Premier milestone celebration

While all the cameras were focused on South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas, a former Limestone Coast local was enjoying his big day on the football field.

Adrian Howard started life as a Port MacDonnell youngster and is now living the city life – recently playing his 400th game for the Adelaide University Football Club.

The rare milestone was brought up in the same game where Malinauskas was busy stealing all the limelight, but away from the media the club was busy getting around Howard.

The career started all the way back in 1992 in a tight win over Scotch College and one quadruple century of games later the former “Bay Boy” has played with over 1000 players.

The big day was certainly one to remember with family and friends showing plenty of support with a special sign celebrating the occasion, while the scoreboard was also something to smile about with the Blacks winning by 80 points.

To cap it all off, “Howie” was chaired off to warm applause and said he had a smile on his face throughout the whole day.

“It was great fun,” he said.

“I had lots of surprises in the build up and quite a few messages from old mates that I had played with along the journey.

“The game went pretty well.

“I managed to get a few kicks and got through without injury so I was pretty happy, but would have liked to kick a bit straighter.”

Even with a small group of paparazzi focusing their lenses on Malinauskas, Howard said it was always a joy to stand alongside the most important man in the state, who undersells his skill.

“I have played a lot of footy with Peter and he is great to play alongside,” Howard said.

“I know he plays it up that he is an average footballer but he is a premiership captain and was pretty handy back in his day.

“He played some junior football with West Adelaide and even though now in his 40’s he’s still a really strong mark and forward target.”

Howard still recalls his days down at the “Bay” where he played all of his junior football before reaching the senior grades in 1989.

He said the club gave him the perfect platform to take his career beyond the Limestone Coast.

“Juniors at Port MacDonnell was great … we had a really good foundation,” Howard said.

“The coaches were really focused on skill development which is fundamental for all footy players.

“I remember Denis Smith running “Basic Skill Days” every Sunday and all the dads would come out and help develop us all”.

Howard was not just any junior footballer and in 1990 he ventured down to the Apple Isle to play for North Launceston in Tasmania State League.

He formed a key part of the fledging Under 19’s team which took out the premiership, while the Limestone Coast boy also broke into the Reserves team.

But Howard ventured back to his home state in 1991 to try his luck in the Glenelg setup where he was reunited with lots of South East boys, many of whom joined him at Adelaide University.

Reflecting on those days Howard said he learnt so much at the high-level clubs, but wished he focused more on football to get the most out of those professional environments.

“When I was at North Launceston it was a really slick operation,” he said.

“The TFL was packed with ex-VFL players and really professional, it was really good and a great club.

“If I am honest I probably lost a bit of drive when at Glenelg.

“I was starting to go through the years of wanting to do other stuff with footy less of a priority and struggled with balancing that.

“In hindsight I probably should have come to Adelaide University earlier and possibly tried SANFL later when I was more settled and mature.”

But once Howard arrived at the Blacks, he felt at home and has never left.

Over the years he has kicked closed to 700 goals and has been named as the leading goal scorer for the club and competition in the past.

Even after experiencing some major injury setbacks such as persistent hamstring problems and an ACL in 1998, Howard kept coming back for more.

He said the team environment around one of the largest amateur football clubs in Australia kept gravitating him back to the home of the Blacks.

“It’s the people and the community because footy is such a great sport with so many characters and personalities.

“It’s not just your teammates, it’s the whole environment with coaches, trainers, team managers and supporters that really just enjoy being part of something.

“For any young country kid coming to University the football club is a great way to network and meet new friends and career contacts.

“These days it’s mainly trying to help out the young kids and help them to get the best footy and social experience they can.”

After putting the mighty 400 on the board, Howard said the finish line is drifting closer, but admitted it will be hard to avoid the temptation of joining in when his mates are having big days of their own.

“I think I will stay involved in some capacity,” he said.

“I probably will not play too many games after this season, but maybe the odd cameo when a mate is playing a milestone game.”

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