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Finally, Miller receives nomination

SUNS TV: Touk Miller GC SUNS midfielder Touk Miller speaks with SUNS TV about his NAB Rising Star nomination.

A thirty-minute interview at last October’s Draft Combine was the only contact Touk Miller had with Scott Clayton and the list management team at Gold Coast before the SUNS selected him with pick No. 29 in the National Draft. Now eight months into his time in Carrara, Miller has emerged as not only one of the steals of last year’s cattle auction, but a bona fide contender for this year’s Rising Star.
 
The Victorian has become the poster boy for pressure in an age where without its application you simply don’t get a game, particularly in your first season. After 16 rounds, Miller is ranked seventh in the competition for total pressure acts, narrowly behind established stars Travis Boak, Josh Kennedy (Sydney) and Jack Steven.
 
The 19-year-old is one of only three Gold Coast players to appear in every game this year, along with Michael Rischitelli and Kade Kolodjashnij. After starting as a defensive small forward, Miller has gradually been exposed to more and more midfield minutes the longer the year has worn on.
 
With David Swallow re-aggravating his posterior cruciate ligament last weekend, the time was right for Miller to spend the game in the guts. It had to be, there were little alternatives given the comprehensive injury toll at Metricon Stadium.
 
Miller met the increased midfield minutes like a player who is desperate to stay in there. He collected a career-high 27 possessions – 18 contested – nine clearances, seven inside 50s, three goal assists and two goals to leave the Rising Star selectors with no option other than nominating him for his effort against Greater Western Sydney.
 
“I think coming to the club at the start of the year, the forward line was probably more where I was going to set my sights for the next two years. But I’m pretty stoked to get midfield time now,” Miller told SUNS TV on Monday.
 
“It’s probably been lucky there’s been a few injuries to some of our better players – it’s given me an opportunity, but I’m taking my opportunity and seeing what I can do with it.
 
“It’s not every day you get to spend a lot of time in the midfield in your first year, especially with the likes of ‘Gaz’ and [Michael] Rischitelli. So I’m really stoked, the more time the better for me. I’m really happy there, it’s where I feel most comfortable. But wherever Rocket wants to play me I’ll be happy.”


 
With seven games remaining and fatigue a threatening factor, how Miller and other first and second-year players are managed in the final third of the season is a focus area for Rodney Eade and the football department in Carrara.
 
If he had it his way, he would play out the year. And he might well have to given the injury calamity at the SUNS this year. But, the best thing for him might be a week off or reduced game time with the substitutes vest.
 
“If I had it my way I probably wouldn’t rest for the whole year. But so far my body’s holding up really well,” Miller said.
 
“I talked to Rocket about it, he said they will probably make me sub in one of the games, which would be a bit of a break.
 
“I think it’s because of the injuries, I can’t really have the week off. But hopefully my body holds up for the rest of the year.”
 
The fact it has taken 16 rounds for the powers to be to anoint the Calder Cannons product with a nomination is laughable given the season he has produced. When discussions have centred on Rising Star contenders, Miller struggles to earn a mention, let alone be debated for the award.
 
But when you delve a little deeper, his numbers stack up well against Carlton’s Patrick Cripps, Melbourne pair Jesse Hogan and Angus Brayshaw, Greater Western Sydney’s Cam McCarthy and West Coast’s Dom Sheed. Only Brayshaw is a first-year player amongst this crop, further emphasising the impressive season Miller has produced in 2015.
 
The former Vic Metro captain is averaging 17.8 possessions per game, 4.6 tackles, 3.0 inside 50s and 2.9 clearances – all numbers are above last year’s Rising Star recipient Lewis Taylor’s year. Of his 15 games, Miller has had 20 or more disposals on seven occasions, culminating with his 27 against GWS.

Former St Kilda and Carlton star Matthew Lappin arrived at Metricon Stadium shortly before Miller, but the timing has been ideal for the teenager, with Miller identifying Lappin as the most influential person during his time at the club.
 
“Matty Lappin has helped me a lot, especially at the start of the year just finding my feet and putting goals in place for me to get to. Even in the pre-season, different times and stuff in the gym,” Miller said.
 
“Now it’s a lot about working on different skills and apply them to my game. He’s helped me a lot.”
 
Carrara is a world away from Melbourne’s inner west. But moving north with Peter Wright, someone he has known since the age of 12, has made the transition significantly easier for Miller.
 
“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster year. But I feel like it’s the life I want to live,” Miller said.
 
“It’s pretty easy moving out with Peter Wright as well who’s really professional the way he goes about it.
 
“So far so good, I’ve got the surf close by still. There’s a lot of boys around us at the club that put you on the right path.”
 
In a season that has not gone to plan for the SUNS, Miller, along with mature-aged rookie Adam Saad, have emerged as beacons for hope during a bleak winter. The pair have tantalised the football landscape with their bravery and appear to have long futures in the game.
 
In hindsight, the time it took Scott Clayton to sip on his latte at Etihad Stadium last October, has well and truly paid dividends. 15 games doesn’t make a career, but the signs point to a player on the path to a decade in the game.