TEARAWAY Merewether back-rower Lachy Miller was barely on the radar of Hunter Wildfires coach Scott Coleman two months ago.
He invited the rangy 20-year-old to train with the squad for experience more than anything.
Miller, after initially saying no, has improved with every week.
On Saturday, he was outstanding, playing way above his weight and experience to be named players' player on debut in the Wildfires' 50-7 loss to Randwick at Coogee Oval.
"I thought it would be a good experience for him to train and learn from some of the best players in the region," Coleman said. "He just keeps impressing me and has been one of our best performers so far."
Miller's father, Glenn, was a foundation Newcastle Knight. A hard-nosed second-rower, he played 86 first-grade games, including a few as captain, and never shirked at a task - or opponent - regardless of the size.
His son is cut from a similar cloth.
He raced off the line in the early exchanges and made a stunning hit on his opposite but was penalised for offside.
"He was the only one to get up off the line and put a shot on," Coleman said. "He just has a crack. You think he is going to get man-handled but he is deceptively strong. He was also good at the front of the lineout."
Melbourne Rising breakaway Shawn Ingles is available this week after completing 14 days in quarantine and Marlon Solofuti will also be in contention for a back-row spot against Eastwood at No.2 Sportsground this Saturday.
But neither will be shifting Miller.
"I have guys with more experience and probably better credentialled, but he is doing his job and holding them out," Coleman said.
"I'd love to get him in an off-season program and come back next season six kilograms heavier. He would be a weapon."
Apart from waking up "sorer than I have ever been" Miller loved the experience and determined to keep his spot in the starting side.
"Bubba sent out a message at the start of the year to see who was keen and I said no," Miller said. "I was lacking motivation but ended up doing it.
"Now I'm there, I am enjoying it heaps. I have learnt a lot off older boys, Marlon and Va [Talaileva]. It is awesome."
The Wildfires struggled with the pace of the game against Randwick and lacked accuracy at the breakdown and lineout especially.
"You could tell that they had played at a higher level for longer and were definitely more gelled as a team," Coleman said. "That was our second game and first game with that [run on] team.
"There was lots to take from it. It was not all doom and gloom.
"The most pleasing thing was that we stayed in the fight all the way. The last 15 minutes was seven-all. If you are down 43-0, very rarely do you match them on the scoreboard in final 15 minutes.
"The enthusiasm and want to be apart of it was amazing. We knew we would be off the pace for ruck speed. I think we will improve a lot, that's for sure. I'm not saying we will do it in one week.
"By round five or six we will be a lott better for the experience and will be able to trouble a lot teams."
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