Verdun Howell Coaching Claremont
A half forward during the bulk of the Tasmanian phase of his career with City-South, Verdun Howell was transformed by St Kilda into a prototype of the modern attacking full back. He played 159 games for the Saints between 1958 and 1968 and was second on a countback for the Brownlow in only his second season. 30 years later the VFL saw fit to award him a medal retrospectively.
Despite his venturesome spirit which manifested itself in a tendency to leave his man in order to embark on dashing runs upfield Howell seldom conceded many goals for the simple reason that whenever he pursued the ball he normally got it. In short, he transformed the backing of one’s judgement into an art form.
As Howell’s VFL career progressed he made a gradual journey back to the forward lines. He was on a half back flank when St Kilda won its only senior flag in 1966 and, as vice captain, combined with skipper Darrel Baldock to provide the Saints with a unique, all Tasmanian on field leadership team. As his career drew to a close Howell frequently played on the forward lines and was highly effective; in one game against Hawthorn he booted nine goals. However, it was as a defender that he rose to his greatest heights, winning St Kilda’s best and fairest award in 1959, representing the Big V on nine occasions, and, to all intents and purposes, rewriting the chapter in the manual of footy entitled ‘How to Play Full Back’
After his retirement as a player, Howell coached Claremont from 1972 to 1974, steering the Tigers to a losing Grand Final against East Perth in his first season only to see them plummet to a wooden spoon the following year. When the 1974 season brought scant improvement he was replaced as coach by Mal Brown.
In 2004, AFL Tasmania announced its Tasmanian ‘Team of the Century’ which included Verdun Howell in a back pocket.
Author – John Devaney