Charles Sturt University midfielder Louis Miller will return to the Bushpigs next season confident it’s the right club at which to continue his own development and hopeful that they will also be a force in finals.
The 20-year-old has re-signed for a second season, along with ruckman-forward Tom Stapleton, in significant developments in the club’s hopes of returning as a contender next year.
Miller, who is currently on university placement in Tasmania, is taking a year off study in 2019. It created some doubt around his playing future but he’s confirmed he’ll be back at Peter Hastie Oval.
“It’s going to be a really good year. I’m pretty excited,” Miller said.
“I’m having a gap year but I’ll still be around Wagga. I had an amazing season at CSU last year. It was one of the best I've had.
“I know the culture around the club, I thought my footy was pretty good and we played pretty well as a team.”
Miller, 20, was a strong contributor in the club’s return to finals this year, featuring in their best in 10 of 16 games and kicking 33 goals along the way.
He said he enjoyed learning under coach Pat Noonan (“I regard him as one of the best coaches I've had”) and is keen to put in a big pre-season to try to develop his game further.
There’s also a lingering sense of under-achievement within the Bushpigs, despite playing finals for the first time in seven years.
“I think we played a few games during the year where we probably thought (with that sort of form) we could go deep into finals,” he said.
“But I didn’t think we played as well as we should have (in the elimination final). East Wagga are a very good team and we didn’t play very well that game. I think we could’ve played better so hopefully we can make finals again and go a bit further.”
CSU had shored up their midfield options with the recent signing of Lachy Moore from Collingullie-Glenfield Park but with Rob Herzfeld and Shane Carroll finishing up, Miller’s re-signing is vital.
Likewise Tom Stapleton’s decision to stick solid is huge for the Bushpigs who have also lost big man Vas Seker after his two-year study stint came to an end.
Stapleton, the younger brother of CSU forward and former Sydney Swans reserve grader, Joe Stapleton, also has plenty of upside.
“It’s really good to have Tom back as well, with Joe, I think they play well together and hopefully they can bring that in 2019,” Noonan said.
“I didn’t have massive expectations when I first met Tom (mid-season) but watching his first game, I could see he could move. And he’s got a good energy about him. He’s keen to learn and hopefully he takes that into next year and keeps improving.”
Noonan was also rapt in Miller’s re-signing, declaring him a big part of their team this year and next.
The coach himself is also planning to play. He’s recovering from a dislocated ankle but has had some good news with confirmation he doesn’t require surgery.