Dan Howe (Murray Bushrangers)
Height: 191 cm
Weight: 84 kg
Strengths: Reading the play, decision making, speed and acceleration
Weaknesses: Shutting down an opponent
Player comparison: Tom Langdon
Dan Howe may not have been a familiar name heading into this season but he is doing his best to make sure you remember it on draft day. The 19-year-old Bushranger, who returned as an overager this year after injury and private school commitments cruelled his season last year, has had a blistering start to the season for both the Murray and Vic Country sides.
Howe is a versatile player who has played at both ends of the ground and in the midfield in his two years with the Bushrangers. While Howe gained some attention from Richmond last year as a tall forward, it is in the backline where he has excelled this year. Howe is a very smart footballer who reads the flight of the ball really well. He knows where the ball is going to drop and protects it well with his body. He floats across the backline, effortlessly cutting off potentially dangerous attacks and plucks the ball out of the air before moving it on swiftly with a quick switch.
Howe doesn’t dwell on the ball and is a good, quick decision maker. He takes a mark and he assesses his options in a split second before delivering it, usually switching to release a running player with a neat kick. Because of this he rarely has to bomb the ball down the line, and allows quick and effective ball movement, starting off many scoring chains. His disposal is clean and he makes few errors but this is mainly due to the lack of risk he takes in his kicking. He is not going to take on a forward and tuck the ball under his arm and break the lines, delivering a 55-metre pass to the leading centre half forward, but you know that the ball is safe in his hands and won’t get turned over.
Howe is by no means a boring player. He has a bit of x-factor as shown with his hanger against Western Australia in round four of the Championships. Howe rose above the shoulders of his opponent and pulled down a one-handed mark that Jeremy Howe would be proud of before quickly firing off a handpass to a running player.
Whilst he doesn’t tend to provide a lot of run and carry off half back, Howe is by no means slow. He has a good turn of pace, particularly over five metres. He uses this pace to beat his man to loose balls and to take two or three quick steps to get out of trouble before delivering the footy to a teammate. I feel he could play on some bigger forwards and take them out of the game, rather than playing as a defensive sweeper without a man. Despite being undersized for a centre half back his closing speed could be very effective, as not many forwards would get away from Howe with his combination of speed, athleticism and superb work rate.
Howe has showed this year that he has the potential to move into the midfield, playing a key role in the Bushrangers win over Sandringham. With Nathan Drummond going down injured, the Bushrangers needed somebody to step up and Howe delivered with a 22-possession, three-tackle and one-goal game. What is more impressive is that he went at 72% disposal efficiency, which is very good for a midfielder and emphasised his elite decision making and clean skills.
Although Howe won’t go in the first round of the draft, his performances for Vic Country and Murray Bushrangers should see him in contention for a mid-to-late draft selection. He doesn’t have the upside of his more talented teammate Caleb Marchbank but he is a low risk proposition who could go straight into a team’s backline and play a role, much like Tom Langdon.