City-South / St Kilda / NTFA / Claremont
Full Back / Forward – 1953-1968
> 159 games, 55 goals, St Kilda, 1958-1968
> Brownlow Medal, 1959
> St Kilda Best and Fairest, 1959
> St Kilda premiership, 1966
> City-South premierships, 1954 and 1956
> City-South and NTFA Best and Fairest, 1957
> Victorian representative on nine occasions
> Member of St Kilda, City-South and Tasmania Teams of the Century
> Rated the sixth highest in Brownlow votes received amongst Tasmanians
One of the truly great players Tasmania has produced, Verdun Howell was a half forward during the bulk of the Tasmanian phase of his career with City-South Football Club. Upon his move to the VFL he was transformed by St Kilda into a prototype of the modern attacking full back.
Howell played 159 games for the Saints between 1958 and 1968. At the end of the 1959 Brownlow Medal count he was tied with Bob Skilton on 20 votes, and the Medal went to the Swan star on a countback. It was part of St Kilda folklore that Howell may have won outright if he had not been played in the centre in the final game. Thirty years later the VFL saw fit to retrospectively award Verdun Howell his Brownlow Medal.
Despite his venturesome spirit—which manifested itself in a tendency to leave his man in order to embark on dashing runs up-field—Howell seldom conceded 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.
Verdun Howell reigned supreme as Victoria’s number one full back until 1965 when St Kilda selectors swapped him with their full forward Bob Murray. However, the transition back to the forward line was gradual and he was on a half back flank when St Kilda won its only senior flag in 1966. Howell almost missed his dream of playing for the flag when he broke his jaw before the finals. Happily however, when the premiership cup was lifted, Howell was present as vice captain alongside skipper Darrel Baldock, providing the Saints with a unique, all-Tasmanian on-field leadership team for their one and only title.
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, re-writing the chapter in the manual of footy entitled “How to Play Full Back”.
After his retirement as a player, Howell was appointed Assistant Coach to Tom Hafey at Richmond for three years, taking the reserve team to two grand finals – winning one. Afterwards he transferred to WA coaching Claremont for three years taking them to one losing Grand Final.
Howell returned to Tasmania for a stint in administration with the Northern Tasmanian Football Association (NTFA in the mid 1970s). He then coached Launceston Football Club for a further two years.
He was duly recognised by his home state in 2004 when selected in the Tasmanian ‘Team of the Century’ and deservedly received a similar honour from both St Kilda and City-South.
Verdun Howell became an inaugural inductee in the Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame in 2005 and then was elevated to Legend in 2007.
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