Miller gives national side hope
AUSTRALIAN water polo coach Elvis Fatovic has declared Sunshine Coast export Billy Miller as one of his team's most valuable assets in its search for Olympic Glory.
Fatovic, who was with the national team at the Kawana Aquatic Centre yesterday, said Miller's experience was invaluable to his young side as it built towards the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Miller, 26, contemplated retirement in 2012 before returning to the national side reinvigorated by his enduring passion for the sport he loved, not money.
Croatian-born Fatovic, who replaced long-standing coach John Fox following the London Olympics, said journeymen such as Miller were a rare commodity in Australian water polo.
Unlike their European counterparts, who are paid handsomely as professional sportsmen, Australian water polo players cannot survive on the meagre benefits they receive here.
Fatovic said it was for this reason that Miller, who could not train with the side yesterday due to work commitments, shaped as his team's x-factor on the road to Rio.
"Players generally peak from the ages of 28 to 32 and that's because in Europe, water polo is their job," he said. "Here the focus of a player when they are 25, they have to think about their future - which is why some don't continue playing.
"It is very hard to compete with the others without that experience, which is why Billy is so important, because you can have all the power in the world, but without the experience, you are useless."
Miller, the older brother of prominent ironman Mitch Miller, was a leading light for Australia in its 7-6 extra-time quarter-final loss to reigning Olympic champion Croatia last year in a World Championships quarter-final in Barcelona.
Fatovic said that performance showed that on its day, Australia could compete with anyone in the world.
"We went well against them (Croatia) and our goal is to get better all the time because there are things we need to improve on," he said.
Australian captain Rhys Howden said Miller was a natural leader who led by example.
"He was our highest goal scorer in London with 10 goals and is always an attacking threat on that right hand side," he said. "We just need him to attend more training sessions instead of work."