(Sydney University Football Club Wallaby No.64)
Sydney University Football Club lost one of its favourite sons on Friday with the passing of John ‘Jake’ Howard, aged 70.
Born in Bexley in 1945, Jake attended St Joseph’s College at Hunters Hill, where he played in the First XV as a tighthead prop and rowed in the senior eight before enrolling in a Law degree at the University of Sydney.
He worked his way into the SUFC First XV by 1967 and was a member of the star-studded pack that helped the club win the 1968 Shute Shield under the guidance of Dave Brockhoff.
Jake made his NSW and Australian debuts as a 24-year-old in 1970. He went on to play 12 games for the Waratahs and seven Tests for the Wallabies, starting against Scotland at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and then against New Zealand, South Africa, France and Tonga, over the next four seasons.
When his representative career wound down he resumed his studies at Sydney University to complete an Arts degree, with a primary focus on Australian literature, particularly Henry Lawson and A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson.
Jake continued to turn out for SUFC and nurtured many a young front-rower in the blue and gold hoops, as well as opposition props and hookers he packed against, in the dark art of scrummaging.
They were some of the golden days of training at SUFC, with ‘Brock’ and ‘Jake’ putting the forward packs of all grades through thousands of scrums.
Jake reckoned the tighthead was the rock of the scrum and often said, with a wry grin, that the second man picked in any rugby side should be the reserve tighthead. He wasn’t joking.
He’d married Margariete Towers, daughter of the legendary Cyril Towers, and the pair became fixtures at No.1 Oval helping out during Sydney University’s home games in the mid-1970s before they eventually moved north to the Sunshine Coast.
While raising their four children, they each continued successful rugby coaching careers, with Jake enjoying stints in England, France, Japan and the US, as well as being called on as assistant coach of the Wallabies.
Softly spoken but full of conviction, Jake was a raconteur with a natural gift for story-telling and was an entertaining after-dinner speaker and guest at many a rugby function.
A kind and loyal family man and friend, in later years Jake and Marguerite devoted much of their time to teaching children with disabilities.
Jake is survived by Margariete, sons Patrick, Tom and David, daughter Katherine, and six grandchildren.