IT'S TAKEN Touk Miller seven years to sneak up on the AFL.
Drafted with pick No.29 in the 2014 NAB AFL Draft, the Gold Coast midfielder has forged a reputation on hard work and discipline over his first six seasons.
A player you could rely on every week, a player who could tag, a player who could win his own ball, and above all else a player who would bust his backside from the first bounce to the final siren.
Miller has done whatever coaches Rodney Eade or Stuart Dew have asked of him.
This year the 25-year-old has gone to a completely different level, though.
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Miller is hurting opponents with his burst from stoppage, he's racking up more disposals than ever, and most noticeably his neat right-foot kick is now a penetrating missile that can slice opposition defensive set-ups.
"I've been working on a few small things over the course of my career that are starting to come through now," Miller told AFL.com.au.
"My ball use, my ability to work in the contest.
"It's something I pride myself on anyway, but I've upped my work-rate."
Numbers certainly tell some of his story.
He's averaging 30 disposals a game after previously never topping 23, and now averages 425m gained each game, having never previously exceeded 300.
The defence is always there, with his 6.6 tackles a game top three in the league.
"I think what I've added to my game is getting out of stoppages and using my legs a bit more," he said.
"I think in previous times I was a little more sluggish to get out of stoppages.
"It probably comes with a bit more confidence and understanding what your capabilities are … and be a bit more offensively damaging, which is starting to show."
Miller has been a role model for teammates since the moment he walked into the Suns alongside best mate Peter Wright.
He's always had the "professional" tag.
A self-confessed "average" kick coming out of juniors, Miller has slaved away at making it better.
This year it's new development coach Rhyce Shaw who has hammered home weight transference and "staying over" the ball for longer.
Miller says he'll likely never master kicking, but it won't stop him working at it relentlessly.
Rugged teammate Nick Holman, another pressure barometer for the Suns, is in awe of Miller.
"I've been here for four years and he's been the hardest worker ever since," Holman said.
"It's definitely no surprise to people internally why he's been so good.
"He does all the edits and everything off field to get his body right and then he trains the hardest on the field.
"His intensity around training is at another level to the next best at the club."
Holman believes his teammate is the hardest two-way worker in the competition, and despite the obvious bias, you'd do well to prove him wrong.
Miller is certainly in that conversation.
The coaching fraternity has recognised his improvement. Prior to round 12 Miller was equal fourth in the AFL Coaches Association Player of the Year Award, level with much-hyped Bomber Darcy Parish and trailing only Clayton Oliver, Marcus Bontempelli and Hugh McCluggage.
And that included missing a game through suspension for a shepherd on Nick Coffield that caught the Saint high.
Miller is well and truly in line for the AFL All Australian 40-man squad, and possibly even his first jacket.
"I'm big on my mental prep and what's good for myself and my body," he said.
"Sometimes doing extra isn't about doing 1000 kicks, but it's moreso how I can be mentally prepared for the game to give maximum output.
"That could be going to the golf course and spending time by yourself to get away from football.
"Other times it could be more time in recovery centres to make sure I'm mentally ready to go for a Wednesday training session to maximise that.
"It's probably a combination of different stuff, and that changes week to week depending on how your body's feeling.
"The self-awareness of how the body feels and making sure that's ready to go on the weekend is probably the vital part."
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Gold Coast goalsneak Alex Sexton, who is in his 10th season with the Suns, said he was always learning from Miller.
"He's got his routine of what to do Monday to Friday down pat," Sexton said.
"That's recovery, what he puts in his body, he's very specific with those things, and his process.
"When he gets to the first bounce Saturday, he knows he's ticked every box. That's something I've tried to learn off him."
Miller is never satisfied – on a personal or team front.
After years of being part of Gold Coast teams that have fizzled out in the second half of the year, the vice-captain wants to stop the rot in 2021, and plans on doing so by example.
"Fingers crossed I've got a lot of football left in me and I'm only just scraping the surface of what I'm capable of.
"Having the ability to play this kind of footy for a long time for the club would be ideal."
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