Club: Central Districts
Height: 185 cm
Weight: 76 kg
Position: Outside midfielder/half forward
Strengths: Evasion, distribution by hand, composure, poise, spacial awareness, vision, cleanliness at ground level
Weaknesses: Physicality, strength over the ball, accumulation, scoreboard impact when forward, pure line-breaking
Player comparison: Murray Newman (better version)
First year impact: Minimal. Might play a few games but he will likely take time.
Kicking: Above average
Endurance: Above average
Speed: Above average
If there is a player who has flown under the radar this year, it is Wayne Milera. In South Australian midfields usually filled with hard workers and battlers, Milera is a rarity – a truly classy footballer. You would have to go back to James Aish to find a South Australian with such class.
Flying under the radar last year, Milera played predominantly under 18s for Central Districts, kicking 25 goals in 16 games. Starting the season slowly – he was only in the bests four times out of 13 in under 18s games. He kept improving and earnt a promotion to the reserves for the final three games, rising with the standard to be in the bests each game.
Even with that late year surge in mind, it would have been outlandish to predict Milera would line up in the SANFL league side in round one this year. But he did – a result of hard work on the track and some strong improvement. Before the championships, he played every possible league game, never excelling but always playing a role and showing some real class week in week out.
During the championships Milera was one of South Australia’s most consistent players, rarely making mistakes and usually impacting across each quarter. You could argue that he was very unlucky to miss out on All-Australian selection. After the champs, Milera went back to Centrals and was made to work his way back up to the league side, winning the Maccas Cup MVP in his first week back and then also excelling the next week in the reserves. He now finds himself back in the league side and will aim to continue to impress looking towards the draft.
As a player, Milera is pure class. That’s the best way to describe him – everything he does is with grace and style; he’s the kind of player that just makes the most difficult look easy. Perhaps his best skill is his ability to distribute by hand. He is, without doubt, the most skilled player in the draft by hand. The speed at which he handballs is incredible; the teammate already has it before you can blink. The subtlety of it is a weapon – he is able to release the ball without even noticing that he’s motioning to handball. And the accuracy – he fires them into perfect positions. Not only does he hit teammates with efficacy, but he places them into better positions. By virtue of his amazing skill by hand, Milera is able to release the ball from congestion to a runner regularly, a skill very few have.
Complimenting Milera’s skill by hand is his cleanliness at ground level. He’s very much a one touch player, rarely fumbling below the knees and able to gather a ground ball at top speed. Aerially he is clean, possessing an excellent and underrated vertical leap and clean hands. If he is able to cut across a contest and utilise his leap he’s a real marking threat however still lacks the physicality to take strong contested marks.
Athletically Milera is solid. He is not elite for speed, but he is still quick. His agility is excellent as is his leap. He is able to get from contest to contest and seems to possess reasonable endurance and runs out games well. He works hard on the field, regularly working to find space and present an option. After disposing of the ball he regularly works hard to provide second and third options, likewise he makes repeat efforts at ground level too.
By foot Milera is reliable. Over short to medium distances he kicks with accuracy and penetration. He makes the right decisions, has create vision and creates. However Milera rarely kicks it long. I believe he has a range of at least 45-50 metres, but he just rarely backs himself to really go long. Perhaps this is partially a strength as it indicates he is always finding effective medium range options, but there are times in football that it’s necessary to take the game forward quickly and Milera instead favours shorter range passing. Under pressure he usually disposes of the ball well by foot. By virtue of elite spacial awareness he is able to decide the right times to dispose of the ball or run and retain it. That spacial awareness also allows him to evade and break tackles with such ease.
But while he can break tackles with ease, he can struggle to make them too. He runs well defensively and pressures the ball carrier but is often shrugged and knocked away from the ball. He doesn’t seem to have much strength over the ball nor the strength to lay crunching tackles. That said, his physicality has improved over the season and he is now capable of hitting a bit harder than he was earlier.
At AFL level Milera is likely to be able to play a variety of roles. As a forward, he has shown the ability to pop up for a goal or two each game at under 18s level but projects more as a half forward than a forward pocket. He’s got good goal sense but not the elite goal sense required to be an AFL standard genuine crumber. Across half forward he has also shown some aptitude playing as a high half forward in the link role – he regularly finds space and presents as an uncontested target in dangerous areas between the arcs.
As a midfielder Milera certainly prefers the outside, playing as a first receiver type but a bit closer to the contest than your average wingman, usually receiving the ball in some sort of congestion and then using his speed, awareness and agility to create space on the outside. While he can break the lines he doesn’t do it enough for a player of his skill set and role. He also rarely accumulates big disposal numbers, instead hovering around the teens usually. At AFL level if he wants to play full time in the middle he’s going to want to start pushing a 20 or more disposal average.
There’s also some real scope for Milera to be used as a defender. Though he hasn’t played there much, with his athletic gifts he would be able to play on the quicker smalls while also being a very damaging offensive player with his decision making, vision and skill out of the defensive half. Clubs usually like having players who make the right decisions under pressure in defence and that’s Milera. Not to mention that he would also possess some real speed to run the ball out of the back half. I could see him playing some football here in the AFL.
As a player Milera is a bit unique, but he does remind me a little bit of Murray Newman. Newman went in the top 25 of his draft and shared similar athleticism, skills and awareness. Milera however has perhaps a few more tricks and a better record at senior level. Milera also reminds me a little of Michael O’Loughlin, without the elite goal sense and overhead ability. While Milera now is considered by most to be in the second round range, with his set of tricks I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go in the first round come November. He has got several points of difference compared to other prospects and also seems a very high character individual. The top 15 is not out of the equation for him.