Tony’s Don a top job

Tony Miller
Tony Miller

Tony Miller is not a man who has showed much emotion standing across from interviewers during his time in charge of the Dons.

But in his final press conference as the club’s head coach, he allowed a little to seep through his words.

“It’s been an honour and a privilege to coach these lads,” he said. “I’ve loved every minute.”

“I’ll be coming down and rooting them on next season because they mean a lot to me and I hope they can do well.”

Miller should certainly be proud of what the team and he have achieved this year.

A year ago, when the Dons secured promotion to the Championship, chief executive Carl Hall spoke of a three year cycle.

Year one would be about securing Championship status, year two would be steady improvement while year three would be see a strong push for honours.

In 2013 it seemed that Miller merged years one and two together.

The first half of this season was characterised by the Dons finding their feet on new ground.

It proved a tough slog where mistakes were routinely punished, often leaving them empty handed when they perhaps deserved more.

There seemed a genuine threat that the Dons could be heading back to Championship One.

But Miller remained confident that all the hard work would come together and his side would be ok.

He was proved right. When things started to click into place the Dons emerged not just as a stable Championship outfit, but as one of the strongest in the division.

And what a thrill ride it was at times.

By no means perfect, the Dons often saw games seemingly slip out of their reach.

But the manner in which they repeatedly battled back to get something from the game was incredible.

The draw at high-flying Halifax last month will go down as a stand out from this campaign, not just for the result but the manner in which they demolished one of the division’s strongest sides.

It looked as though they were about to do the same against Dewsbury on Saturday as they roared to within two points after conceding 30 in the first half.

It was not to be. But the disappointment of what proved to be Miller’s swansong should not overshadow the brilliant achievements of the campaign.

As excellent as 2012 was, this year was perhaps a greater achievement for the Dons.

Promotion out of Championship One was a must. It was the march to league and play-off glory that made it all the more special.

But life in the Championship was always likely to bring times of struggle.

Putting it bluntly, English rugby league’s second tier is two divisions in one with the top five battling among themselves and the rest trying to avoid the drop.

After a remarkable about turn in fortunes, the Dons went from being among the Championship B squad to a side that looked capable of being among the A team, winning six of their final eight league games.

Miller expects the Dons to fight even harder to be among the A team next season.

And Batley in particular will be fearful of that following their dramatic slump in form late in the season.

If the Dons can carry on under Paul Cooke as they finished under Miller, wins over Featherstone, Sheffield and Batley will no longer be surprises.

Miller insists he has never wavered on his decision to walk away after 23 years.

He can stride away with confidence that he has left the Dons in their strongest position for some time.

Cheers Tony.