*Pic by Chris Rules
Emerging big man Chris Howard returns for just his fourth game of football in the past two seasons this Saturday, and the RSEA Magpies are sure glad to have him back.
The game at Lauderdale at 2pm shapes as a big one for a number of reasons, most notably as a fundraiser for Lauderdale champion Ryan Wiggins, who suffered significant spinal injuries a fortnight ago.
The Glenorchy District Football Club encourages all club members and supporters to support Ryan and his family if possible via their GoFundMe page.
The game is the first meeting between these great rivals at Lauderdale this season, after the Pies claimed the first two clashes at KGV.
Howard was impressive in the first clash - his second TSL game - with 17 possessions, 8 marks, 6 pressure acts and 4 clearances as he swung between the forward line and the ruck to help lead Glenorchy to a 26-point win.
The 22-year-old missed the return bout along with a long list of teammates, but one of the least experienced sides in club history burst out of the blocks behind some Cal Daly brilliance to claim a memorable 19-point triumph.
Howard and Josh Arnold are two handy inclusions who missed that game, however the likes of Tom Cleary, Sam Rundle, Zac Webster and Cam Goodsell remain sidelined, while Brayden Webb, Matt Dilger and Darrean Wyatt are also in doubt for this clash.
That makes the return of the 194cm Howard all the more important for the Pies as they look to build on their four wins so far in season 2021.
"Chris is a player with enormous talent and potential," coach Paul Kennedy said.
"He's basically missed the past two years of footy with knee and shoulder injuries, but we've seen in glimpses what he can do as a really athletic and skilled big man.
"He was great in our intraclub game on Monday so I can't wait to see him running around again when it counts, he'll definitely add another dimension to our team."
Youngsters on the march
The Glenorchy development team takes on the Southern Bombers at 11.30am, and a win will move them four games clear of North Hobart inside the final four with five games to play, all but locking in their fifth finals appearance in the past seven seasons.
The 'dev team' finished last in 2020 and failed to register a victory, but have rebounded strongly this year despite many of last season's top-liners becoming regular senior players in 2021 as the club's injury toll mounted.
"It has been really pleasing to see this team grow, they have now won four of their past five games, with the only loss being by a point against Launceston who are in first place," Kennedy said.
"Sammy Hall has been doing a great job in his first season as coach, and the playing group has worked hard and learned a lot, and they've grown an extra leg in confidence by converting that improvement into wins.
"What's just as pleasing is how young guys like Riley Oakley, Luke Nicholson, Braydon Patterson, Cooper Hills and Isaac Manson, who had played mostly development league last season, have stepped up and showed they can match it at senior level.
"And then there's babies like Jude Saavedra, Bailey Jenkins, Tyson Stacey and Josh Meredith who have been playing at a very high level in dev and are knocking on the senior team's door each week. It's exciting."