Miller returns with medal

Ben Miller in action for the New Zealand Hawks against China last week.  Photo by juntanlaycosports.com
Ben Miller in action for the New Zealand Hawks against China last week. Photo by juntanlaycosports.com

From the Hawthorn Hawks to the New Zealand Hawks - Mosgiel's Ben Miller (21) loves being a Hawk.

He has just returned home after representing the Kiwi Australian rules side at the International Cup across the Tasman.

The Hawks finished third in the 18-team competition set up by the AFL in 2002 to grow the sport.

After thumping Sweden, China and the USA in their first three matches, New Zealand lost to Papa New Guinea 75-28 in their semifinal.

However, a thrilling 44-43 win against South Africa in the playoff for third and fourth netted New Zealand a bronze medal.

Miller, who plays centre-halfback, played the entire match despite suffering a suspected broken collarbone in the second quarter.

''We were ranked [third] before the tournament.

"It would have been good to make the final but to go out with a win was good,'' he said.

New Zealand won the competition, which is played every three years, in 2005.

Miller had a strong campaign and was one of three Kiwis named in the tournament team.

Skills he learned on a two-year scholarship with the AFL's Hawthorn Hawks helped.

After playing in a successful national age-group side which won the Oceania Australian football tournament in 2011, he was offered a scholarship by the Hawks in 2012 to learn the ins and outs of the game.

Miller has travelled to Melbourne three times a season for the past two years.

''I had a great time when I was with them. Training with the actual Hawks team was a great experience and something I really enjoyed ...

''I was involved in Hawthorn's full programme, from weights right through to on-field trainings and team meetings with them.''

Miller plays rugby for Taieri and was a member of the Eels premier squad which won the Dunedin premier league this year.

He also played for Taieri in the colts grade and received an award for ''best back''.

Miller also represented the Otago sevens team this year and hopes to do so next season.

As for what sport he enjoys most: ''The skills I've picked up from [Australian rules] like ball handling have benefited my rugby.

"I would have to say rugby would still be my favourite sport ... but I also enjoy playing [Australian rules] a lot.''

Miller plans to continue representing the New Zealand Hawks and seeing ''where that gets me''.

- Robert van Royen

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