IN HIS first season at Geelong last year, Gryan Miers was wise enough to play the long game.
The dreadlocked small forward spent 2018 in the Cats' VFL team, playing all 20 games, tallying 20 goals and being part of a finals campaign.
A local product from Grovedale, Miers knew he probably could have caught more attention by taking a more self-absorbed approach to his game, but he heeded the sage advice of the Cats' VFL coach Shane O'Bree.
"I could have gone kick chasing and tried to stand out a bit more to get myself (an AFL) game, but I did a lot of (video) edits and a lot of extra training and skill sessions with Shane O'Bree to replicate what I'd do if I was actually in the AFL team. That really helped me then, and it's really helped me step up to AFL level this year," Miers told AFL.com.au on Monday.
Since then, the Cats livewire has surprised even himself by playing every game this season and performing strongly in a team that sits a game clear atop the AFL ladder.
In the opening eight rounds, Miers has averaged 17 possessions (six contested) and tallied 10 goals and six goal assists.
The 20-year-old received the round eight nomination for the NAB AFL Rising Star award after his third 20-plus disposal game in succession, gathering 22 possessions and kicking 1.3 in the 24-point win over North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Sunday.
RISING STARS Who else has been nominated?
It's been a rapid rise for Miers and he's savouring every moment.
"It's surprising how good it's gone so far. After playing all of last year in the VFL I didn't expect to play in the AFL this early, so I'm stoked that I've been able to contribute and help my teammates each week," he said.
"All us young boys who've just come into the team – 'Clarky' (Jordan Clark), (Charlie) 'Chook' Constable and Tom Atkins – are all surprised by it all, but we know it's not going to be like this for our whole careers, so we need to enjoy it while it lasts and try to make it last as long as possible.
"It's been a good reward for effort so far."
There could be another reward soon, with Miers hinting that a new contract was on the horizon.
"Talks have started. I'm definitely looking forward to staying at Geelong long term. We'll see how we go over the next few weeks," he said.
The pocket dynamo first came to prominence in 2017 when he a produced a 50-goal under-18 season for Geelong Falcons, featuring a seven-goal cameo that piloted the Falcons to the premiership.
FORWARDS ON FIRE The two new Cats taking Geelong to the top
The No.57 pick in the 2017 NAB AFL Draft, Miers said he has also benefited from lifting his overall intensity and improving his kicking.
"I only had the hook-foot, Buddy Franklin-type kick in my bag of tricks but now, after a lot of kicking sessions, I've got a straight kick too, which is more accurate with my shorter kicks," he explained.
Miers also has a big engine in his 178cm frame. He and the ultra-athletic Mark Blicavs were the club's two standout runners over the pre-season.
In his past two outings Miers has clocked up 93 per cent game time in the win over Essendon (when he collected a personal-best 25 touches) and 99 per cent game time against the Roos, the latter being behind only Blicavs' 100 per cent.
"There's been a lot of hard work and a lot of smart work put into that. I wasn't using my running ability smartly last year but it's been a strength of mine this year. I feel I could've played 100 per cent game time each week," he said.
Miers doesn't have to look very far for inspiration and learning opportunities. He has learnt a great deal from observing Gary Ablett's skills and body-work, skipper Joel Selwood's tenacity and ruthlessness, Patrick Dangerfield's power and Mitch Duncan's composure.
"It's great to have them around you and it makes it easier to try to copy," he said.
Miers is guiding some youngsters himself via an assistant coaching role with Grovedale's under-17s. He coaches the midfield and has attended two training sessions a week since January.
"Last year I was wasting too much time just doing nothing and this has really helped me. It's been awesome," said Miers, who is also studying a diploma in business.
"They're a great bunch of kids – they listen to me when they need to and they also pay me out if I didn't do good enough on the weekend.
"It helps my footy. When I tell them stuff they need to do, I realise I need to do the same things myself to fix my own game. In a way they're teaching me."