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Ball magnet Miles set to make an impact

Peter Blucher  October 11, 2018 5:25 PM

TRADE: Anthony Miles Highlights Welcome to the SUNS, Anthony Miles!
  - Gold Coast Suns

Question: How many players on the Gold Coasts SUNS list have had 500 possessions in an AFL season? And had five 30-possession games? And boast a career average of 22.2 possessions per game.

Answer: None

But very soon there will be one.

Anthony Miles, traded from Richmond to the Gold Coast this week, will bring with him these three significant career statistical highlights that demonstrate why he was such a primary trade target for coach Stuart Dew and the recruiting staff. 

Miles had 544 possessions for Richmond in 2015 in an effort that was 32nd in the League and would rank fifth in all-time best seasons at the SUNS. 

Only David Swallow, Gary Ablett, Dion Prestia and Harley Bennell have had 500-possessions seasons for the SUNS in the club’s eight-year history, and only Ablett’s first three seasons in 2011-12-13 and Prestia’s 2014 campaign would rank above Miles’ effort of 544.

Miles had five 30-possession games in 2014-15-16 at Richmond. Only seven players in eight years have had five or more 30-possession games for the SUNS – Ablett (48), Prestia (14), Aaron Hall (9), Michael Rischitelli (8), Bennell (7), Jarrod Harbrow (5) and Swallow (5).

And, with a 22.2 possessions per game career average, Miles stands above all but four players in SUNS history – Ablett (30.8), recently delisted veteran Michael Barlow (25.5), Jarryd Lyons (24.6) and Prestia (23.6). And only Swallow (20.9), Touk Miller (20.3) and Harbrow (20.0) of other current SUNS are above 20.0ppg.

While sheer possessions are not the only measure of productivity and value, they are certainly a good starting point. And it is not difficult to forecast that his ball-winning ability will be a genuine asset to the SUNS in 2019 and beyond.

WATCH: Anthony Miles Interview

He is a 26-year-old 71-game AFL veteran whose statistics suggest he should have played a lot more football at the highest level. And still has a lot of top-end football left in him.

Not only did he have 544 possessions at Richmond in 2015 but he followed up with 432 from four less games in 2016.

And if you exclude his first 10 AFL games with the GWS Giants in 2012-13, when he was still wearing the AFL version of trainer-wheels, his possession average jumps to 23.1.

Simply, Miles is a prolific AFL ball-winner caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Twice.

Born in Albury on 28 February 1992 and a product of the Murray Bushrangers in the TAC Cup, he grew up in Howlong, a town 28km west of Albury on the Murray River, with a population of 2511 at the last census. 

The town is immortalised in the song “By the time I get to Howlong” from the Grand Slam album of Spiderbait, an alternative rock band formed in nearby Finlay that has won two ARIA Music Awards and reached No.1 on the ARIA singles charts with a cover version of ‘Black Betty”.

In 2009-10 Miles played with the Murray Bushrangers in the TAC Cup, serving as vice-captain and finishing second in his team’s best & fairest in 2010.

He was NSW/ACT Rams captain at U16 and U18 level, and in 2010 was named captain of the TAC Cup Team of the Year and won All-Australian U18 selection.

He was zoned to the GWS Giants and had signed a contract with the expansion club while still completing his education at Albury High School in June 2010.

Wearing jumper #25, he made his AFL debut in the Giants’ fourth game in the AFL in Round 4 2012 against Adelaide at Football Park, collecting 15 disposals, eight marks and six tackles.

READ: Anthony Miles Q&A with the AFLPA

But after a mid-season knee injury he had to wait until Round 17 for his second game against Fremantle, at Subiaco, when he had 27 disposals to rank behind only Toby Greene’s 33 in a GWS side beaten by 95 points. 

He held his spot until Round 22, and by season’s end had averaged 18.3ppg through seven games.

But he managed only three games in 2013 and at the end of the season he was delisted.

It wasn’t that he couldn’t play. He couldn’t get a game in a midfield rotation that included the likes of Callan Ward, Stephen Coniglio, Toby Greene, Tom Scully, Adam Treloar, Taylor Adams, Dylan Shiel, Lachie Whitfield and Devon Smith, among others.

He was picked up by Richmond in the 2014 rookie draft and after breaking into the senior side in Round 12 he held his spot right through to an elimination final loss to Port Adelaide.

Wearing jumper #26, he had 30 possessions in his second game for Richmond and by season’s end he’d averaged 24.4ppg through 13 games to rank fifth at the Tigers behind Brandon Ellis (26.1ppg), Trent Cotchin (26.0ppg), Dustin Martin (25.5ppg) and Brett Deledio (25.4ppg).

Cotchin, Ellis, Martin and Deledio finished 1st-2nd-3rd-7th in the Richmond B&F, and Miles polled three times for four votes in the Brownlow Medal. Only Cotchin, Martin, Deledio, Ellis and leading goal-kicker Jack Riewoldt polled more votes.

In 2015 he stamped his mark on the AFL in emphatic fashion. He played every game, including a final, and had his 544 possessions at 23.7ppg. Only Martin (594) and Brandon Ellis (594) had more, and he was ahead of Cotchin (540).

Plus, he led Richmond in clearances, was second in tackles and second in contested possessions. And he polled nine Brownlow votes.

Only Martin, who was seventh overall with 21 votes, and Cotchin, equal 11th overall with 17 votes, polled more at Punt Road.

He finished fourth in the Richmond B&F behind Alex Rance, Martin and Deledio.

WATCH: Craig Cameron on Richmond recruits

The 2016 AFL Guide described Miles as “one of the team’s most valuable players as a hard-bodied sidekick to Cotchin” and noted “he proved incredibly durable, playing every match in a demanding role” and “his inside grunt allows teammates to excel on the outside”.

Season 2016 wasn’t quite so good although he finished with 432 possessions from 19 games at 22.7ppg. He was dropped for the first time at Richmond in Round 5, and again in Rounds 22-23.

With the arrival of ex-SUNS Prestia and Josh Caddy at Richmond in 2017, Miles’ opportunities fell away further. He played Rounds 7-9-17-19-20 in the premiership year. And in 2018 he played only Round 12.

In an interview with the AFL website in mid-September this year he admitted it had been a frustrating year, dominating at VFL level but being unable to break into a strong Richmond line-up.

"(VFL coach) Craig McRae's a big advocate. His thing for me was always to, when you come back to the VFL, not be a VFL player, be an AFL player playing VFL," Miles said.

"That's something that I've always tried to do and think I've been able to do, so I'd be lying if it wasn't frustrating."

He was pleased with his form this year given the extra attention he received on-field.

"I'm 26 and I still feel like I'm in the prime of my career. I think my footy has, in a way, reflected that," Miles said.

"I hadn't had the challenge of being tagged much until this year and probably had some heavy tags in four or five games which I was able to work through eventually, but early on I struggled with that a little bit.”

It didn’t happen for him in the 2018 finals, but he shared with Williamstown’s Michael Gibbons the J.J.Liston Trophy for the VFL’s best player despite playing only 14 games.

Again, wrong place, wrong time. 

He’s hoping it will be right place, right time at his new home on the Gold Coast.