Brian Lockwood: Millward was a magnificent player but also a supreme coach

Roger Millward with the Challenge Cup in 1980.
Roger Millward with the Challenge Cup in 1980.
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People talk about Roger Millward being a great player – and he was magnificent – but he was by far the best coach that ever coached me, too.

When I played at Hull KR (1978-80) he revitalised my career.

I’d just come back from Australia and had fallen out with Wakefield but he came to see me and decided to give me a 12-month contract.

I remember Roger always made sessions fun. He had a great sense of humour which he always kept, too, as I saw him not long before he died.

One of the most hilarious was when he told Len Casey – not a great trainer like me – to get in his car and Roger drove him over to Hornsea.

Len asked what they were doing there and Roger took out a bike and said “Right, you’re biking back to Hull!” He set off but halfway back saw one of his pedals break and had to come in just on one.

Roger was an absolutely brilliant player. I remember playing against him when he was at Cronulla and I was with Balmain.

Our coach told this guy called Neil Pringle to put Roger down as soon as he could as he was their key man.

Anyway, given Roger was my cousin, I phoned him up the day before and just warned him to be careful as this Pringle was going to belt him first chance.

And Pringle did look like he’d come out of a gun he was that fast out of the line.

Roger just said “Well, all right then.” Anyway, he just managed to get out of the way the first time he came for him and set up a try.

But he did it again and again and we’d scored three tries by half-time. He just kept putting people through gaps every time Pringle shot up at him. Roger loved people coming after him. The coach was going potty at half-time.

However, I always say my favourite moment – the highlight of my career really – was seeing Roger and Clive Sullivan hugging each other in the dressing room after we’d won the Challenge Cup semi-final in 1980.

I played at Wembley six times in my career but they’d never been once.

It was brilliant to know they would finally get there. There was tears rolling down cheeks, I don’t mind admitting. And, of course, we went on to win the final. I first met Roger when we were playing Under-11s for different teams in Cas’. He was this little scrawny kid darting here, there and everywhere. I thought ‘He’s not a bad player.’

It was only when I was walking off that day that I found out from my Uncle Frank that he was my cousin.

We ended up both signing for Castleford but obviously, with Alan Hardisty there in the same position, Roger soon ended up going to Hull KR.

I think it was very hard for them to let him go but whether it was a mistake or not I can’t say as Alan was a great player, too.

That said, later on, Alan would talk about the famous Ashes tour of 1970 and say: “Roger beat the Aussies on his own you know?”

He was just incredible and could score tries for fun; it was a marvellous deal for Hull KR, that’s for sure.

Where he is in the all-time list it’s hard to say but I’d put him in the best three I’d ever seen and I’ve seen a lot with the likes of Beetson, Fulton, Shoebottom and so many more.

He could see things before they were even there on a rugby field. He was brilliant. And I loved him to bits.

Interview by Dave Craven