Many AFL draft picks come into the club wanting to make an immediate impact. But after succumbing to a foot injury just three games into his debut VFL season with Casey, Melbourne draftee Blake Howes had to wait until Round 18 to make his presence felt.
It had been 15 weeks since young Melbourne AFL recruit and Casey wingman Blake Howes took to the field, and after taking to his debut year in the VFL like a duck to water, the 19-year-old has finally made his return.
It was all worthwhile for Howes, who could barely contain his excitement post-match after returning to the game day fold.
“It was unbelievable,” Howes told Casey Media. “It’s been a long time coming after having the foot surgery a while ago.
Howes didn’t take long to readjust to the level. In just his fourth VFL game, Howes amassed 20 disposals and took six marks in Casey’s 17-point win over Footscray.
That win ensured Casey remained undefeated on top of the ladder.
Yet it hasn't all been smooth sailing for Howes and the Demons, with the young prospect having to recover from foot surgery before resuming his position on the wing.
And the comeback didn't get off to the fairy tale start for Howes. In a trademark of Casey’s season, the opposing Bulldogs applied the heat for large parts of the wet and scrappy contest, remaining within touching distance.
But a final quarter burst helped the Dees pull away, with Howes one of the many red and blue contributors who stood up when it mattered to power the Demons to their 15th straight VFL win in 2022.
Despite the challenges, Howes said he loved every part of the wet and tight contest.
“It was a really good challenge,” Howes said. “The conditions made it a bit of a scrap at times.
“But we just pulled ourselves together, dug in hard and got the result in the end, which was a really good feeling.”
The 19-year-old versatile tall was selected by Melbourne in the second round at pick 39 in the 2021 National Draft. Originally from the Sandringham Dragons Under 18 program, Howes has now found himself a role in Mark Corrigan’s table-topping Demons.
When the 190-centimetre youngster first walked into the doors at Casey, he was slated as a potential forward option for Melbourne’s AFL side. But he has already shown his versatility in four VFL games, having played on the wing and all over the ground.
His aerobic capacity and overheard marking was on full display at Footscray’s VU Whitten Oval last Saturday, with Howes lifting in the final term to ensure his Demons won the close contest.
He said being out on the field for the first time in 15 weeks was a welcome relief when the score tightened up.
“Up until three quarter time it was a tight and contested game,” Howes said. “We knew if we kept sticking to our plan, we’d work them over in the end.
“In the last quarter we managed to get on top of them – it was good to finally be out there and not just watching in the stands. It felt good to have an impact and be part of a great win.”
Howes’ telling return to VFL level came as a welcome sight for many Melbourne and Casey fans. But most importantly, the 19-year-old was relieved to get through unscathed.
Howes said his foot feels better than ever, making him ready to attack the pointy end of the season as the Demons eye off a VFL finals run.
“The foot felt great,” Howes said. “I said to one of the doctors as we came off that it feels like I have a new foot.
“I’m relieved to say it felt really good.”