Article from "Greatest Players" section of the Hull Kingston Rovers website.
Gavin began his career in 1978 as a 17 year old centre at Western Suburbs in 1977. In 1978 he moved to Eastern Suburbs before making his presence known with his next club, Cronulla, where he settled the into second-row position. In 1983 became the youngest ever captain in the Sydney competition at Cronulla, aged 23. This was the season when Cronulla hit financial trouble and players wages were cut in half. Miller became spokesman for the players and raised $22,000 for the club in sponsorship also earning a state of origin selection for New South Wales.
He came over to England as an unknown property and had never played loose-forward before coming to Rovers.
Who? was the almost universal question when they announced the signing of Gavin Miller before the 1984-85 season. After the double winning exploits of the previous season Rovers fans were expected a big name replacement for John Dorahy who would not be returning that season.
Only the keenest followers of Aussie rugby would have been aware of the existence of Gavin Miller, a player who arrived on these shores with a reputation as a rugged tackler and good organiser. It seemed that Rovers were signing Miller as back up for the long hard season awaiting them.
From such unknown origins, who would have guessed the impact Gavin Miller would then proceed to have on Hull KR, English rugby and International rugby.
Gavin made his debut after injury to Rovers' regular loose forward, Dave Hall, and began his Rovers career with a sound, if unspectacular, performance in a 31-5 win at Oldham. Despite being overshadowed by his fellow forwards in that game, Gavin must have done something right in the eyes of Rovers coach Roger Millward, for he managed to claim the loose forward berth as his own as Rovers powered towards another title, only losing his place as injury struck in the closing weeks of the season.
During that first season Gavin quickly gained a reputation as a hard tackler and a player who, despite not being the biggest of forwards, was very difficult to put down and was a more than useful passer of the ball.
From being a virtual unknown at the start of the season, Gavin was quickly becoming a favourite of the Rovers fans, playing an imprtant part in many vital wins as Rovers secured that second championship on the trot.
Rovers had no hesitation in making sure Gavin would be returning for the following season. Indeed, it was in season 1985-86 that the name Gavin Miller exploded onto the rugby league map. A season that was long, hard and ultimately heartbreaking as Rovers lost the chance of a third championship due to an impossible schedule of matches which led to them playing several games with much weakened line-ups, and saw their chance of Wembley glory disappear by the width of a goal post.
Gavin quickly took upon himself the mantle of playmaker as Rovers began the season in impressive style, winning their opening five league games (including a heartstopping 19-18 defeat of Wigan, thanks to Andy Kelly's 40 yard drop goal) and bulldozing their way to the Yorkshire Cup final, beating rivals Hull FC in the first round. Many games were dominated by the burly figure of Gavin Miller as often a quick burst, a dummy and an astute defence-splitting pass would create a try scoring situation out of nothing.
Also proving more than a useful try scorer that season, Gavin was not just proving vital on attack, his defence was also a strong part of his game.
A man of the match performance in the Yorkshire Cup final crowned a perfect start to the season for Miller and Rovers. As the season progressed, Gavin came more and more prominent as a real star in a Rovers team packed with rugby league stars. Great performances in leading Rovers into the John Player Trophy Final and the Challenge Cup final resulted in Gavin receiving the ultimate individual honours in the game, being named as the 1985-86 Man of Steel and First Division PLayer of the Year.
Sadly Rovers would not end the season on a high note, as a heavily strapped Gavin Miller, struggling with a leg injury which meant he could barely break above a jog, was unable to spur Rovers to victory in the Challenge Cup Final, Rovers losing 15-14 to Castleford.
The following season 1986-87 was a personal disaster for Gavin as injury blighted what was thought to be his final year at Rovers. Only rarely did Rovers fans see flashes of the old Gavin Miller as the whole team struggled to maintain a mid table placing under the toll of injuries and loss of form to key players. Gavin was forced to watch powerless from the sidelines as Rovers suffered several heavy or embarrassing losses, none more so than the 18-14 loss at Doncaster in the John Player trophy. It was no coincidence that the return of Gavin at Christmas time resulted in an upturn in performances with several morale boosting wins coming on the back of much improved team work, at the fore of which was a certain Gavin Miller.
Unfortuantely it was with great sadness that Gavin bowed to injury and departed Rovers before the end of what was a hugely disappointing season for a team which had been one of the best in rugby league for the last 6 years. Although Rovers thought they had seen the last of Gavin Miller, this was not the case, as the final chapter in the Gavin Miller story at Rovers was still to be written.
After leaving Rovers in 1987 Gavin returned to the Cronulla club in Sydney, Australia and proceeded to lead them successfully and with a style Rovers fans were well accustomed to. Personal plaudits were tossed Gavins way as he showed his fellow Aussies just what England had found so special about this tough Aussie, leading ultimately to test selection and a starring role as Australia beat New Zealand to win the Rugby League World Cup in 1988.
As Rovers approached the 1988-89 season it was recognised that this would be a very hard season. A lack of star players and a disappointing 1987-88 season pointed to the fact that Rovers, with a team containing several young local players inexperienced at the top level, would struggle. In order to balance this Rovers announced the signing of David Bishop, the Welsh Rugby union 'bad boy'. Although this was a high profile signing, greeted positively by Rovers fans, it was the news that Gavin Miller would be returning for one last year with Rovers that enabled most Rovers fans to view the coming season more positively than had previously been the case.
Unfortunately, the fairytale return of Gavin Miller never really got off the ground, as injury after injury put paid to Rovers chances of a successful season. Despite valiant efforts by Miller who played in several positions as injuries took their toll, Rovers were unable to avoid relegation to Division Two. Bowing to the inevitable, Gavin left the club before the final games of the season, amid rumours of dressing room dissent and personality clashes between Miller and several Rovers players.
It is sad that such a great player ended his Rovers career with the ignomy of relegation, but those of us who saw Gavin play during the 1984-85 and 1985-86 seasons will remember what a great player he was and just what a vital part he was of that successful era. Even in the injury plagued season of 1986-87 when he only played 14 games, the presence of Gavin on the field made a great difference to Rovers performances.
Other players have played for Rovers longer, but few have had such an impact in a relatively short time, especially in Wembley year when Gavin Miller was a virtually unstoppable force. Few who witnessed him in his prime, tearing into opposing tacklers, slipping astute passes out of tackles, or embarking on a dummying, side-stepping charge, will forget Gavin Miller's name.