As a true rugby league journeyman, Shane Millard has experienced more than most in his colourful career.
He played with eight different clubs throughout Australia and England however his greatest challenge may have arrived as coach of the Illawarra Steelers SG Ball Cup side.
With former Steelers, St George-Illawarra, NSW and Australian player Shaun Timmins as his assistant (pictured), Millard is hoping their vast experience as players can benefit his side which missed out on a top-eight position by the narrowest of margins in 2014. That said, Millard is under no illusions about the hard work required not only from the players, but from the coaches as well.
“Respect has to be earned. You can’t just expect it,” explains Millard.
As a tough and uncompromising forward who consistently played above his weight, Millard commanded respect from his opponents and is hopeful the hard work and toughness he exhibited as a player is now present in his coaching style, as well as in the qualities he preaches to his players.
“As a coach, I draw from my past experiences and pass information on to the boys. All my boys have been respectful and appreciative. They try really hard and I make sure they’re nice, fit, strong and ready to compete.”
Growing up on the Mid North Coast of NSW in Kendall and playing for Camden Haven and Port Macquarie throughout the junior leagues, Millard attended open day trials for Eastern Suburbs. He made the Roosters Jersey Flegg squad and went on to make his first grade debut four years later for the club in 1996.
Millard played his first game in the top grade at the back end of the season. The Sydney City Roosters went down 18-10 to the Cronulla Sharks at the Sydney Football Stadium.
Millard signed with the Western Suburbs Magpies in 1997, where he played 20 games during the season, before signing with the London Broncos; the club where he would go on to play the majority of his first grade football and develop his affection for the English Super League.
“There were lots of Aussies over there at that time and it’s a great way to see a lot of the world,” recalled Millard.
“I was twenty two years old and it was a fantastic experience.”
Millard also had the honour of playing at the old Wembley Stadium before it was knocked down to accommodate a new modern national stadium.
Playing in the second row for the London Broncos, Millard and his team-mates were down 12-10 at the half-time break and in with a great chance of snatching their inaugural Challenge Cup title.
But it wasn’t to be as Leeds winger Leroy Rivett raced in for four tries to help his side to a 52-16 triumph.
Millard spent a total of nine seasons playing in the Super League for a variety of clubs including the Widnes Vikings, Wigan Warriors, Leeds Rhinos and Broncos.
Having gained respect abroad for his tough and courageous style of play, Millard also found his way into Super League folklore after an unusual incident against the Castleford Tigers in 2004.
Whilst playing for Widnes (pictured below), Millard sustained a head gash after a clash with Castleford’s Dean Ripley. After being patched up and finishing the match, it wasn’t until after the game that part of Ripley’s missing tooth was found lodged in Millard’s head.
Millard played a total of 207 Super League matches as well as 48 NRL matches for the Roosters, Magpies, Rabbitohs and the Dragons.
He finished his playing career with Illawarra club side, the Thirroul Butchers where he was named the Clubman of the Year in 2011.
Millard was urged to get into coaching by his friends Jim Dymock and Paul McGregor. Now in his second year as SG Ball Cup coach, this Rugby League journeyman is determined to go a step further after missing the finals on for and against in 2014.
With an experienced and willing coach and an Illawarra legend in Timmins by his side, the Steelers are undoubtedly a team to watch in 2015.