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Wayne's Indigenous inspiration

Marc McGowan, AFL Media  May 29, 2017 8:39 PM

Wayne Milera Junior - Rising Star nominee Wayne Milera Junior is the Round 10 NAB AFL Rising Star nominee
I'm privileged to get the nomination and I'm pretty happy with it, but it's a special round for me and many other Indigenous players

An Aboriginal winning the NAB AFL Rising Star nomination out of Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round seems too good to be true.

And the timing was no coincidence, according to this week's recipient, Adelaide's 19-year-old livewire Wayne Milera Junior.

The occasion inspired Milera, who grew up supporting the Crows, to great heights and he stuffed the stat sheet with three goals, 16 disposals – at 88 per cent efficiency – and four tackles.

"You definitely try to get yourself up every week," the former Ingle Farm junior footballer told AFL Media.

"But the build-up we had (to the game against Fremantle) was special. We had Indigenous people come in on the Wednesday to share our culture with other players and the Club.

"The stuff before the game really energises you."

Milera wins Rising Star nomination

Milera, the No.11 selection in the 2015 NAB AFL National Draft, cherishes the opportunity to celebrate his indigenous heritage on such a large platform.

The nephew of ex-Sydney champion Michael O'Loughlin is one of six Aboriginal players on Adelaide's list, along with Eddie Betts, Charlie Cameron, Curtly Hampton, Cam Ellis-Yolmen and Ben Davis.

Betts regularly hosts them at his home for dinner and they were quick to support the Club great after a Port Adelaide fan racially vilified him last month.

"I'm privileged to get the nomination and I'm pretty happy with it, but it's a special round for me and many other Indigenous players," he said.

"The Club's really jumped on board, as well as the League, and I'm very happy with that.

"(Eddie)'s been great, especially last year … and not only on field, but off the field, with having me around for tea and things like that."

Milera's evolution as a footballer has already begun in his second season, moving from a permanent forward role up to the wing.

His pre-draft testing revealed a player not only blessed with speed, but with an engine potentially capable of one day being part of the midfield. His silky skills and natural instinct complete an enticing package.

"I came back a bit fitter and built a bit of a base I could work with over the pre-season," Milera said.

"It definitely helped (having one AFL pre-season under my belt), because I knew what to expect.

"Playing eight games last year was good and gave me a bit of exposure to it and I've built my body up a bit more and my running has got better."

Milera has come a long way since a routine medical check – while playing for South Australia's under-18 team – revealed he had Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which causes an irregular heartbeat.

He feared his AFL dream could be crushed and required surgery for the condition, but returned to star in Central District's 2015 SANFL finals campaign and seal his draft credentials.

"I was shocked and it was a bit frightening at the time, but everyone told me once you get the surgery it's pretty much gone and you don't have to worry," Milera said.

"They told me I'd be able to play high-level footy if the chance came and the chance has come and I'm really thankful for it.

"Going into the Club the first time was a bit nerve-racking … but now I feel a part of the Club and everyone has welcomed me really well and I feel a lot more comfortable."

The best news for Crows supporters is Milera signed a three-year contract extension last month and will be tied to the Club until at least 2020.