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Statewide score wrap: Traditional rival honours Millaa Millaa centenary

Atherton Roosters paid the ultimate tribute to the history of rugby league on the Tablelands on Sunday when the A grade side proudly wore the colours of Millaa Millaa as part of their traditional rival's centenary celebrations.

Millaa Millaa, 30km southeast of Atherton, was once part of the fiercely-contested Eacham Rugby League senior competition, winning seven consecutive premierships in the 1950s.

The Roosters did justice to the jersey too, coming back from a 14-6 deficit to overcome another Tablelands rival, Mareeba Gladiators, 36-18 in the Round 8 FNQRL A grade clash.

Former Cowboy Scott Bolton made a cameo appearance and scored a rare try to start to turnaround, while former Cairns captain Davin Crampton scored a double against a Gladiators side featuring a 43-year-old Chris Sheppard at halfback.

While it wasn't quite the same as the old jersey, seeing the colours getting around the Mungalli Creek Dairy Stadium was an emotional one for the Old Boys who swapped stories over the weekend, including 1977 Millaa Millaa premiership captain-coach Henry Winters.

Matty Baillie takes a run at the Mareeba defence. Photo: Darryl Day
Matty Baillie takes a run at the Mareeba defence. Photo: Darryl Day

"(The jersey) was green with gold piping. I think we had to buy the piping ourselves and get your mother or wife to sew it on," he said.

"When you pulled on that jumper, you had a bit to live up to.

"In those early days, there weren't many cars, everyone would hop in the back of a truck or on the train to go to the football. It was a big thing."

Atherton Roosters 2023 player of the year Connor Griffin and Millaa Millaa 1977 premiership winning captain-coach Henry Winters. Photo: Darryl Day
Atherton Roosters 2023 player of the year Connor Griffin and Millaa Millaa 1977 premiership winning captain-coach Henry Winters. Photo: Darryl Day

Winters said it was a nice gesture from the Roosters - an ironic one considering the fierce rivalry between Millaa Millaa and the Atherton 'city slickers'.

"They're doing a really good job to support it. I know the blokes running the show there, I used to referee them and played football with their fathers and they're good blokes," he said. 

Millaa Millaa's past is documented in a book by historian Martin Grandelis, who was blown away at the vivid memories past players and supporters retold in his research for the publication: A History of Millaa Millaa Rugby League 1924-1987: Recollection by Players and Supporters.

The fearsome Millaa Millaa side was known as the 'Maulers' for most of their existence until the early 1970s when the club was in the Innisfail competition and termed the 'Mountain Men', said to be coined by friends of then-coach Tom Slater.

The club grew strong on the back of a booming timber industry and attracted a number of talented players and coaches over the years with the lure of job opportunities.

"Millaa Millaa played its first official game in early 1924 at a time when teams from Tolga, Barrine and other very remote places on the Atherton Tablelands were strongholds of rugby league with dairy farmers and timber cutters and that sort of work," Grandelis said.

The 1977 Millaa Millaa premiership side. Photo: Supplied
The 1977 Millaa Millaa premiership side. Photo: Supplied

"In the 1930s there was a breakaway group and Milllaa Millaa, Ravenshoe and Evelyn and a number of other small places formed an Upper Tablelands league for a couple of years and Millaa Millaa dominated that markedly... and when the war came it all abolished.

"After (World War II) the Eacham Rugby League really put its stamp of authority on the competition and there was one competition and in 1948 Millaa Millaa won the minor junior premiership with a team of young, budding players and they became the foundation for their golden period between 1953-59."

Grandelis said Millaa Millaa was known for methods that at time were considered radical, from incorporating recovery methods now considered commonplace, to a willingness to recruit experienced coach and players form outside the region.

"They had a masseur called Ernst Kjellberg, who was quite revolutionary in his ways and it was well documented in all the papers that a Millaa Millaa player would get injured on a Sunday and be out playing the next Sunday... whereas at other teams they would still be out injured," he said.

"The other thing Milllaa Millaa did is they made a conscious effort to bring in experience coaches from outside the town to build on the large number of local players they had.

"Some of the players they brought up were Jack Jager, a controversial forward in the early '50s who later played football with Easts.

"Of course they had some good homegrown players, John Eaton, who played in '53 as a 19-year-old and came back in the late '50s after representing Queensland, and he was unlucky not to play for Australia, but he came back and coaches for a few season including 1961 when Millaa Millaa won the premiership and the Eacham representative side won the Foley Shield.

"Along the way they produced some great players: Ash Hanley - his son became Ross Hanley the rugby union international - and Peter Grigg played all his junior football and went on to play several Tests in rugby union.

"It was a great bygone era that's not only in Millaa Millaa but a lot of regional parts of Queensland we've all forgotten now.

"The recollections of the players and supporters and their descendants I think makes the book a fantastically interesting read. It's a bit of a microcosm of the way our society was."

As the timber industry died down, Millaa Millaa took on players from surrounding towns and entered into the Innisfail competition, before ceasing in 1987.

Grandelis has authored a number of books documenting regional rugby league history, including about the centenary of the Atherton Roosters in 2018 and A Short History of the Ayr, Home Hill and Burdekin Rugby Leagues.

While many copies of the book were sold at the Millaa Millaa centenary celebrations gala on Saturday night, those remaining are available by contacting the Lions Club of Millaa Millaa

QRL North region

FNQRL Men's A grade

Round 8 results

Atherton Roosters 36 def Mareeba Gladiators 18

Edmonton Storm 34 def Yarrabah Seahawks 28

Cairns Brothers 48 def Southern Suburbs Cockatoos 10

Innisfail Leprechauns 18 drew with Tully Tigers 18

Cairns Kangaroos 30 drew with Ivanhoes Knights 30



Round 8 results

Cairns Kangaroos 28 def Ivanhoes Maidens 20

Yarrabah Seahawks 30 def Edmonton Storm 12


Zenadth Kes Rugby League Island Roosters Cup

Round 2 results

Pioneer Knights 30 def Roosters 16

Suburbs 24 def Mulga Tigers 20

Ladder not available

Rugby League Townsville & District Men's A grade

Round 6 results

Souths Bulls 64 def Centrals Tigers 16

Brothers Townsville 26 def Herbert River Crushers 12

Norths Devils 40 def Charters Towers Miners 4


Rugby League Townsville & District Open Women

Round 6 results

Herbert River Crushers 20 drew with Brothers Townsville 20

Norths Devils 22 def Charters Towers Miners 18


Mount Isa Rugby League Men's A grade

Round 9 results

Townies 82 def Brothers 30


Mount Isa Rugby League Women's A grade

Round 6 results

Cloncurry Eagles 14 drew with City-Country Mt Isa 14


QRL Central region

Central West Rugby League Wellshot Hotel Men's Competition

Round 7 results

Blackall Magpies 32 def Alpha Brumbies 14

Longreach-Ilfracombe Tigers 34 def Winton Diamantina Devils 22


Roma District Rugby League Men's A grade

Round 6 results

Miles Devils 32 def Taroom-Wandoan Battlers 24

St George Dragons 28 def Mitchell Magpies 20

Wallumbilla-Surat Red Bulls 50 def Chinchilla Bulldogs 10


# Team P W D L B +/- Pts
1 Roma Cities 5 4 0 1 1 73 16
2 Red Bulls 5 4 0 1 1 73 16
3 Mitchell Magpies 5 3 0 2 1 79 12
4 Taroom-Wandoan Battlers 6 3 0 3 0 -43 12
5 St George 5 2 0 3 1 -14 8
6 Miles Devils 5 2 0 3 1 -24 8
7 Chinchilla Bulldogs 5 0 0 5 1 -144 0

Northern Districts Rugby League Men's Competition

Round 7 results

Miriam Vale Magpies 60 def Agnes Water Marlins 6

Isis Devils 58 def South Kolan Sharks 8

Gladstone Wallabys 54 def Gin Gin Hawks 18



Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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