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Forgotten Tiger back in the fold at right time

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 16: Anthony Miles of the Tigers handpasses the ball during the 2017 AFL round 17 match between the Richmond Tigers and the Brisbane Lions at Etihad Stadium on July 16, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)
Anthony Miles returned for the Tigers against the Lions
...It's probably just been a tough midfield to crack into as well. That was the reality of it, but it's good to be back.
Tiger Anthony Miles

A PERFECT storm of recruiting and a lack of midfield injuries has conspired against Anthony Miles in 2017, but the Richmond onballer has reshaped his game to come back into the fold at the right time of the season. 

Miles was an unwitting victim of the Tigers' off-season recruiting, which saw Dion Prestia and Josh Caddy join the club as key players in midfield and half-forward roles.   

After finishing sixth (2016) and fourth (2015) in the best and fairest in the past two seasons and playing all but three games between 2015-16, Miles was suddenly unable to break into the best 22. 

But some feedback from his coaches to develop his spread from stoppages in the VFL has paid off, and the 25-year-old looks capable of playing an important role in the run to the finals. 

"I think the coaches knew my strengths were inside the contest with clearances and contested ball, so I probably reshaped my game without going away from my strengths," Miles told AFL.com.au. 

"It was a little bit of my running and spread away from the contest that I worked on. 

"And it's probably just been a tough midfield to crack into as well. That was the reality of it, but it's good to be back." 

Between them, midfielders Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin, Shaun Grigg, Kane Lambert, Caddy and Prestia have missed just four games, giving the Tigers remarkable consistency in the centre.  

It has made it hard for Miles to break into the team, playing only two games before Sunday's clash against the Brisbane Lions.

His VFL form ahead of that Lions clash was too good to ignore, however, particularly as he improved those aspects of the game he had been encouraged to. 

In the five VFL games before last week's AFL return, Miles averaged 32 possessions and 5.4 inside 50s, while also registering more kicks than handballs in every match.

That form translated to a strong AFL performance against the Lions, finishing with 24 possessions and 372m gained, well above his 2016 average of 276.4m. 

He found a way to improve his impact on the outside while maintaining his ability at the coalface, which was a key reason he was brought back into the team after the Tigers were beaten in the contested game against St Kilda in round 16.  

"It certainly felt like I was moving well and I felt like I was pretty good around the stoppage as well. It felt pretty good," Miles said.  

"You can see there's a fair bit of pressure on and our midfield is deep, so it's a good challenge for me (to stay in the team)." 

Coach Damien Hardwick was pleased with Miles' contribution against the Lions and the clearance specialist should be given a chance to back up his impressive return on Sunday against his former club Greater Western Sydney, where he played 10 games from 2012-13.   

"I was really pleased for him. He's a super kid and I'm glad he's playing some good football," Hardwick said after the Tigers' win on Sunday.    

"He'll continue to put his best foot forward and continue to help us get to where we need to go."