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Country footy gives Kalgoorlie’s Ben Miller good grounding ahead of AFL draft

Teenage draft prospect Ben Miller hopes the rough-and-tumble nature of senior country football has given him a solid grounding for the step up to AFL level, if he is selected in next month’s national draft.

Miller split his time between the ruck and forward line during four games for WA at this year’s national under-18 championships, impressing scouts with his consistency, agility and clean hands.

The product of Subiaco’s country zone, originally from Kalgoorlie club Railways, also attracted attention with his imposing figure.

Miller put a strong case to talent scouts at the national draft combine in Melbourne this week as one of just four players to produce an unblemished score of 30 out of 30 in the goal-kicking test.

South Australian Jordan Houlahan and Victorian duo Angus Schumacher and Jackson Ross were the others.

Miller was also a top performer in the agility test and 20m sprint.

He shared the agility test honours with Victorian Kane Farrell by completing the course in 8.10sec., and ran 2.91sec. over 20m to finish marginally behind overall leader Victorian Jack Petruccelle (2.87).

He checked into the draft combine at 196cm and 98kg after growing about 3cm in the past five months.

“I’d like to hope I’m still growing. It would be good,” Miller said.

“I’m hoping to get a little bit bigger, but if I don’t, it’s no biggy.

“I’m at a pretty good size now.”

Miller played nine colts games for Subiaco this season, travelling to Perth from Kalgoorlie while coping with his Year 12 studies.

Which West Coast and Freo players are worthy of their clubs’ Fairest and Best awards?

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He was introduced to senior football in the Goldfields as a 15-year-old.

“It was a good experience to play against bigger bodies,” Miller said.

“The coach called me up and asked if I wanted to play league, and I was like, ‘yeah, absolutely’.

“I was nervous as before the game but the adrenaline kicked in.

“It was our derby round and we got the win against Kangas.

“I played in the ruck and they had some massive boys.

“They were very strong.”

Miller spent time in the WA under-18 set-up under the tutelage of West Coast premiership ruckman Mark Seaby, who aided the youngster’s ruck craft and game sense.

“He took the bigger boys and worked with me non-stop at training,” Miller said.

“He helped me with how to position myself on the oval and how to use my body against opponents in different situations, as well as where to hit the ball and follow-ups.”

Miller got a small taste of the big time when he featured in the under-18 All-Stars match on grand final day. It was the first time he had been to the MCG.

“It was so good to play on the G,” Miller said.

“The boys stuck around to watch the grand final.

“It was just ridiculous. I don’t know how the players do it with all the fans screaming and yelling, but obviously that’s the level you’ve got to get to and keep composed.

“It was a wicked atmosphere.”

Meanwhile, Subiaco product Kyron Hayden gave his stocks a boost by setting a new draft combine record for the running vertical jump, surpassing the mark reached by high-leaping West Coast star Nic Naitanui almost a decade ago.

In a surprise result, Hayden leapt 103cm to overtake the record of 102cm previously held by Naitanui, from the 2008 combine, and former Brisbane and Gold Coast utility player Jared Brennan (2002).

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