John "Jack" Howard
- 313Wallaby Number
‘Jack Howard’ was a solidly built Queensland winger who switched to rugby from rugby league, played two Tests for Australia and whose life remained one of Australian rugby’s great mysteries until 2019. Rugby author Jack Pollard wrote that Howard was ‘one of the first Aboriginals to play for Australia’. Truth be known, Howard was not an Indigenous Australian. His paternal grandfather was the 5x great grandson of the Honourable Edward Howard. Edward Howard was the 1st Baron Howard of Escrick. Edward was the youngest son of Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk who in turn was the son of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk. Howard’s paternal grandmother was from Ballyvaughan, on the West Atlantic Coast of Ireland. Howard himself was born in Nambour but schooled in Brisbane at ‘Christian Brothers School.’
He then played rugby league for Nambour during the early-to-mid-1930s. Percy Pascoe, the manager of Brett’s Sawmills in Brisbane, had the bright idea of recruiting out-of-work league players, offer them employment at Brett’s Timber Yards and then form his own club team in the local city competition. His recruits included brilliant fullback, Len Walker, from Glen Innes, the Ebbern brothers, Dick and Jack, from Bathurst, and Howard, a hard-running three-quarter from Maryborough. With such good talent in their ranks the Brett’s Windsor club was admitted to the first grade competition in 1937 and immediately won the Old Buffers Cup. Howard developed into a ‘star wing three-quarter’ that season where his form for Brisbane in Toowoomba, on a beaten side, won him a state debut against New South Wales. Howard scored a try in three of the four matches and his effort in the 9-3 win at the Exhibition Ground 'was a gem’ which 'brought down the house’. Despite ‘outstanding claims’ for a wing position, Howard lost out to the experienced ‘Jockey’ Kelaher for the two home Tests against the Springboks.
The following year Howard was involved in quite a controversy when the QRU decided not to accept the affiliation of Bretts-Windsor for the 1938 season. The ruling related to a technical breach of amateur rules by the club in finding employment for men who were, for the most part, rugby league players combined with the use of the name of a trading concern by a club playing under the QRU banner. Howard and Walker were forced to make applications to other A grade clubs for admission and Howard joined Brothers. By the time Howard settled into the new season with Brothers, he had missed selection in the Queensland team for the opening match against New South Wales however he was recalled for the second and third games where he scored a try in each. Those efforts earned him a Test debut against New Zealand in Sydney and his display, especially in keeping All Black flyer Bill Phillips in check, was described as ’solid’. ‘Jockey’ Kelaher returned from strained ligaments in his right knee to start the final match of the series, and due to the war, that Test was the last played by the Wallabies for eight years. Howard returned to Nambour and rugby league in 1939. Contrary to some publications Howard did not serve in World War 2. He later farmed at Birkdale in Queensland where he and his family established a 27 hole golf course (Howeston).
Howard won his first Test cap on the left wing, in partnership with Max Carpenter, in the 1st Test, 9-24 defeat to New Zealand at the S.C.G. The rather one-sided result saw the Wallaby selectors make seven changes for Brisbane. Howard was moved back to the reserves and University of Sydney winger Michael Moran named in the run-on team. Unfortunately Moran suffered a kick to the upper part of his leg in a club match against Drummoyne and withdrew, a decision which saw Howard returned to the starting side for the gallant 14-20 loss at the Exhibition Ground.