John ‘Jake’ Howard passed away on the 11th December, 2015, and was remembered on Friday in a service in Brisbane. Jake coached the Oxford Blues squad in the 2007 season. Despite a loss under the author’s captaincy in the Varsity Match that year it was considered by many luminaries as the best year ever in Oxfords history! Although not having experienced the other 133 years of Oxford varsity campaigns I am able to confirm this to be true.
Jake was a former Wallaby (7 tests) and a World Cup winning Wallabies forwards coach (1991). He coached professionally, however he loved experiences and people far more than trophies and money, leading him to coach university rugby at the University of Sydney, University of Queensland, and Harvard University along with Oxford.
Jake was a front rower, and he coached with the old school values of the front row. Hard, uncompromising, and completely unappreciative of backs. In fact I am not convinced he knew the names of our backs during that season, indicated by the fact that he consistently referred to our star winger Jonan Boto as 14.
Jake bid his farewell to the team the day after the Varsity Match in 2007. The team had settled in to the leather chairs of Vincents, with a Perky in hand, and it was a rowdy affair. When Jake rose to speak, a silence built on respect descended on the room. What struck us about his speech was that he spoke not at all about rugby, but spoke simply, and earnestly, about the quality of people and the quality of the young men in the room.
Jake bid his ultimate farewell through an honour guard of innumerable past Wallabies who had been mentored, coached, and educated about life under Jake. Such was the snaking length of that line, a quote from the service about Christopher Wren came to mind; ‘if you seek his monument, look around’. A man of great integrity and passion for our game. I speak for our team, and for the rugby family, when I say he will be missed.
Joe Roff (Harris Manchester)
OURFC Captain 2007
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