Written by John Davidson
Arthur Beetson is one of the greatest players ever to have picked up a Steeden. The burly prop was a star for club, state and country, the first Indigenous man to ever captain the Kangaroos, and went on to have a successful career as a coach.
But Beetson also had a keen eye for talent and worked in recruitment for the Roosters and Queensland. It was in the early 2000s, on the NSW Central Coast, where the legendary figure spotted a teenage Grant Millington.
At that stage Millington was a handy cricketer, who had played at representative level as a junior, but who never thought he would make it as a professional in rugby league.
“I never thought I’d earn a living off the game,” Millington admitted to Everything Rugby League.
“I got invited to state trials for cricket. I played cricket, made a lot of the rep sides as a junior but I never made them for footy. It wasn’t until I was in year 10 or so I ended up making the NSW Combined Catholic Colleges side.
“And then Arthur Beetson picked me up, which was a massive thing. Until then I never thought I’d be a footy player. I loved the game and I knew I was a decent player, I was a centre/winger back then.
“But I never thought I’d make a living out of it and from there it kind of snowballed. The more I played the more I enjoyed it. When I got into professional environments I just felt I got better and better pretty quickly.”
The former Castleford Tigers describes the influence Beetson had on him, and on developing his game, as “massive”.
“He was pretty influential on me in the early days,” he said.
“I think he saw something in me in the way I played. He’d come down to our Flegg training, which was under-20s back then, and even younger down to SG Ball and he’d pull me aside and do little bits.
“Show me little things like how to do use my body and stand in tackles and that sort of stuff which, I’ll admit I haven’t watched a full match of him playing but there’s always highlights of him and he was a genius.
“And I think that’s probably been a big part of my game, especially in the last five or six years, just having to use my body and make things awkward for the opposition.”
Millington left his home on the Central Coast at the age of 17 to join the Roosters, eventually going on to play in the NRL with Cronulla and Canterbury. He would then head to Super League in 2012, carving a decade out with Castleford and becoming a cult hero at the Jungle, making more than 240 appearances for the west Yorkshire club.
However, that promising career might never have happened if it wasn’t for the gentle giant from Roma.
Millington retired at the end of the 2021 season from the professional game, but is still keen to play on in the local ranks after returning to Australia with his family.
“I’m talking to a few local clubs in the Wollongong comp,” the 35-year-old said.
“It’s a big part of my life rugby league and I want to play for as long as I can. I reckon I’ll play till I’m 40, even I run out with all this strapping on.
“I’m in surprisingly good nick considering how many games I’ve played and how I’ve been in the games.”
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