Maxwell Leo Howell
- 339Wallaby Number
Max Howell was a lightweight and elusive centre three quarter who made his Test debut less than two months after he turned 19, toured with the Third Wallabies, retired from the game at 20 and later became one of the premier rugby historian authors. Born in Sydney and raised during the Depression, Howell was a talented sportsman who excelled in rugby, cricket and basketball. During his time at Sydney Technical High Howell played both rugby union and rugby league in the undefeated premier 1st XV and three years of 1st XI cricket.
He was picked at halfback in the 1943 Combined High School side and again, albeit at centre, the following year. After school Howell joined Randwick and in seventh game of the year debuted in first grade against Drummoyne with immediate impact. Three minutes into the game Howell brilliantly cut in during a three quarter burst and, when confronted by Wallaby fullback Ron Rankin, side-stepped him in a flash and left him groping in mid-air. Then, without having played a state match, Howell found himself selected for the Australian tour to New Zealand. He played in seven matches and when Trevor Allan ‘ricked an ankle’ during the first Test at Carisbrook it was Howell who came off the bench as a replacement to make his Test debut.
In 1947 splendid form in club and trial matches earned Howell a spot in the squad for the Third Wallabies tour of the U.K. and Europe. On his return to Australia Howell retired from international rugby to concentrate on his studies and career. After attending Teachers College in Sydney he went to Berkeley University and earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree. Howell then gained his Master’s degree and finally his doctorate degree in Physical Education. While at Berkeley he did much to revive interest in rugby and represented the University for five years during which time he played against the 1953-54 All Blacks and Ireland. Following three doctorates, four fellowships, a stint at South Africa’s University of Stellenbosch, presidency of the North American Society for Sports History, rugby coach of Canada, the writing of some 50 books, Howell returned home as Foundation Chair and Professor of Human Movement Studies at The University of Queensland.
He was awarded an Order of Australia in 2003 “for service to education as a pioneer in the development of sports studies and sports science as academic disciplines, both in Australia and overseas, and to the study of sports history”. Max
Howell played five Tests for Australia in a two-year international career.
Howell won his first Test cap off the bench when he replaced Trevor Allan at outside centre in the 1st Test, 8-31 loss to New Zealand in Dunedin. He was set to win a second cap when picked to start the second Test in Auckland at inside centre. Unfortunately Howell broke down with a torn medial meniscus on the morning of the match and Jim Stone was called in as a late replacement. On his return to Australia Howell had the medial meniscus in his left knee removed.
Howell won a single cap when he started in the centres outside Terry MacBride in the 1st Test, 5-13 defeat to New Zealand at the Exhibition Ground. He was rested for the 2nd Test due to knee injuries, in what was essentially the final trial before the Third Wallabies were selected.
Howell, at inside centre, and new tour captain Trevor Allan were the centre combination for the opening three Tests of the Third Wallabies tour, against Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Howell broke his nose in Cardiff and Alan Walker partnered Allan in each of the final two Tests.