Career : 1948 - 1950
Debut : Round 7, 1948 vs Melbourne, aged 20 years, 155 days
Carlton Player No. 625
Games : 12
Goals : 1
Last Game : Round 2, 1950 vs North Melbourne, aged 22 years, 124 days
Guernsey No. 30
Height : 173 cm (5 ft. 8 in.)
Weight : 71.5 kg (11 stone, 4 lbs.)
DOB : December 26, 1927
Max Howell came down to Carlton from Benalla in 1948, setting himself the big task of breaking into the Blues’ reigning VFL Premiership team. A 20 year-old centreman with good pace and a raking kick, he eventually got the chance he craved in round seven, when incumbent wingman Fred Fitzgibbon was ruled out by injury. Howell was selected as Fitzgibbon’s replacement, and lined up against Melbourne at the MCG.
By then, the Blues were sputtering along in the lower half of the VFL ladder, after a dreadful start to their Premiership defence. Two wins and four losses had us well off the pace, while the Demons were third with a 4-2 record. To make matters worse for Carlton, Melbourne’s champion forward Norm Smith was celebrating his 200th match for the club that afternoon.
Predictably, Melbourne steamrolled Carlton and won by 51 points – but the game is mostly remembered for the defiant courage of Carlton’s star full-back Ollie Grieve. In the mud and slush of a sodden MCG, Grieve was superb for the Blues, single-handedly repulsing attack after attack, while limiting Smith to just a handful of possessions and two goals.
Further up the ground, Howell did enough on debut to hold his place for another week, before Fitzgibbon was declared fit again for round nine. Max went back to the Reserves until he was recalled to play in the back pocket in three more games mid-season. The last two of his seven matches that year were played off the bench late in proceedings, as the Blues wound up sixth on the ladder.
Howell’s second season never really got going. While Carlton set about redeeming themselves, he ran around with the Reserves again until round 12, 1949, when he made the first of his three senior appearances - all of them as 20th man in games prior to the finals. In September, Carlton fought their way through to another Grand Final, only to destroyed by a rampant Essendon.
Howell fronted up for his third year with the Blues in 1950, and seemed to get off to a promising start when coach Percy Bentley gave him an opportunity as first rover in round one – another test against Melbourne at the MCG. Max celebrated his first (and only) career goal that day, but the Demons proved too good again, and won by 20 points.
Victory eventually came Carlton's way the following Saturday afternoon at Princes Park, when Ray Garby and Ken Baxter both kicked five goals in a high-scoring mid-table clash against North Melbourne. Howell played at half-forward in a 16-point win, but didn’t trouble the scorers.
Perhaps happy to go out on a winning note, Max retired from elite level football after that game, and crossed to the VFA mid-season to play with Oakleigh. It proved an astute move, because the Purple and Gold were certainly on the rise. After claiming the minor premiership, Oakleigh – with Howell prominent in the centre - won the 1950 VFA Premiership with a decisive 19-point Grand Final victory over Port Melbourne in front of 38,000 spectators at the Junction Oval. Two years later, Max and his team did it again – defeating Port Melbourne by a similar margin at the same venue, in front of an even bigger crowd.
After retiring from the field, Max turned to golf and rekindled his association with Carlton. Throughout the next half-century he was a devoted father to his two sons, whilst making sure that every one of his seven grandchildren grew up with a strong allegiance to the Navy Blues. When Max passed away on October 3, 2012 at the age of 84, he and his wife Mavis had been married for 61 years.
FootnoteThe Argus newspaper of June 29, 1950 reported that Max Howell had been granted a clearance to Oakleigh. He was named in their team for the first time on July 1, 1950.
LinksArticles: RIP Max Howell
Blueseum: Summary of playing statistics for Max Howell | Howell's Blueseum Image Gallery