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PLAYER FEATURE: David Mirra

📁 News 🕔10.August 2017
PLAYER FEATURE: David Mirra

Last week, with ball in hand and the goals within range, David Mirra sized up a special albeit negligible milestone.

For one of the VFL’s premier backmen, more used to saving goals as opposed to kicking them, six-pointers come once in a blue moon. In his 122-game career Mirra has kicked just the five majors and might’ve thought a long-overdue sixth was in the offing prior to the Sherrin homing in on the right hand goal post.

It was one of the only disappointing moments on an ultimately successful day.

We might’ve been denied a most unexpected milestone in game 122, but for a player so selflessly and unwaveringly team orientated, game 123 is framed by a special personal significance.

Come 2:10pm Saturday, once Mirra has lead his side down the race and out onto Windy Hill, no man will have skippered Box Hill on more occasions.

His tally in the role will tick over to seventy-four, thus eclipsing the mark long held by club legend Alex Gardiner, and Mirra is understandably honoured.

“The opportunity to lead the club and my teammates is not lost on me each week I lace up my boots.

“I always take time before a match to appreciate the position I’m in. I am very fortunate to be able to have done this for as long as I have.”

When asked to articulate his philosophy on leadership and appraise his style, Mirra was insightful and honest.

“There are traits to leadership that are intangible and hard to learn, such as influence, confidence, trust, self-awareness,” he begins.

“However, I believe that you can learn those and become a leader.

“For me, developing as in the role meant understanding that all my teammates are different and what might make one person tick doesn’t another, therefore you can’t have a blanket approach.

“Early days, I also tried to do too much and I realised how important it was to develop leadership density and allow others to take over.”

Mirra’s standards and attitude are a natural fit for the role and the respect he has from the footballing community is near universal. It is perhaps surprising, then, that he hadn’t a great deal of exposure to similar posts in the past.

“I never captained at any other level, apart from school footy a few times.”

But, of course, a great leader becomes captain.

“A few weeks back David Banfield (former Captain) asked me to pass on some advice to his son Will, who was going to be captain for the first time.

“My answer to this question is the same every time: nothing changes. The reason you are there is because of the things you are already doing, so don’t change.”

It takes a strong and adaptable personality to embrace the role and take on the myriad of responsibilities and potentially uncomfortable situations that come with it. For Mirra, it’s a case of doing what must be done.

“(the most challenging aspect) is probably the times you have to have honest and hard conversations behind closed doors with teammates.

“I’ve had a few of these conversations over the years and you never like having them.

“It’s always hard to get the approach right and have a positive outcome from it, I haven’t always got it right, but you learn for the next time.”

On learning, Mirra has the perfect mentor, with Senior Coach Chris Newman having captained Richmond for four seasons between 2009-2012.

“Probably the biggest learning is that relationships are key. It’s important to open up and have personal and meaningful conversations with your teammates.

“Hopefully that will translate onto the field and we look after one another.

“That’s what I enjoy about being part of a football club, the genuine care that is shown between teammates.”

You can be sure that this week of all weeks, that bond between teammates that Mirra is so keen to create and maintain will be reciprocated his way.

Truth is this milestone might’ve come several weeks ago.

When we last spoke for this column the man known as ‘Miz’ had completed a full pre-season and captained the Hawks to a thrilling round one win away to Footscray.

It sounds blasé to say he was at his dependable best in the weeks that followed but, such are his impeccable standards and the regularity with which he delivers, excellence is expected.

Fast forward to round five. Richmond challenge the unbeaten, top-of-the-table Hawks in a terrific contest at Box Hill City Oval when, in amongst the cut and thrust, Mirra feels his hamstring.

The Brown and Gold would ultimately win, though the skipper would pay more for the four points than most of his teammates.

“I’m not great with missing any footy and this was the longest stint I had faced on the sidelines and therefore a new challenge for me.” Mirra says.

As one week bled into the next two matches became three, the state game and the bye came and went and each Thursday there was one name was missing from the team sheet.

“One week the body felt great and I was training well and then the next week I wouldn’t feel as good.

“Sean Murphy (Head Fitness Coach) did a great job in managing my workload and ensuring I was able to keep my fitness levels up, though I probably tested it more than I should have early on.

“You do anything that will shorten the time you spend on the sidelines; understanding the injury and respecting it is probably the hardest thing to do.

Keen observers would’ve noticed Mirra training prior to most matches during his absence – obviously leading the recovery group – evidently itching to get back out on the park.

Whilst always frustrating to be sidelined, perhaps the pro to the con is that come the back end of the season the Hawks’ general isn’t as banged up and physically than at this stage of previous campaigns.

“During the time I missed I almost treated it as a mini break, which kept me refreshed and eager for when I did come back in.”

Watching on as his side rode the ups and downs of a challenging period mid-season, Mirra saw enough in those out there to suspect something special was brewing.

“I enjoyed watching boys take their opportunity at senior level and feel more comfortable the more games they played.

“Nelson Lane, Vince Adduci and Anthony Brolic are three that have really impressed me.

“These boys have really improved their footy over the year and so have a lot of boys and it’s great to see the depth we have this year.”

Finally, though, after eight weeks – six matches – Box Hill’s number one was named in the team to take on North Ballarat. A successful return gave way to a month of solid footy, during which the team is unbeaten, back atop the VFL ladder and striding towards September.

It’d be a disservice to the team’s many fine and important contributors during that time to say it’s a coincidence – the side’s great form isn’t down to any one individual, after all – but the captain hasn’t missed a beat.

All told, Mirra has figured in nine matches this season, singing the song after each of them, but having returned to action, with a finals campaign on the horizon and on the cusp of claiming this latest milestone, that elusive goal remains a high priority.

“Last week I snuck down a couple of times and tried to get on the end of a few. Unfortunately it shaved the post.

“Hopefully I get one before the year is out. I can’t go a season goalless, otherwise Xavier Dimasi will let me know about it for as long as I live.”

For the record, ‘Dima’ has one goal in senior football for 2017.

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