As Jeremy Howe sat in hospital following his gruesome incident in Round One this season, football was the furthest thing from his mind.
He’d just injured the AC joint in his shoulder, broken two bones in his elbow, and four in his forearm, in what he described as the most excruciating pain he’d felt in his life.
“Sitting in the bed in hospital, footy was so far from my mind in terms of even wanting to try play again,” Howe remembers.
“I spoke about being as mentally broken as a human as I’ve ever been to the point where I was like ‘I can’t even contemplate wanting to play’.
“The moments on your own is when you start thinking and drifting, and me as an athlete to start to think on my own has never been a good thing.”
But things turned around quicker than he thought they would.
From contemplating never playing again, to being back on the MCG by Round 15, Howe could never have predicted his season would end with a premiership medal around his neck.
“It was really challenging but all worth it to get back out there. Once I started getting my physical function back, I felt better mentally as well,” he said.
“The first six weeks (of recovery) were pretty slow, but then I had a remarkable next six weeks. The next four (weeks) were even better and then next minute I was playing.
“I would have been thrilled just getting back into football, and I fortunately ended up playing the last 12 games of the year.
“It took me 13 years and two clubs to try and claim one (a premiership) and I think injuries come with being in the system, but my previous two injuries have been something else.
“This year for how it unfolded and finished I was like just get me to the game on Grand Final day one more time, that’s all I crave, that’s all I want.”
That was fuelled partially by 2022, which Howe says was one of the most pleasing of his career.
“2022 I was so keen and hungry to get in the team and managed to play 24 games. I’ve never played 24 games in a season, and I was 32 at the time,” he says.
“No one was ready to be finished, at one point it could have gone either way, it was certainly a little more uncomfortable than you’d hope.
“But once we got to the Grand Final I was so confident that what we were going to bring to the table was going to be enough.”
It was enough, and the result saw emotions get the better of the 33-year-old.
Tears of joy flowed as a career spanning 233 games finally reaped the ultimate reward.
“It’s hard to wrap your head around what you’re actually feeling at that time,” Howe said.
“As soon as the siren went I just screamed so loud, and I probably looked really angry but I was just so over the moon I almost started crying at the same time.
“That initial 15 minutes is hard to describe because when you see all the families come on and there’s the whole club, all the family included, that’s really powerful.
“Until you’ve actually got it (the Cup) and you hold it, that’s when it sinks in.”
But only 20 minutes before the final siren, Howe was dealt another bout of pain.
Broken ribs greeted him during the fourth quarter but it was Howe who had the last laugh in a season bookended by injury.
“I just remember kicking the ball and I had no idea that anyone was behind me, so I was in a pretty relaxed state,” he said.
“As soon as I let the ball go I got cracked from behind and cracked is the word to use because that’s what happened to a couple of ribs down the bottom.
“I was so winded and all I hear is the Brisbane Lions fans ripping me over the fence, so I feel like I had to get up.
“I got up, trickled towards the middle of the ground and was like ‘they don’t feel great’.
“Even when I got my first touch after getting hit, I kicked it long down the line as soon as I kicked it, I just winced.
“All the hugs post-game I was happy to tolerate …but I was in a fair bit of pain.”
Jeremy Howe 2023 stats:
- Season-high disposals (24) on Grand Final day
- Averaged second-most marks per game at Collingwood
- Kicked three goals in a game for the first time since 2015