It wasn’t how Chris Howard thought he’d spend his first season as a state-league footballer – wearing pink and delivering messages from the coach.
While he was certainly committed, his ‘debut year’ at the Glenorchy RSEA Magpies after crossing from University will be remembered more for giving away 50-metre penalties than anything to do with a Sherrin.
“It was pretty stressful, I don’t really like jobs where you can only fail. You can’t do a good job as a runner, you can only muck up. Any job that’s really simple I just overthink it and mess it up,” Howard laughed.
“You saw that with the Clarence game! I was talking to my dad before the season and I said I guarantee I’m going to give away free kicks doing something stupid or not paying attention!”
The reason he donned the pink instead of the black and white was an ACL injury late in the 2019 season, which while not originally diagnosed, worsened and became obvious as he struggled to run in the weeks that followed.
“I went and played basketball and it kept collapsing on me, so I went back to the doctor and yep, I’d done it,” Howard said.
Yet rather than hibernating away from football as he recuperated, Howard threw himself headlong into helping out at his new club, in a testing COVID-impacted year that stretched the spirit and resources at Glenorchy.
It won a lot of admirers, and so has his pre-season training form as the 194cm utility has finally gotten to show off the all-around game that prompted then-Uni coach and former Magpie Ben Beams to send him to KGV following back-to-back Uni best and fairests.
“I wasn’t really taking footy seriously at Uni it was more of a social thing and I didn’t really think anything of it, I was alright at it, but then Beamer talked to me,” Howard said.
“I've enjoyed it, it’s obviously a lot more professional than at Uni, I used to crack the shits at Uni if we weren’t taking it seriously, so that side of it has been enjoyable and seeing improvement in myself.”
His versatile game comes from the fact Howard grew late in his teenage years, and in basketball terms is a point guard in a power forward’s body.
“I was a late bloomer so I just played as an inside mid when I was 15 and I started playing footy again,” he said.
“I was mainly soccer and basketball before that. I was 5’5 and I was an inside mid.”
Thanks to his growth spurt the 22-year-old can now play key positions at both ends of the ground, booting eight goals in Claremont’s Colts premiership before graduating into arguably the best intercept defender in the Old Scholars while at Uni.
His rounded experience has him confident he can make an impact at state-league level.
“Team wise I definitely want to make finals. Personally I would like to be one of the best players in the TSL,” he said.
And he has plenty of confidence in his new teammates, with the likes of Brayden Webb, Josh Arnold, Daniel Joseph, Harrison Gunther, Ben Kamaric, Adam Roberts, Darrean Wyatt, Tom Cleary and some elite ball users catching his eye.
“Pidge and Jez, DJ, they're really knowledgeable and you can learn a lot from them,” Howard said.
“Then the younger boys like H is really impressive, Robbo in the time trials, Disco, they’ve been good, Cal Daly and Zaccy Webster’s shoes are unreal, it’s crazy some of the kicks they pull off.
“Then there is Darrean who is 6’8 and TC, we've got the pieces for a good side, I don’t know why anyone would be writing us off but I'm happy for them to.
“We’re pretty confident internally so they can say what they want.”