David Howell scores a try for the Raiders in 2005. Photo: Andrew Taylor
In the 11 years since he started his carpentry apprenticeship, former Canberra Raiders centre David Howell has had stints with two NRL clubs and six seasons in the English Super League. But after not having his contract with the London Broncos renewed, the 30-year-old is getting back on the worksite while putting back into the grassroots.
Howell will have his second game for the Gungahlin Bulls when they host the West Belconnen Warriors on Saturday in what will be the first Canberra Raiders Cup fixture at the new $12.5 million Gungahlin Enclosed Oval complex.
The Bulls pulled off a coup in recruiting Howell after he moved back to Canberra with his wife and two children in February, after he was unable to secure a contract in the Super League.
David Howell running out for the Gungahlin Bulls. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Howell wanted to remain at the Broncos, but complications from a broken arm last season and the cash-strapped club's preference to go with younger players left him with little option but to return to Australia.
''I was hoping to stay over there for a couple more years, I broke my arm last season and had a bone infection in it last year, so I didn't get to play a great deal of games,'' Howell said.
''The club was in a bit of turmoil in terms of where they were heading, and financially, at London, so they were starting to do a big clearout of all their higher-profile players and they wanted to start from scratch again. We had a little look around at other clubs, but not playing many games and being 30 at the back-end of your career makes it a little bit harder.''
A Wollongong junior, Howell made his NRL debut with the St George Illawarra Dragons in 2003 before he joined the Raiders in 2005. He spent three seasons with the Green Machine, notching 48 appearances in the top grade, before taking up an offer from the Broncos in 2008.
''I loved it over there, the last three years was probably tough with where the club was sitting financially and whether or not we would be in the Super League,'' Howell said. "Those sort of issues play on your mind a little bit, but life over there in general and the lifestyle, I loved it. We weren't quite ready to come home so [it] makes it a little bit harder to settle in back here.''
When he did decide to return to Australia, Howell contacted former Raiders teammate Lincoln Withers, who put him in touch with Gungahlin Bulls president Mark Scholes, who is also the owner of M and J Interiors. That led to Howell taking up the carpentry apprenticeship he had started when he was in the lower grades with the Dragons.
''[Withers] pushed me into it, I suppose, because he wanted someone to come down and play with him,'' Howell said. ''I was going to play some sort of local football somewhere because it helps get a job. I'm finishing off my carpentry trade. It's something I probably [should have] finished off when I was still going, but when you're younger you put those things aside and just worry about playing football.''
The Bulls are looking to make it back-to-back wins to start the season, but face a resurgent West Belconnen side which upset Belconnen United Scholars 26-12 last weekend.
In Saturday's other games, the Scholars host the Goulburn Workers Bulldogs at Northbourne Oval, Tuggeranong Bushrangers face Woden Valley Rams at Greenway Oval and the Blues take on the Kangaroos in the Queanbeyan derby at Seiffert Oval.
All games start at 3pm.