Boom Queensland Under 19 back rower Jack Howarth can’t wait to play in the forwards for the first time in two years on Thursday night after a lengthy stint in the centres.
Melbourne Storm extended the 19-year-old on a five-year deal until the end of 2027 back in January, before he’d played an NRL game. That’s all you need to know about how highly he is rated.
Howarth, a right centre in the Hostplus Cup for the Sunshine Coast Falcons, played back row on the right side for the Australian Kangaroos in 2019 where he was man of the match in a 36-20 win over the Junior Kiwis. The Australian side boasted Sam Walker and Reece Walsh, both who have since played NRL. Howarth hasn’t, but he’s cool with that.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself. I went down there to Melbourne thinking I knew everything about footy,” Howarth said.
“When I got there I was at square one. I didn’t know anything. That’s what it felt like.
“They are doing a lot of work with me at the moment, just tweaking things so I am 100 per cent ready. They still think I have a lot to learn, and I agree with them.
“I am not in a rush to play [NRL], as much as I want to. I’d love to play. I am just happy learning about myself, and off all the staff and coaches. They are putting a lot of work into me and I am loving it at the moment.
“I am just trying to play consistent footy every week. The way the Storm do it, they won’t chuck you in if you are not ready.”
Howarth has been playing mostly centre for the Falcons and has been training there at the Storm for the past two years. He didn’t play much footy last year with a hamstring strain nagging away at him. He worked on it in pre-season and hasn’t had an issue with it this year.
Howarth has also played back row with distinction, which is where he will line up on Thursday night against New South Wales.
Match: NSW U19s v QLD U19s
Round 1 -
Venue: Leichhardt Oval, Sydney
“I haven’t played back row in two years. I am keen, and keen to see how the lungs go as well,” Howarth said.
“I want to try and put my best performance out there and we have a good team here with plenty of weapons.”
Queensland Under 19 coach Kurt Richards said it was a great opportunity for Howarth.
“The last time we played this game was when it was 18s in 2019, when we got the result at Suncorp. Jack played up as a 17-year-old then and came off the bench and since then he hasn’t had a chance to represent in his own age group,” Richards said.
“This is a great opportunity for him to get a starting spot in the back row in a Queensland jersey, which COVID has not allowed him to do. This game can be a real turning point for him.”
Howarth said he was “over the moon” with his long-term deal at the Storm.
“I love the club and I want to keep being consistent so I can show them I made the right decision,” he said.
He’s learned plenty off Justin Olam and Marion Seve at the Storm.
“Justin pulls me aside and we do drills together and I’ve looked up to Marion ever since I went to Melbourne. I think he is an absolute freak,” Howarth said.
“Marion helps me a lot with my defence in the centres. It is a lot different to back-row and a lot harder.”