical categories rising steadily to the point where he is now ranked second in the AFL for tackles, 30 per cent more than any of his teammates and, at his club, third for disposals. He is also second only to the perennial No. 1 Watson for clearances and contested ball.

Hird's ''now'' in relation to Howlett's ball use indicates where much of this year's extra level has been found, the 23-year-old also rating highly for effective kicking and goal assists.

But the current coach was happier to concede yesterday that an obvious personal favourite was perhaps only now creeping into the consciousness of others outside the Bomber coaching panel.

''I think Ben's even gone under the radar here a little bit, in terms of what he's done in the last 18 months and the way he's developed,'' he said. ''His hardness at the ball, his willingness to put his body on the line and then spread from the contest has been exceptional.''

You could sense the extra satisfaction for a coach in a player who comes without the frills and without the reputation turning into something a lot more than many would have bargained for.

''That's probably one of the big principles that Mark Thompson's brought to the club,'' Hird said. ''Find your own players and put as much time into them as you can, develop them as players. That seems to be working for us as a club.'' It's certainly working for Howlett, too.

2 comments so far

  • With "find your own players", doesn't Hird mean be gifted a top draft pick under the father/son rort? What compensation do GWS or the Suns get for being denied access to the top players? What benefit is the rule to either of theses teams for the next twenty odd years?

    Commenter
    Ross
    Date and time
    July 20, 2012, 11:13AM
    • A tremendous contributor and tough hombre. Not "tough" like those who might "eye-gouge" and "chicken-wing" but genuinely tough and worthy of the respect seem to get due to profile alone.

      Commenter
      Elijah Baley
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      July 20, 2012, 4:30PM

      Make a comment

      You are logged in as [Logout]

      All information entered below may be published.

      Error: Please enter your screen name.

      Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

      Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

      Error: Please enter your comment.

      Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

      Post to

      You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

      Thank you

      Your comment has been submitted for approval.

      Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

      Related Coverage

      AFL 2015

      Round 1
      Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
      CAR 78 vs RIC 105 19:20MCG
      Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
      MEL 115 vs GCF 89 13:40MCG
      SYD 72 vs ESS 60 16:35ANZ
      BRI 74 vs COL 86 19:20G
      WBU 97 vs WCE 87 19:20ES
      Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
      STK 78 vs GWS 87 13:10ES
      ADE 140 vs NTH 63 15:20Adelaide Oval
      FRE 75 vs PTA 68 18:40Domain Stadium
      Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
      HAW 123 vs GEE 61 15:20MCG
      View All Fixtures
      Round 2
      Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
      WCE 131 vs CAR 62 20:10Domain Stadium
      Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
      RIC 66 vs WBU 85 13:45MCG
      GWS 101 vs MEL 56 14:10SO
      COL 63 vs ADE 90 16:35ES
      GCF 76 vs STK 104 19:20MS
      PTA 44 vs SYD 92 19:40Adelaide Oval
      Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
      GEE 60 vs FRE 104 13:10SS
      ESS 78 vs HAW 76 15:20MCG
      NTH 133 vs BRI 51 16:40ES
      View All Fixtures
      Round 3
      Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
      COL 140 vs STK 66 19:50MCG
      Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
      CAR 84 vs ESS 105 13:45MCG
      ADE 80 vs MEL 55 14:10Adelaide Oval
      SYD 111 vs GWS 90 16:35SCG
      NTH 105 vs PTA 113 19:20ES
      BRI 58 vs RIC 137 19:20G
      Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
      HAW 127 vs WBU 57 13:10AS
      GEE 105 vs GCF 96 15:20SS
      WCE 81 vs FRE 111 16:40Domain Stadium
      View All Fixtures
      Round 4
      Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
      RIC 51 vs MEL 83 19:50MCG
      Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
      STK 81 vs CAR 121 11:10NZ
      ESS 49 vs COL 69 14:40MCG
      GWS 119 vs GCF 53 17:40SO
      PTA 99 vs HAW 91 19:40Adelaide Oval
      FRE 74 vs SYD 60 20:45Domain Stadium
      Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
      BRI 65 vs WCE 118 13:10G
      GEE 67 vs NTH 83 15:20SS
      WBU 125 vs ADE 68 16:40ES
      View All Fixtures
      Round 5
      Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
      CAR vs COL 19:50MCG
      Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
      RIC vs GEE 13:45MCG
      SYD vs WBU 14:10SCG
      GCF vs BRI 16:35MS
      NTH vs HAW 19:20ES
      WCE vs GWS 19:40Domain Stadium
      Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
      MEL vs FRE 13:10MCG
      STK vs ESS 15:20ES
      ADE vs PTA 16:40Adelaide Oval
      View All Fixtures
      Round 6
      Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
      COL vs GEE 19:50MCG
      Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
      NTH vs RIC 13:45BA
      WBU vs STK 14:10ES
      GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
      GCF vs ADE 17:10MS
      MEL vs SYD 19:20MCG
      FRE vs ESS 20:10Domain Stadium
      Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
      CAR vs BRI 15:20ES
      PTA vs WCE 16:40Adelaide Oval
      View All Fixtures
      Round 7
      Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
      ESS vs NTH 19:50ES
      Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
      ADE vs STK 13:45Adelaide Oval
      HAW vs MEL 14:10MCG
      CAR vs GWS 16:35ES
      SYD vs GEE 19:20ANZ
      WCE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
      Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
      WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
      RIC vs COL 15:20MCG
      BRI vs PTA 16:40G
      View All Fixtures
      Round 8
      Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
      GEE vs CAR 19:50ES
      Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
      STK vs WCE 13:45ES
      GWS vs ADE 14:10Spotless Stadium
      GCF vs COL 16:35MS
      HAW vs SYD 19:20MCG
      FRE vs NTH 19:40Domain Stadium
      Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
      ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
      MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
      PTA vs RIC 16:40Adelaide Oval
      View All Fixtures
      Round 9
      Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
      SYD vs CAR 19:50SCG
      Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
      HAW vs GCF 13:45AS
      MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
      WBU vs GWS 16:35ES
      RIC vs ESS 19:20MCG
      ADE vs FRE 19:40Adelaide Oval
      Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
      BRI vs STK 13:10G
      COL vs NTH 15:20MCG
      WCE vs GEE 16:40Domain Stadium
      View All Fixtures
      Round 10
      Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
      FRE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
      Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
      CAR vs ADE 13:40MCG
      GCF vs SYD 16:35MS
      ESS vs GEE 19:20ES
      PTA vs WBU 19:40Adelaide Oval
      Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
      GWS vs BRI 13:10Spotless Stadium
      NTH vs WCE 15:20BA
      STK vs HAW 16:40ES
      Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
      MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
      View All Fixtures
      Round 11
      Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
      PTA vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
      Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
      GCF vs FRE 13:40MS
      WCE vs ESS 16:35Domain Stadium
      NTH vs SYD 19:20ES
      Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
      COL vs GWS 13:10MCG
      STK vs MEL 16:40ES
      View All Fixtures
      Round 12
      Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
      ADE vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
      Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
      RIC vs WCE 19:50MCG
      Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
      CAR vs PTA 13:40MCG
      GWS vs NTH 16:35Spotless Stadium
      WBU vs BRI 19:20ES
      Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
      GEE vs MEL 15:20SS
      View All Fixtures
      Round 13
      Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
      FRE vs COL 20:10Domain Stadium
      Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
      SYD vs RIC 19:50SCG
      Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
      HAW vs ESS 13:40MCG
      BRI vs ADE 16:35G
      STK vs WBU 19:20ES
      Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
      CAR vs GCF 15:20ES
      View All Fixtures
      Round 14
      Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
      SYD vs PTA 19:20SCG
      Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
      COL vs HAW 19:50MCG
      Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
      RIC vs GWS 13:40MCG
      GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
      WBU vs CAR 19:20ES
      MEL vs WCE 19:40TIO
      Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
      ESS vs STK 13:10ES
      ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
      FRE vs BRI 16:40Domain Stadium
      View All Fixtures
      Round 15
      Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
      PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
      Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
      RIC vs CAR 19:50MCG
      Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
      ESS vs MEL 13:40MCG
      WBU vs GCF 16:35CAZ
      NTH vs GEE 19:20ES
      WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
      Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
      GWS vs STK 13:10Spotless Stadium
      HAW vs FRE 15:20AS
      BRI vs SYD 16:40G
      View All Fixtures
      Round 16
      Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
      NTH vs ESS 19:50ES
      Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
      GEE vs WBU 13:45SS
      GCF vs GWS 14:10MS
      COL vs WCE 16:35ES
      SYD vs HAW 19:20ANZ
      FRE vs CAR 19:40Domain Stadium
      Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
      MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
      PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
      STK vs RIC 16:40ES
      View All Fixtures
      Round 17
      Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
      CAR vs HAW 19:50ES
      Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
      GWS vs GEE 13:45SO
      ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
      RIC vs FRE 16:35MCG
      ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
      BRI vs NTH 19:20G
      Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
      WBU vs COL 13:10ES
      MEL vs STK 15:20MCG
      WCE vs SYD 16:40Domain Stadium
      View All Fixtures
      Round 18
      Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
      HAW vs RIC 19:50MCG
      Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
      GEE vs BRI 13:45SS
      COL vs MEL 14:10MCG
      SYD vs ADE 16:35SCG
      CAR vs NTH 19:20ES
      GCF vs WCE 19:20MS
      Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
      PTA vs STK 13:10Adelaide Oval
      ESS vs WBU 15:20ES
      FRE vs GWS 16:40Domain Stadium
      View All Fixtures
      Round 19
      Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
      ADE vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
      Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
      COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
      WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
      BRI vs GCF 16:35G
      GEE vs SYD 19:20SS
      WCE vs HAW 19:40Domain Stadium
      Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
      MEL vs NTH 13:10MCG
      GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
      STK vs FRE 16:40ES
      View All Fixtures
      Round 20
      Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
      SYD vs COL 19:50SCG
      Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
      ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
      NTH vs STK 14:10BA
      PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
      GEE vs HAW 19:20MCG
      BRI vs CAR 19:20G
      Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
      RIC vs GCF 13:10MCG
      WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
      FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
      View All Fixtures
      Round 21
      Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
      HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
      Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
      COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
      GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
      GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
      STK vs GEE 19:20ES
      ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
      Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
      NTH vs FRE 13:10ES
      CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
      WCE vs WBU 16:40Domain Stadium
      View All Fixtures
      Round 22
      Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
      GEE vs COL 19:50MCG
      Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
      GWS vs CAR 13:45Spotless Stadium
      HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
      NTH vs WBU 16:35ES
      ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
      GCF vs PTA 19:20MS
      Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
      ADE vs WCE 13:10Adelaide Oval
      STK vs SYD 15:20ES
      FRE vs MEL 16:40Domain Stadium
      View All Fixtures
      Round 23
      Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
      COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
      RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
      HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
      GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
      SYD vs GCF 00:00SCG
      MEL vs GWS 00:00ES
      BRI vs WBU 00:00G
      PTA vs FRE 00:30Adelaide Oval
      WCE vs STK 02:00Domain Stadium
      View All Fixtures
      AFL 2015
      Overall standings
      Team P W L D % Pts
      Fremantle 4 4 0 0 135.32 16
      GWS Giants 4 3 1 0 133.22 12
      Collingwood 4 3 1 0 128.32 12
      Sydney Swans 4 3 1 0 125.00 12
      Adelaide Crows 4 3 1 0 123.53 12
      Western Bulldogs 4 3 1 0 104.60 12
      Hawthorn 4 2 2 0 141.36 8
      West Coast Eagles 4 2 2 0 124.48 8
      View all
       
      Featured advertisers