On the cusp of qualifying for his second career Grand Final, Collingwood’s Jeremy Howe is making the most of what may be the last chance he has for a flag.
A part of the losing 2018 team, the 32-year-old is well aware that as he approaches the twilight of his career, there’s only a few opportunities left to achieve the ultimate glory.
Howe is part of a key group of players including captain Scott Pendlebury, Jamie Elliott, Steele Sidebottom and Jack Crisp who are bringing their finals experience to a youthful squad.
Speaking to media on Tuesday, Howe is throwing everything he can into Saturday.
“Chatting to Pendles this time around, we understand we’re not going to get too many more opportunities, but maybe our young kids will throughout the future,” he said.
“You’ve got to make the most of [those] opportunities. It’s a great time of year.
“I feel like our footy’s in pretty good shape at the moment. No greater challenge than going up against Sydney on their home deck.”
Amongst the older heads are the youngsters who are providing the extra spark in their first finals series.
Jack Ginnivan, Josh Daicos, Nick Daicos, Ash Johnson, and John Noble have all taken the initiative and had standout performances across the qualifying and semi finals.
Josh Daicos has been incredibly consistent on the wing, Ginnivan kicked three goals and set the tone early against Fremantle, while Johnson kicked what is a now trademark snap from the boundary against Geelong when the game was in the balance.
“The young guys have been great,” Howe said.
“We’ve given a lot of credit to the enthusiasm and energy that they bring, starting from the pre-season. They were driving us older guys along, which is great.
“I feel like our list has a great balance at the moment between senior and young guys as well.
“Those young kids, even the ones that have had two or three pre-seasons in them now, we’ve been able to see the fruits of what they produce on gameday. It’s pleasing.”
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After an injury interrupted previous two seasons where he played just 12 games, Howe has an important piece of the Collingwood defence this season.
Him and his fellow defenders have been under fire across a number of weeks, with the midfield often conceding clearances and inside 50s.
To their credit, they’ve battled hard and launched plenty of attacks under the intense pace and pressure that the Pies move the ball with.
This weekend, the Pies will have to contend with the mix of Sam Reid, Isaac Heeney, Will Hayward, and of course, Lance Franklin.
Howe is well aware of the challenge ahead, but is backing the chemistry they’ve built together this season to overcome what the Swans will bring.
“They’ve got no shortage of talls. Between myself, Darcy [Moore] and Murph [Nathan Murphy], we’ll flick around down there,” he said.
“Potentially we do play a little bit undersized, but the way we play, we support each other at any given time. We probably have the opportunity to be able to play that size.
“Darcy’s athletically gifted, he’s a supreme athlete. Murph’s been crucial. It’s so great to see him with a healthy body. We feel like we have a good mix down there.”
The Pies and the Swans went head to head in Round 22, just over a month prior to the preliminary final. The Sydneysiders had the visitors’ number, snapping their 11 game winning streak.
Sydney controlled the tempo of the play, slowing the game down and not letting Collingwood play on its own terms, as it tends to do.
Howe sees their recent meeting as an advantage when it comes to playing them this weekend.
“It was a good thing that we only played there three or four weeks ago. Our performance probably dropped away from where we were before that,” he said.
“A few key learnings in the last game. We’re still finding out what our best footy looks like.
“Our last two weeks especially have really set ourselves up. Our game against Geelong was one of our best games even though we didn’t get the result.”
Aside from the obvious occasion, Saturday afternoon will also mark the 200th game for half back flanker turned midfielder Jack Crisp.
One of the most consistent players in the league, the 28-year-old has played every game since he arrived at the Pies. He has now appeared 187 times straight.
Coming off a career-best 2021 where he polled 11 Brownlow votes, new coach Craig McRae made the move to turn Crisp into a full-time inside midfielder, where he’s flourished.
Crisp is averaging 23.5 disposals, 9.2 contested possessions, 5.4 tackles, 5.4 inside 50s, 3.9 clearances, and has kicked 11 goals.Embed from Getty Images
Howe spoke highly of his teammate of seven seasons ahead of the weekend.
“Cripsy’s just a remarkable athlete. Resilience is probably the biggest thing for him,” he said.
“He never misses a training session. You’ve only got to ask him, he’s never missed a game in 12 years or something like that,” Howe laughed.
“He runs more than anyone in the team, he’s our highest pressure player, our greatest tackler for this season. He’s been our most consistent player for a long period of time.
“We certainly recognise that internally, and externally I feel like he’s starting to get some recognition as well. His leadership has gone to another level.
“200 games has come around really quick for him. Hopefully we can get the reward for him, because he certainly deserves it.”
Collingwood and Sydney go head-to-head for a spot in the 2022 Grand Final on Saturday afternoon from 4:45pm AEST.
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