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Super 12 snub blessing in disguise for Miller

08 October 2004

Out of a job, injured and overweight, Southland No. 8 Paul Miller was on the verge of quitting New Zealand rugby at the end of last year's NPC.

Carrying too much weight and a number of niggling injuries, his form fell off for Southland in the NPC and when the Super 12 squads were named Miller's was missing.

The Highlanders selectors, Miller's NPC coach Phil Young among them, had gone for the extra pace and mobility of Sam Harding and Grant Webb.

Two years after playing two games for the All Blacks, Miller was on the verge of quitting New Zealand rugby.

With the future of his two-year-old daughter Mya and partner Bronwyn in mind, he weighed overseas offers with the desire to wear black again.

He chose the latter asking himself the hard questions and coming up with some honest answers.

"I definitely considered going overseas, but I just felt I was not ready. I think I've still got a bit more in me.

"I'm a young 27 and I wouldn't be here if I didn't want to be in the All Blacks.

"I was gutted, definitely, but not getting the Super 12 contract might have been a blessing in disguise.

"It gave me time to myself away from rugby, time to work off injuries and get my body right while the other guys were hammering themselves.

"It was more a case of finding my feet again. It was good to get reasons from the coaches why I didn't make it and I accepted those.

"I was carrying too much weight and needed to be more mobile round the field. I had to take it on the chin and move on."

That's exactly what Miller did revamping his training regime and shedding over 10kg in the off-season.

"It's all about being prepared before the NPC, that's where it starts.

"It's not only losing weight, but maintaining it," he says. "You find it hard in the season because the trainings are not as intense during game weeks."

Miller has maintained a leaner frame during the NPC through extra training and a heavy diet of swimming, and the results have been some of the best rugby of his career.

A virtual certainty to return to the Highlanders Super 12 squad in 2005, some are again touting Miller as a solution to the All Blacks problem position of No 8.

It's the second time in his career Miller has been forced to take stock and return stronger than before.

A Highlander in 2000, he missed out on the Super 12 in 2001 only to burst back during the NPC for Otago, forcing his way into the All Blacks' end of year tour and playing two games against Ireland A and Scotland A.

Back in the Highlanders in 2002, he was drafted to the Chiefs in 2003 before finding himself on the outer again by the end of the year.

Miller says he's learned to worry only about things he can control concentrating on consistency, not happy to play well early in the season and taper off.

"There's always stuff to work on, you can't afford to fall away week to week, that's been the hardest part."

Many believe Miller's uncompromising go-forward style has been under-utilised at international level and tomorrow he gets a chance in his 53rd match for Southland to promote his case against the in-form Wellington captain Rodney So'oialo.

A convincing points decision for either man could sway the national selectors.