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The Welsh rugby player banned for life in New Zealand

Former Welsh rugby player Jim Mills has a reputation for being a “hard man” and not without reason.

Mills, who weighed in at around 18 stone and stands at 6ft 4, started out playing rugby union with Cardiff RFC, before deciding to turn professional with English rugby league club the Halifax Panthers.

The giant Welshman was sent off roughly 20 times during his career, but insisted that he didn’t go out of his way to build up his infamous reputation.

“You don’t go out to make a reputation as a hard man. It just comes naturally really. There were plenty of hard lads in each team. You just go through your career and build it up as you go,” Mills told Wales Online.

Moment of madness

Of the numerous red cards Mills received during his time on the rugby pitch, one in particular stands out to him.

Mills stamped on the head of New Zealand’s John Greengrass during a game in Swansea in 1975, which even the Welsh enforcer admits might have been a bit much.

“I have to admit it looked bloody terrible on the telly. You know when you look at something and you can’t believe what you’re doing? I can never explain it. Stupidity? Moment of madness?

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“You think, ‘Bloody hell, what have I done here?’ When you do something like that there’s no way back,” Mills explained.

However, Mills insisted that he hadn’t intended to catch the New Zealander’s face with his studs, and that his actions looked worse than they appeared.

“I didn’t stamp on his head, I only glanced the side of the cheek,” he said. “That All Black who stamped on JPR’s head never even got told off! It looks worse than what it is.

“I just lost my temper and stamped down. As I was stamping down, his head moved. If I’d aimed for his head, I’d have missed it.

“But I caught his cheek. I didn’t go up to him afterwards as I was worried about punches being thrown if I tried to apologise. That’s the last thing we needed. I was in enough trouble,” Mills explained.

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Glory days of Welsh rugby league

Back in the 1970s the Welsh rugby league team boasted some impressive talent, with Mills recalling a famous upset victory against England that ultimately cost their local rivals the 1975 Rugby League World Championship.

“They thought they were going to hammer us. Their coach, Alex Murphy, came on the TV the night before and said there wasn’t a Welsh player who would get in the England side. Well that was the end of them!

“Their poor hooker Mick Morgan was knocked out unconscious three times and came back on each time. They’d sponge him down and throw him back on.

“I told the boys not to hit him again as he clearly didn’t know what day it was. We went down for the scrum and I heard a smack.

“There was Morgan on the floor. I asked Tony Fisher why he’d hit him again after I’d told him not to. ‘I couldn’t resist’ was his response,” Mills recalled.

The glory days of Welsh rugby league are long gone, but polarising figures like Jim Mills will help to keep the talented team of the 1970s in people’s memories.

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