By drafting Anthony Miles last year Richmond, by definition, believed the GWS discard had something to offer. But just how much he has already offered in six weeks has shocked the club.
Since the 22-year-old was elevated from the rookie list for his club debut in round 12, no Tiger matches him for contested possessions (68), while across the league only recognised extractors Tom Liberatore and Andrew Swallow exceed his tally of 41 clearances.
In those six matches the midfielder has averaged 26 disposals, and thrice attracted votes in the AFL Coaches’ Association best-player award.
After his 26-disposal, eight-clearance, six inside-50 display in the Tigers’ past match – the shock home win against Port Adelaide – coach Damien Hardwick admitted he did not expect Miles to be making such a significant contribution.
“You’ve got to love those players that continually surprise you at every level. He’s done it all his career,” he said.
Miles’ potential as an inside-midfielder was reflected in him finishing runner-up in the 2009 Murray Bushrangers’ best-and-fairest, despite being a bottom-age player. That form earned Miles, who hails from the NSW-side Murray River town of Howlong, a contract as a zone player for GWS.
Beyond a six-week stint late in the Giants’ first year in 2012 Miles struggled for opportunities. After only 10 senior matches in two seasons he was culled at the end of last season.
As a player manager, an obvious tenet of Marty Pask’s role is to promote his clients, especially those with an uncertain future. But for a select few, such advocacy becomes impassioned and relentless as a means to “keep ramming home that player’s potential”, such as a few years ago with the then little-known Michael Barlow.
After Miles generated no interest in both the trade period and the national draft, Pask’s haranguing succeeded “at the 11th hour” when it came to the rookie draft, courtesy of the Tigers.
“I annoyed [head recruiter] Blair Hartley at Richmond enough to give him an opportunity,” Pask said.
Once Miles arrived at Richmond, one of the club’s assistant coaches Mark Williams (the Sandringham premiership coach, not the Port Adelaide one also at the club), sought a scouting report from a former teammate of his, Darren Ogier, who had been his under-18 coach at Murray Bushrangers. Ogier was happy to share his observations of the “fierce competitor” he last coached in 2010.
“In an under, with a cheeky grin. He loved it. The harder it got the cheekier the grin. He was the first one in and the last one up,” the Murray coach recalled. “He was very good at extracting the ball from stoppages. His inside work was something that really stood out to me. He just read the ball extremely well in clearances.”
Ogier does not express any gripes towards the Giants for rarely selecting Miles from their “plethora of talented midfielders”. He instead focuses on his satisfaction that the now bigger-bodied Miles, who will play his seventh match of the season on Friday night away to West Coast, is thriving at senior level.
“More than anything, I’m just rapt he’s got a second chance,” he said. “It’s certainly been a great couple of months for him … fingers crossed he continues to build on that.”
While Jake King’s looming return to fitness could force Miles back to the rookie list, there is little doubt the Tigers, in that event, will be ensuring he can replace another injured player or be their nominated mid-season upgrade, so he remains eligible to finish the season.
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