Gavin John Miller (born 4 January 1960 in Inverell, New South Wales) is an Australian former rugby league footballer of the 1970s and 80s. An Australian international and New South Wales State of Origin representative forward, he played the majority of his club football for the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks and is an Immortal of the club. He won two successive Dally M Player of the Year awards in 1988 and 1989.
At his peak Miller was regarded as the most dangerous attacking force in the NSWRL owing to his great ball skills, and his skill made Cronulla-Sutherland a formidable side after many years in the doldrums. Australian selectors during his brief but brilliant heyday were often criticised for ignoring Miller, but it is true he had failed to show his skills in a badly beaten New South Wales side during the 1989 State of Origin series.
Before his late-1980s fame, Gavin Miller had already a long career in rugby league. He began playing for Goulburn as a centre three-quarter and was recommended to the Western Suburbs Magpies in 1977. That year, he obtained a regular place in the team at the age of seventeen but was signed by Eastern Suburbs Roosters the following year. Miller did poorly for Easts in the following two years but Cronulla thought he had potential and signed him for 1980.
Still playing as a centre three-quarter, Miller obtained a regular place in the Cronulla side and gradually showed he had exceptional ball skills as well as the ability to run which he had shown with Wests. Over his first four years at Cronulla he was moved into the forwards and did so well that by 1983 he was chosen to play for New South Wales. He did not fulfill expectations and at the end of the year returned to Easts but played so poorly that he failed to retain a first grade berth despite the Roosters winning only five games out of 24.
After leaving Easts, Miller went to England and joined Hull Kingston Rovers. In this role he developed his hitherto-dormant ball skills and was rewarded with many awards, including the Man of Steel award for the 1985–86 Rugby Football League season.
He returned to Cronulla in 1986 as a much more mature player and after a slow start in his second stint with the Sharks, suddenly leapt to the top of the tree in 1988. His ability to consistently offload and send players into gaps (despite being small for a forward at around 87 kilograms) created so many tries that Cronulla won fifteen of their last seventeen home-and-away matches and claimed the club's first minor premiership. Despite not playing for New South Wales against Queenland or against Great Britain, Miller's club form was so good that selectors could not ignore him for the Test against Papua New Guinea. In a world international rugby league record 70–8 win, Miller "launched countless raid on the Kumuls' line" and scored a try. He also played in the World Cup final against New Zealand, remarkably scoring a try once again, and in between was named as Man of the Match versus a "Rest of the World" team.
1989 was Miller's greatest year, and he monopolised the player-of-the-year awards like no other player except perhaps Peter Sterling and latterly Andrew Johns. His brilliant ball-playing skills were by now backed up with a superb kicking game, a high workrate in defence and the ability to take the knocks that came from being a focal playmaker. He won not only the Dally M Player of the Year, but also the Rugby League Week Player of the Year and the Rothmans Medal. His form against Brisbane in the play-off for fifth was described as "mesmerising" and saw the Sharks win 38–14.
1990, with injuries contributing, saw Miller decline somewhat, though in two games against Balmain and South Sydney he showed he could still be as skilful as ever. At thirty, though, he was out of contention for the Kangaroo tour, and the following year, with the responsibility of captaincy, saw Miller decline further. In 1992, with the changing of the guard at Cronulla, he was surprisingly relegated to reserve grade, but still showed his old skill in patches when brought on for the first team, notably against North Sydney. It was inevitable, though, that Miller would soon retire, and he returned to Gouburn as captain-coach at the end of the year.
After his retirement from first grade rugby league, Miller was named as one of the five "immortals" of the Cronulla club.
Matches and point scoring summary
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- Middleton, David; Rugby League 1988/1989; p. 77. ISBN 0-949853-19-4
- "O'Connor helps set Test records". The Age. 21 July 1988. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
- Middleton, Rugby League 1988/1989; p. 170.
- Middleton, David; Rugby League 1989/1990; p. 96. ISBN 0-949853-32-1
- Whitticker, Alan and Hudson, Glen; The Encyclopedia of Rugby League Players, p. 336. ISBN 1-875169-76-8
- Gavin Miller at sharks.leagueunlimited.com
- Gavin Miller at stateoforigin.com.au
- Gavin Miller at eraofthebiff.com