Pubished on 20 June 2022

By David Nagel

Every sinew of the words ‘Kooweerup Football Netball Club’ mean the world to the newest member of its exclusive 300-game club Ben Miller.

Kooweerup…that’s the town where he lives and breathes, Football…has given him so much love and joy, while Netball is where he met the love of his life…wife Jaydee.

And Club, well Ben Miller would be lost without the sharing of experiences during his 20-year senior journey.

A year off for Covid in 2020 certainly proved that.

“That one year we had off, I didn’t know what to do with myself, and I wouldn’t know what to do with myself without football,” Miller said, prior to running out for his 300th club game on Saturday.

“You come down, football brings everyone together and that’s the thing I missed most when it wasn’t around.

“It just made me appreciate what we have even more.”

The now 37-year-old played his junior football in Ballarat before finishing school and moving to Kooweerup to be with his dad Geoff in 2003.

“My first memory of the club is Daniel Pirotta being my reserves coach, he’s still around today, and I broke my collarbone in the second game I played here,” Miller said.

“Faces like Dan Crowley, Rhys Morgan, they’re my earliest memories at the club.

“I was a little bit small as a kid, didn’t really grow until I moved to Koowee.

“I think I was five (foot) four in year 12 and then by the time I turned 18 I was six (foot) two…so that’s a fair a growth spurt.”

Miller is yet to taste the ultimate success at Kooweerup, but has great memories of winning and playing in big finals alongside his great mates.

In 2014 the Demons lost the Ellinbank grand final to Cora Lynn, with Miller sharing the stage with friends Luke ‘Tex’ Walker, Craig Dyker, Ryan Wilby, coach Matt Shorey and Morgan, while younger brother Tim was playing his first season at the club.

“Timmy came down and we were going to play one year together, but we loved it that much that we’re both still here now,” Ben said.

“The three of us have played together at different stages, me Tim and Cody, it’s massive to share those experiences with my brothers.”

Miller also played in the Demons ill-fated 2018 senior grand final against Phillip Island, before playing in the 2019 reserves decider against Tooradin-Dalmore…with the Demons chasing three wins on the trot.

“I think I’m the curse, we lost two senior grand finals, but the reserves won two in a row (2017 and ’18) and then I played in the third one and we got beat by a goal after the siren,” he said.

“While it’s been a bit disappointing, we’ve had massive wins along the way and playing in grand finals has been a highlight in itself.”

Another highlight has been making friendships that will last a lifetime.

“The friendships built with blokes at footy clubs are unbelievable and will last forever,” Miller said.

“Ryan Wilby, Craig Dyker, ‘Tex’ Walker, Timmy, just being around the club with people like that has been amazing.

“The best part of a footy game is coming in, having a shower, and then sitting down and having a beer with the boys.

“Craig Dyker, probably the most underrated player in my time at Koowee, after every game we sat together and had a beer, the same with Wilbs (Wilby) now.

“I love that, the banter, that’s what keeps you coming back.”

Miller undersells himself as “just an honest footballer”, having won a senior best and fairest award and coming runner up six times, as well as winning the league best and fairest award in the reserves last year.

He nurtured his talent against the best, playing in key posts at either end of the ground.

“Ryan Ablett was scary to play on, I reckon one year at full back I had 100 goals kicked on me,” Miller said with a chuckle.

“Ablett, Osler, Donaldson, Fitzpatrick…it was a tough task every week you ran out.

“It wasn’t a highlight statistically, but it taught me how to play football and held me in good stead over the journey.”

The current Kooweerup reserves coach said he feels proud to reach 300 games – joining great names like John Glasscock and Morgan – and doing it all based from Denhams Road.

“It means a lot to me, especially to do it at one club, not many players can say they’ve played 300 games at one club,” he said.

“It means a lot to me and to the family as well.

“Dad, Timmy has been messaging this week, telling me how proud he is, it means a lot and I’ll look back pretty proud of this achievement.

“I’m just your average bloke, a bit of a larrikin, a bit of a self-proclaimed funny guy around the club, and I’d like to be remembered as a bloke who gave everything he had and never left anything out there.

“I’ve given it everything I’ve got.”

With wife Jaydee playing netball, and children Annika, Corey and Pippa all in love with their sport…we can expect to see the Miller name at Kooweerup for many more years to come.

And that suits Ben Miller fine…the Kooweerup Football Netball Club means the world to him!