Albert ‘Whang’ Miller and his even more talented teammate George Combe followed the same path in their first four years of senior football.
Both were young members of the 1885 South Adelaide premiership team. Both switched to Norwood in 1887 and collected another premiership that year. Both played in the Norwood team which in 1888 not only won the local premiership but also defeated South Melbourne in three matches for the Championship of Australia.
Their partnership ended in 1889. Combe went on to complete a hat trick of premierships at Norwood. Miller was expected to play but married instead.
‘Whang’ Miller was born at Port Adelaide in 1866. He played chiefly as a forward, though his goalkicking was erratic at times.. Mostly he was a quiet contributor, but that changed when an unexpected three-goal loss to Adelaide jeopardised Norwood’s premiership chances in 1887. As reported in The Express and Journal: “Mr P. Blackman was a capital umpire, although the Norwoods did not agree with some of his decisions. Miller once became unusually demonstrative, and Mr Blackman has signified his intention to report that player for using abusive language towards him.” Miller was disqualified from the vital match against Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval on 2 August 1887. Norwood’s 5.11 to 2.9 victory was just enough to beat Port to the flag by a percentage whisker, 0.777 to 0.769.
‘Whang’ was involved in all of Norwood’s stellar exploits of 1888, including the 5.8 to 3.1 defeat of an English team at Adelaide Oval on 14 July.
After football, ‘Whang’ became an interstate lawn bowler. He was a leader at The Drive before playing at No 3 for Sturt in 1914, when a fall from a ladder put him out of action for some weeks. ‘Whang’ and his wife lived at Malvern. Their son, Private Donovan James Miller, 24, died in 1915 from wounds received as a member of the 16th Infantry Battalion at Gallipoli in World War I.
‘Whang’ was a popular nickname for males called Miller. It came from Oliver Goldsmith’s morality tale about an avaricious Chinese miller, Whang, who dreamt of a stash of gold and diamonds beneath his mill. He dug deep under the foundations without finding treasure but lost his livelihood when the mill collapsed.
P Robins, D Cox January 2021