Written by Callum Walker
Australian Grant Millington has become one of Castleford’s greatest Super League imports, with his barnstorming running style and robust defence proving to be a major hit with the Tigers’ faithful.
Before that, however, the forward debuted for Cronulla Sharks as a 21-year-old in 2008, a year which was extremely busy for Millington.
“It was very exciting – it was a bit of a crazy season; I was told by the Roosters very late in the year that they wouldn’t be keeping me on for the following season,” he told Everything Rugby League.
“At that stage of the year it was pretty difficult to find a new home but Ricky Stuart, who brought me into the full-time environment at the Roosters, threw me a lifeline at Cronulla.
“The Sharks gave me a six-week contract to come and train in pre-season on a very minimal wage and see how I went.
“Fortunately, that was extended to another six weeks which then turned into a contract for the season.
“The week of my debut was one of highs and lows; my grandfather had passed away the week before and his funeral was early in the week.
“I found out I was selected for the NRL a few days before, so the emotions were all over the place.
“But, come game day, I was ready to go and we beat Brisbane by one point at Shark Park, so it was pretty amazing.”
Millington spent three seasons with the Sharks before he moved to Canterbury for a year. At the end of 2011, however, the rampaging forward moved halfway across the world to Castleford where he’s been ever since.
“When I signed at Canterbury, although I knew I’d have to fight hard, I thought I’d be in with a shot of being in the 17 from the go.
“A few weeks later they signed Frank Pritchard who was one of the best back-rowers in the league so opportunities were hard to come by that year.
“Playing overseas was something I wanted to do from early on; when I wasn’t re-signed by the Roosters for the 2008 season I was very close to signing with the Pia Donkeys in France.
“The idea of living in a different country with the opportunity to travel Europe while playing footy was very appealing.
“I was speaking to a few Super League clubs at the end of 2011 and landed at Cas; while it was most definitely an eye-opener to begin with, I couldn’t be happier with how things have turned out.”
Incredibly, Millington will be entering his tenth season at the Jungle – a statistic which the 34-year-old can barely believe.
“Unfortunately, I won’t be getting a testimonial, though one of the other lads has one already approved.
“But if you had told me when I first signed at Cas that I would play ten seasons, I’d have laughed at you.
“The idea was that the wife and I would come and spend two years here, see the world, then head home and start the next chapter.
“Now we will return home with three kids and English passports. Crazy stuff!”
As versatility goes, Millington’s ability is practically second to none, being able to operate anywhere in the pack as well as – remarkably – at halfback.
“I think halfback is more my natural position! Communication and an understanding of the way we play are two of my strengths.”
“You may not see me throw a double cut out pass to the winger, but I’d like to think I can at least get us into shape with the ball and defend well on the edge.
“There’s no real pressure on me to play like a traditional half and it’s always fun when you get to do something different.”
For Millington, it’s a case of going back to the southern hemisphere once he retires from the game in the UK.
“At the moment, we will be returning back to Australia and I’ll probably play a year or two in a local league.
“The clubs have decent contacts and can help me find work, but the dream job would be to join the Fire Brigade.
“There would be something different every day and I imagine the work environment would be similar to playing rugby – very team-orientated with a bit of banter in-between jobs.
“I’d also like to be involved in the game as long as I can – whether that be playing, coaching a senior side or even my son Zach, I don’t mind, but it’s hard to see myself not being involved in some capacity.”