Wales finished the 1975 Rugby League World Series with a flourish, defeating New Zealand and France within six days.
The 25-24 win over the Kiwis, at the St Helens’ ground, Swansea, was one of the most controversial matches in league history, with Welsh prop, Jim Mills stomping on the head of Kiwi rival, John Greengrass, as Greengrass scored a try, late in proceedings. The story goes that Mills had been hunting Greengrass, after the Canterbury (provincial) star allegedly squirrel gripped Mills in a scrum.
The stomp was so blatant and pre-meditated, veteran French referee, Georges Jameau had no choice but to march Mills. You can see the incident on You Tube, with the clip having attracted 84,000 views.
In the fall-out from the incident, the New Zealand Rugby League said it would never play against a British team which included Mills.
This commitment was set to be tested in 1979, when Mills was chosen in the Eric Ashton coached Great Britain team to tour Australia and New Zealand. As things transpired, Mills returned to the UK after the Australian leg, with injury ruling him out of the trip across the Tasman. That was the official line anyway.
Jackie Hughes, the wife of 1979 tourist, Eric Hughes; and Mick Adams’ mum stayed at the home of my wife, Marie and I at Wooloowin in Brisbane in ’79.
I was still playing league – with Norths – and I was the Telegraph’s Industrial roundsman – still 18 months off becoming a fulltime league writer, although I was contributing to the Brisbane match program.
But I got an insight into that ’79 tour through Hughes and Adams. They assured me that ‘Big Jim’, their teammate at Cheshire club, Widnes, would travel across the ditch.
In that 1975 win over New Zealand, centre, Bill Francis scored two tries for the Welsh, while dual rugby international, David Watkins kicked five goals. Kiwi winger, Tony ‘Tank’ Gordon, who went on to coach New Zealand in 1987, also kicked five goals.
Wales’ 23-2 win over France at Salford in the final match of the 1975 tournament was especially satisfying, as the French had beaten Wales 14-7 in Toulouse, in the very first match of the tournament, back in March.
That French team included greats such as Francis de Nadai and Didier Hermet, who were not in the team at Salford. Playing in the front row for Wales, in Swansea and Salford, was Mick Murphy, who I had the honour of meeting at Villeneuve-sur-Lot in France, many years later, after a match between the local team and Saint Gaudens.
Australia won the ’75 tournament, which was a home and away competition. The Kangaroos finished with 13 points from six wins; one draw and a loss. The draw and loss were both against England, who finished second on 12, with a shock loss to the Welsh in Brisbane regarded as the prime factor in England not being crowned champions. Wales and New Zealand finished on six points and France on three, with France’s only other competition point coming from a 12-12 draw with the Kiwis in Marseilles.
1 Jim Mills
2 Bill Francis playing for Great Britain against Australia at Lang Park, Brisbane in 1977. Greg Pierce has a flimsy hold on Francis, while Terry ‘Igor’ Randall moves in for the kill.