Dane Miller has fought back serious illness to once again display his skills on a football field.
Dane Miller has fought back serious illness to once again display his skills on a football field. Contributed

Comeback king

THE teenager had the sporting world at his feet - and in his hands - a brilliant football player and a scratch handicap golfer.

But a wade through a pond on a golf course in search of dunked balls brought Dane Miller's sporting ambitions to an abrupt halt and ushered in years of pain and illness.

Despite still suffering from the effects of that fateful day nine years ago, the 27-year-old has made a successful return to the soccer paddock with Gold Coast Soccer first division outfit Murwillumbah Football Club.

Dane's also taken up golf again and despite still being a single handicapper, his hopes of pursuing a professional career have passed and he now plays socially - much to the chagrin of his playing partners who still find his skills on fairways and greens too proficient for them to get the better of him in "drink bets".

Dane's return to the football field came last December when he was talked into "having a little run" in the Murwillumbah Sixes knockout tournament by new MFC captain-coach David Lonie.

"I went to Palm Beach-Currumbin High with Dave's brother Mark and he mentioned in passing to Dave that I was a handy player as a kid," Dane explained.

"Anyway, I decided to pull on the boots and enjoyed it so much that when Dave asked me if I'd like to play for the club this season, I couldn't refuse."

To say Lonie, his teammates and club supporters are delighted is truly an understatement.

This man can play football.

Dane has appeared in two trial matches for MFC and despite being "rusty" after being away from the game for a decade, he made a huge impact with his vision and powerful left boot.

"We beat Alstonville 7-1 in the first trial and then accounted for Musgrave 6-3 in the other and Dane played a strong hand in both matches," said Lonie.

"I wasn't expecting too much of him after being away from the game for so long but you could tell immediately that he was a class footballer."

During his secondary school days down in Coffs Harbour, Dane was good enough to be a regular face in NSW Secondary School teams at national championships.

So good in fact that he was offered an invitation to travel to England and trial for the then first division club Wolverhampton's youth team.

Despite his marvellous skills with the ball at his feet, Dane opted not to take the offer and turned his back on football in 2001 to pursue a career in golf.

"My dad Alan introduced me to the game as a toddler and by my teens I had become open champion at my local club on the mid-north coast," Dane explained.

His golf skills earned Dane a berth on the Sports Excellence Program at Palm Beach-Currumbin High and after graduating, he made a decision not to take up a golfing traineeship, deciding instead to play on the Queensland and NSW amateur circuits where he won several tournaments.

Two years later, with a career in golf beckoning, Dane's life changed when he waded into that pond to retrieve balls.

"I was working at the club part-time and unknown to me the pond had recently been treated with chemicals and no one was supposed to go into the water for a month," Dane said.

The chemicals infiltrated Dane's skin and led to him suffering "migraine-type headaches" for nearly three years and caused damage to nerve endings in the lower half of his body, especially around the hips.

"It took medical people about three months to determine the cause of my illness and I was in and out of hospital for two and a half years before I finally started to see some light at the end of the tunnel in making a recovery," he explained.

Dane still hasn't completely recovered and suffers occasional bouts of pain and sickness but thanks to the support of his parents, Alan and Anne and his now wife, Kelly, he has managed to get his life back on track.

Not long after his illness was diagnosed, Dane began studying "off and on" at Griffith University and has since gained degrees in Civil Engineering and Environmental Science and is currently completing his PHD in Structural Engineering.

His structural engineering on a footy field is also to be admired - his vision enables him to create plenty of space for team-mates to go on the attack or regroup in defence.

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