Blast from the Past - 1996 - Nose for a challenge; Miller set for one more year


Bronze Whaler
May 9, 2008
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behind enemy lines
Nose for a challenge; Miller set for one more year;
[Early Edition]
PETER KOGOY. Sun Herald. Sydney, N.S.W.: Nov 3, 1996. pg. 61

THE nose of the publican behind the bar of a Goulburn hotel tells the story. You may have seen a photograph of it, spread across the owner's face as though a platoon of Aussie Army commandos had not long finished using it for combat fighting practice.

This hooter, which belongs to Gavin Miller, has a real history. It has more twists and turns than the old Hume Highway that used to sneak its way down the Southern Highlands before they straightened out the main road between Sydney and Melbourne.

How many times has it been broken?

He shrugs: "How many stories have you written?" he replies, dismissing as barely worthy of comment its fatal attraction for the arms and elbows of footballing opponents stretching back nearly 20 years.

Talk at the Carlton the day the Commonwealth Bank Cycle Classic rolled into town last weekend was of Miller donning his footie boots one more year - and giving the nose just one more workout.

The souvenirs hang proudly above the bar that Gavin Miller runs just across the road from the renovated historic maroon and gold painted Goulburn railway station on the eastern fringe of town.

Miller's first Test jumper against Papua New Guinea is the centrepiece of a display that includes Country and a NSW State of Origin jumper he swapped with Dan Stains, along with a World and a Presidents' XIII jersey.

On other walls at the hotel are signed photographs of old mates and foes such as coach Jack Gibson, Ray Price and Artie Beetson.

The pub was buzzing that Miller, rising 38, was rumoured to be joining his younger brothers, Wayne, 30, and Brad, 27, at Milton-Ulladulla in the Group 7 competition based on the NSW South Coast next year.

"It is just one of the options I'm considering," says Miller, between pouring beers.

"Wayne has been appointed to his first coaching job and he's asked me if I was interested to have another season as a player.

"I've not had any official talks with club management, but the Milton- Ulladulla offer is just one of two or three offers I'm weighing up at the moment.

"The talks with Wayne have been around taking on a sort of a coaching co-ordinator's role.

"But before committing myself to playing again I would first have to sort out personal things. There's the pub to run and all the travelling across to the coast."

Miller was last seen in Sydney doing what he does best some five years ago, but he's not been lost to bush football.

He headed back to his home town of Goulburn as captain-coach five seasons ago after a long and distinguished career in the Sydney premiership.

In between, he had a three-year stint with Hull Kingston Rovers and played at Wembley in a Challenge Cup final.

He picked up a Rothmans Medal, too, sharing the award with Newcastle's Mark Sargent, and played in a winning World Cup side.

Miller had three seasons with his hometown club before accepting the captain-coach's job at Oberon in Group 10 at the start of the year. "I played every game, so I'm still in pretty good nick," he said.

"I reckon I'm as fit as I was in my last year at Cronulla.

"We didn't have a good season at Oberon, but injuries to key players cost us games at critical stages of the year.

"We lost by a point games against eventual premiers Blayney and losing grand finalists Cowra.

"We finished on the bottom, but only two points separated fifth and the wooden-spooners."

MILLER did find time to have a whinge at some of his Oberon chargers showing a distinct lack of interest at training.

"I didn't have my first-grade squad at one full training session for the last nine weeks of the season," he grumbled.

"It seems they lose interest once the cold weather sets in. But I was warned about it by the previous coach, Sean Hooper. I did take on the coaching job with my eyes open."

Miller still found the time for special mention of a few players who put in week-in, week-out efforts.

"Neil Maher is as good a prop as you would find in country footie," he said. "Jason Fisher rightly picked up all the club awards last weekend and Ashley Reynolds, Jody Booth and Greg Hothom never let me down.

"The rest were disappointing."

The Miller footballing legend goes back to 1977 when, at the age of 17, he played centre for Wests in first grade.

The following year saw him switch to Eastern Suburbs, but not before a long and protracted legal battle. Surprisingly, the Roosters dumped him at the end of the 1980 season and he joined the Cronulla Sharks.

Over the next dozen seasons Miller played more than 200 games in two stints with the club.

"The talk around here is either footie or the gallops," says Tony Anthony, who coached Miller as a raw teenager at the Goulburn Workers Club in the local Group 8 junior competition.

"You only have to look at Gavin's mementoes around the pub's walls to understand that this place is steeped in football tradition."

While the Workers rugby league club no longer exists, people like Anthony haven't forgotten Miller's fine contribution to the game in the town.

"We're planning a 40th reunion early next year and Gav will be among the special guests," he said.

"If I was a betting man I reckon you'll find him playing alongside his brothers, Wayne and Brad, down at Milton-Ulladulla next year.

"No matter where Gav finishes up playing, he'll give nothing short of 100 per cent.

"That's the sort of bloke he's been all his life."