Gavin John Miller (born 4 January 1960) is an Australian former rugby league footballer of the 1970s and 1980s. 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.
Gavin Miller was born in Inverell, New South Wales. Before his late-1980s fame, Miller had already a long career in rugby league. He began playing for Goulburn as a centre three-quarter and was recommended to Western Suburbs in 1977. That year, he obtained a regular place in the team at the age of seventeen but was signed by Eastern Suburbs 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. Miller did not fulfill expectations there and during the season was involved in a dispute with the Sharks’ committee – he had said he would leave the financially-crippled club if it did not win the KB Cup. The Sharks failed to do this, and Miller was sacked at the beginning of October. That November Miller was signed by his former club Eastern Suburbs but played so poorly that he was relegated so low as third grade, while the Roosters won only five first-grade 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.
Miller played loose forward in Hull Kingston Rovers’ 14–15 defeat by Castleford in the 1984 Challenge Cup Final during the 1984–85 season at Wembley Stadium, London, on Saturday 3 May 1986, in front of a crowd of 82,134.
Miller played loose forward, scored two tries, and was man of the match winning the White Rose Trophy in Hull Kingston Rovers’ 22-18 victory over Castleford in the 1985 Yorkshire County Cup Final during the 1985–86 season at Headingley Rugby Stadium, Leeds on Sunday 27 October 1985.
Miller played loose forward in Hull Kingston Rovers’ 12–0 victory over Hull F.C. in the 1984–85 John Player Special Trophy Final during the 1984–85 season at Boothferry Park, Kingston upon Hull on Saturday 26 January 1985, and played loose forward in the 8–11 defeat by Wigan in the 1985–86 John Player Special Trophy Final during the 1985–86 season at Elland Road, Leeds on Saturday 11 January 1986.
Gavin Miller 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 or 13 stone 10 pounds) 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 Queensland 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
|New South Wales||1983, 1989||5||0||0||0||0|
- Derriman, Phillip; ‘Players Face Big Pay Cuts as League Feels the Pinch’; Sydney Morning Herald, July 7, 1983, p. 9
- Lester, Gary; ‘Like It or Lump It’; The Sun-Herald; 2 October 1983, p. 92
- Sport Digest; Sydney Morning Herald, 24 November 1983, p. 26
- Dasey, Jason; ‘Rebel Shark Finds New Life in “Old Dart”’; Sydney Morning Herald, September 15, 1985, p. 105
- "1985–1986 John Player Special Trophy Final". Wigan.rlfans.com. 31 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- Clarkson, Alan; ‘League’s Man Mountains: Bigger, Faster and Meaner than ever Before’; The Sun-Herald; April 19, 1992, pp. 58-59
- 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
- "National Rugby League". Web.archive.org. 6 January 2005. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
- Whitticker, Alan and Hudson, Glen; The Encyclopedia of Rugby League Players, p. 336. ISBN 1-875169-76-8