Hawthorn Football Club’s rebuild this season has resulted in a few fresher faces becoming mainstays of their line-up including Yarrawonga and Rennie prodigy Dan Howe — the medium-sized defender who’s ventured into the midfield taking on many of the biggest names in the AFL.
Such has been his breakout season, AFL Players.com.au has compiled a story about the 21-year-old.
Now in his third year, Howe, has played the last 18 games in his senior career of 33 games to date, and cemented a place in the Hawks’ side.
Howe credits the club’s staff for his improvements and singles out an assistant for the work he’s done this year.
“In terms of key influences, Max Bailey’s come on board and had a positive influence on my life and career,” Howe said.
“He’s passionate about development and he has so much care for each player. He notices a lot of little things and always takes the time to follow up and build a relationship with you.
“The care he shows is really evident.”
The club’s Round 12 loss to Gold Coast this year became a defining match for Howe and his role in the side has since changed considerably.
He was sent to Rory Sloane the following week at Adelaide Oval and, given the result was an impressive Hawthorn win, the club persisted with the task.
In the last five games, he has spent his time opposed to Scott Pendlebury, Dylan Shiel, Joel Selwood, Nat Fyfe and Dustin Martin with varying levels of success.
The game against Pendlebury was one of the better ones of Howe’s career. He kept the Collingwood skipper to 21 touches while registering 26 himself.
His run-with role is helping the side but Howe said it’s equally important to furthering his own game.
“I’m spending time on them to try and curb their influence but also to help me develop,” Howe, who has Number 17 on his back, added.
“I’m learning a great deal from them. Pendlebury is a good stoppage player and is good around the ball, and he’ll also take you to the ball so if you’re lucky enough it will fall into your hands a few times.
“He’s always switched on and is a step ahead of the play. He reads the play so well which allows him to get an extra few metres on his opponent.
“Selwood, on the other hand, has incredible grunt around the ball and his will to compete is as good, if not better, than anyone else in the league.”
Against Fremantle, Howe went to Nat Fyfe. The Dockers’ skipper collected 23 touches but Howe managed to do some damage himself, kicking two goals in the Hawks’ 52-point win. Up against this year’s raging Brownlow Medal favourite, Richmond’s Dustin Martin, Howe was named in the best players for Hawthorn whilst curtailing the brilliance of Martin.
Last Sunday Howe picked up 20 disposals in a fine effort where he played much of the game on star utility Shaun Higgins of North Melbourne in Launceston, Tasmania.
When identifying reasons for Hawthorn’s revival, Howe, a former Murray Bushranger in the TAC Cup, believes natural progression plays a part.
“When I think about the season so far, there’s not just one key to having a decent year — there are a number of things that come to mind.
“I’m a year older now and have had another pre-season to get stronger and fitter with another year in the Hawthorn system.
“I’ve developed my body a bit more and now weigh a lot more than I did when I arrived and injuries haven’t played a huge part in 2017 for me, which is a positive because I’ve had a few niggles in the first couple of years. To get consistent games has been a huge part for me.”
Dan’s parents Chris and Liz have seen all but one of their son’s games this year. “It’s been a pretty exciting time, a fairly good journey,” Howe senior, who, having played most of his footy in the back pocket for Coleambally and therefore doesn’t rate himself as good as Dan, told the Yarrawonga Chronicle.
“Dan’s had a good last six weeks or so, getting that run-with role. Being part of the team is building his confidence.”
Dan is one of several young Hawks laying the foundation for a return up the AFL ladder in 2018.