Trent Cotchin and Patrick Dangerfield are names that stick out. They jump from the page and give you glimpses of future talents with immense highlight reels. Contrary to popular belief, not all young footballers need a highlight reel or a flashy bag of tricks to be touted as the next big thing.

Just ask Ben Howlett.

Most opposition supporters wouldn’t know who he is, and most wouldn’t understand the value that he adds to Essendon’s midfield.

His continued anonymity only exacerbates a cruel reality that he has had a breakout year, and he will sadly miss out on the accolades that are well deserved.

Rookie drafted in 2009, Ben came from Western Australia at the mature age of 21 and was upgraded to Essendon’s senior list in 2010.

Howlett is your familiar older-age recruit story, originally missed out on being drafted due to questions over his commitment to the cause (the year would have been 2006), and now has steadily climbed his way through the ranks to regain another shot at senior level.

After winning the Peel Thunder best and fairest award in 2009, he increased his output and became one of the more hard-working midfielders in the WA competition in that period. This offering of effort was repaid with Essendon picking him up and giving him a shot at senior footy.

Howlett’s first and second seasons (2010 & 2011) saw him average six tackles, an absurd number for any new player on the scene. The ferocity and attack on the opposition’s inside ball winners has been a hallmark change to the Dons’ midfield setup.

Of all the slight improvements made this season, pressure at stoppages has been one of them, with Howlett being a key component of this.  For someone who has only played 18 games, he’s ranked 7th in total tackles for and 4th in total tackle averages of any player in the competition this year.

His averages in his first two seasons (7th total tackles in the comp in 2011 and 10th total tackles in the comp in 2010) suggests there is more of an increased upside to Howlett’s game.

Not only has his pressure at stoppage situations negated the opposition from winning the ball, it’s allowing him to gain his own ball with even more attention firmly focused on Jobe Watson and Brent Stanton. Considering taggers are more likely and are able to negate Stanton, this allows Howlett to act as Watson’s support (one of the few players in the team to have the stamina and endurance to keep up with the Bombers’ two best midfielders).

Howlett’s immense work rate and body strength, has allowed him to average a career high 19.8 touches a game this season, adding an attacking edge to his in and under style. His career high 4.3 clearances this season indicate his first use of the footy out of packs.

Of course, these numbers and highlights compared to Cotchin and Dangerfield just don’t compare according to many, but Ben Howlett is the real deal. The willpower to continue to the next contest is admirable in many ways; a workhorse confined to the shadows. As his confidence grows, so does his influence on games.

Hopefully soon, he will be able to break the shackles and receive recognition by the footballing community for being consistent in his role.