THE number six will be on everyone’s minds at KCOM Craven Park tonight – and not just because the temperature might feel like minus six in east Hull.
When Hull KR battle both Castleford Tigers and the so-called Beast from the East this evening, the prize to the victors will not only be two Super League points but, also, the inaugural Roger Millward Trophy.
That is named, of course, after the legendary former Castleford and Great Britain stand-off who played more than 400 games for the Robins, scoring over 200 tries and, among countless feats, led them to the famous 1980 Challenge Cup final win versus Hull.
Having died aged 68 almost two years ago, his former clubs have strived to find a fitting legacy; Rovers have already retired his No 6 jersey while a major Hull road was re-named Roger Millward Way but an eponymous trophy was an obvious call, too.
The Hall of Famer played 40 times for hometown Castleford before his remarkable KR odyssey started in 1966.
Tigers coach Daryl Powell – a former Great Britain stand-off himself – is full of admiration for the late great and admitted: “Roger was just an awesome man.
“I used to see him a fair bit and he was a top quality person. Obviously I wasn’t in his class as a stand-off, that’s for sure; he was just an unbelievable player.
“I’ve watched back clips of some of what he did for Great Britain and his club sides as well; he was a pretty special player. He was massively regarded, one of those people rugby league fans all over the country respected.
“If you get a nickname like Roger The Dodger, you’ve got some fair old footwork there. He was small in stature, but he had a huge heart and did some special things in his rugby league career.
“It’s befitting his name is remembered in this way. We’ll all tip a glass to him after the game as a special person and player.”
Robins coach Tim Sheens was a contemporary of Millward’s, the Australian playing for Penrith when the Yorkshireman joined Sydney rivals Cronulla in 1976.
He recalled: “Roger was like all the English half-backs that came over such as Tommy Bishop and David Topliss; very elusive, quick running-type of players that, in Australia, we used to call ‘nippy.’
“And also cheeky little half-backs. The ‘70s was an era where the English were brought into our game. I played with Mike Stephenson and Bill Ashurst and against Phil Lowe and Malcolm Reilly, those sorts of players. The Englishmen came in and changed the game in many ways. Roger was one of those; a will-o-the wisp half-back that could really run and play. (Honouring him) it is something the players have spoken about this week. It’s one reason, like many, to play and perform well but also it’s about your own team and form, too.”
KR have just one win so far, captain Shaun Lunt coming out in defence of his side after attacks on social media following Friday’s 36-12 loss at Salford.
Sheens admitted there has been “soul-searching” but added: “It’s a necessary evil of the modern era isn’t it social media?
“Like English players in the 70s, it’s changed the nature of the game. Fans now have a voice. They used to do all their praising, whinging or criticising in the pub after the game but now can go online and say it. Good luck to them as long as they’re supporters.
“Fans I’ve no time for but supporters I have. By that I mean it’s about people who support us by the very nature of the word; fans tend to blow a little bit in the wind but supporters hold you up.”
Meanwhile, plenty of eyes tonight will be on another stand-off who has played for both clubs.
Jamie Ellis helped Rovers earn promotion last term on a season-loan from Huddersfield Giants.
However, he re-joined Castleford for a second stint in 2018.
Although Powell preferred teenager Jake Trueman to the 28-year-old for Castleford’s 46-6 season opener loss at St Helens, he excelled in Saturday’s 28-18 second win over another of his former clubs Hull FC.
Asked how Ellis reacted to initially being overlooked, Powell admitted: “He found it tough, to be honest. At the moment with the squad we’ve got people are getting left out.
“The challenge of Jake Trueman has really driven him to push his game on. Jamie’s always been a good player. When playing with confidence he’s a real challenge.
“He’s a natural footballer and showed that versus Hull; when he ran with the ball he was a threat and if we can keep him playing well he’ll be great for us.”