WHEN it comes to AFL debuts, it doesn’t get much more impressive than Blake Howes’ first outing for Melbourne on Thursday night.

Despite his team’s 22-point loss to Sydney at the SCG, Howes won’t forget the game anytime soon, having fit seamlessly into the Demons’ side and shining in the Opening Round clash. 

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Slotting into the defence as a silky half-back talent, the youngster quickly showed his composure at the top level.

The 20-year-old finished the game with 17 disposals, seven marks and a whopping game-high 12 intercepts.

Speaking to SEN’s The Run Home following his debut, Howes said he was happy to get his official AFL start underway.

“It’s obviously a bit of a step up from VFL standard,” Howes said.

“But I feel like once you’re out there, you’re just playing footy, so I felt comfortable, and it always helps when you get a couple of touches nice and early.

It was an unreal experience running out in front of 40,000 people at the SCG.

“I felt really good out there, obviously it was a disappointing result, but it was good to get the first one under the belt now.”

Howes’ debut was made extra sweet having had an interrupted journey at the club since first being drafted at the end of 2021.

The Sandringham Dragons recruit was struck down with injury just five months into his time at the Dees, a stress fracture to his foot sidelining him for close to two months.

He then spent the first half of 2023 impressing in the VFL and looked like a promising option for senior footy before being dealt another injury blow in July, fracturing his scaphoid bone in his wrist.

Showing a wealth of resilience at a young age, Howes worked his way back with a rigorous pre-season and came out in 2024 raring to go.

“They were both challenging [injuries], mainly because I haven’t had too many injuries, I’ve actually been really fortunate,” Howes said.

It was challenging and disappointing at the same, but you learn to take the positives out of it, like how to look after my body and going through a rehab program.

“So, I’ve taken lots of good things out of it and hopefully I get a good crack at it now.”

While the night will be one to remember for Howes, the game itself was one to learn from for the Dees, who struggled in humid and slippery conditions at the SCG.

With a ten-day turnaround, Melbourne will now look to correct its trouble areas ahead of its Round 1 clash against the Western Bulldogs on Sunday.

“We were pretty quick to review the Swans game, and we like to take the learnings out of that and look ahead to our opponents this week, which are the Doggies,” Howes said. 

We’re just going to have to be better at our basics, like our fundamentals, which were a bit off on the weekend.

“And lifting at all phases of the game, like our contest and defence.”

The Dees will host the Dogs in their first home game of the season at the MCG. The first bounce is scheduled for 1:00pm (AEDT) with tickets to the match available here.