Warrnambool's Ben Howard is ready to put his best foot forward with greater ruck responsibilities this season.
With Dan Weymouth set to miss three months with a broken collarbone, Howard, 19, stepped into the big man's role against North Warrnambool on Saturday, ultimately holding his own against experienced bodies.
"I knew it was going to be a challenge going up against (Nathan) Vardy and those big blokes at North," Howard said. "But all I had to do was 50/50 the contest, they wanted me to get the ball on the ground and I tried my best to do that. I guess, with Dan out, he's our main ruck so I get that opportunity to try my best and show the coaches that I want to stay in the side."
Recently starting university studies in Melbourne, Howard said strong family ties to Warrnambool was a determining factor in staying at the Blues.
"I had the decision to play between two clubs and in the end, I wanted to choose Warrnambool," he said. "Feeling like I had a bit more connection back home, my uncles, my dad playing there, my grandfather, who has passed away, he played there. It's a history that drives me to play with the Blues."
Now Howard is writing his own story at Warrnambool, starting with its round three win over the Eagles.
"It meant a lot to everyone at the club, not just the players," Howard said. "We've got a few new guys and of course, North being a good side, but just being back at the Reid honesty and having all the fans up on the veranda watching the new deck and our new game style and what we've improved on over pre-season."
Howard hopes the result drives plenty of momentum within the group.
"We want to bring the same mindset we brought to North to every game we play," he said. "The last few weeks we were disappointed with our performances, we weren't putting enough pressure on but we cracked down on that (on Saturday). We want to be right up there at the top of the competition."
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