In his 39 games coaching the Geelong Falcons, Daniel O’Keefe has only awarded a perfect 10 in the best-and-fairest voting once.
It took a remarkable individual effort in a premiership win before O’Keefe believed a player deserved the title and it was Gryan Miers who inspired him most during the 2017 TAC Cup grand final.
“His game had everything,” O’Keefe told AFLPlayers.com.au after Miers’ Round 8 Rising Star nomination.
On that day, against a 16-year-old Bailey Smith, Miers kicked seven goals – four of which came in a 25-minute period.
For O’Keefe, it was one of the more breathtaking individual efforts he’d seen on the football field but the performance was the icing on the cake for Miers, who had been honing his craft with the Falcons since his bottom-age year.
“There’s been a lot of talk about Gryan and his spectacular performance in the Grand Final but there was a lot of positive work that he’d done in the lead-up to that exhibition,” O’Keefe explained.
When reflecting on what areas of Miers game were key focus points, without hesitation O’Keefe outlined his unique kicking style.
“One that really stood out was the fact that this kid couldn’t kick the ball,” O’Keefe said.
“When he hits it sweetly they’re pure but there were also drubbers along the ground.”
The Falcons coaches were conscious not to hinder his ability as a crafty forward but focused on making incremental changes that would limit his room for error.
O’Keefe said although Miers still has a tendency to arc and lean off the ball, since arriving at the Cats, he’s progressed in that space to become a damaging forward at the elite level.
But Miers was made to bide his time in the VFL during his first season before making his AFL debut in Round 1 this year and playing every game since.
Miers’ ability to play the long-game and understand the importance of developing his skills at state level is reflective of his personality.
“As soon as Gryan got on the training track, he worked extremely hard at his craft,” O’Keefe said.
“He was always asking questions about how he could get better and was vocal in his reviews.
“It’s pleasing to see good people be rewarded with accolades like this.”
Around the Falcons, Miers was a cult figure from his first training session.
He arrived with dreadlocks, which made him standout, but went about his work quietly and under the radar, despite being known for his freakish talents.
When O’Keefe reflects on Miers as a player, he finds himself coming back to the drought-breaking 2017 premiership and, in particular, four of the seven goals that Miers kicked that day – goals that he firmly believes no one else on the ground was capable of kicking.
“If you’re going to be drafted into the AFL you need to have a point of difference and that’s something Gryan’s got – that goal awareness and freakish ability – like Eddie Betts and Buddy Franklin do.”
“To capture all of that ability in one game was just incredible.”
AFL RISING STAR NOMINEES IN 2019
Round 8 — Gryan Miers (Geelong)