As the game celebrates 140 years at the SCG, Dr Rodney Gillett looks at the unique record of Ray Millington at the famous old ground.
Ray Millington played senior football in three different codes on the SCG in the 1950s.
Born and bred in Paddington, he played Australian football for Eastern Suburbs, Rugby Union for Randwick, and Rugby League for Eastern Suburbs; and, represented NSW in athletics, Australian football and basketball.
He was a natural athlete whose first experience at the SCG was at State junior athletics championships in 1950 when he won four events – the javelin, the hammer throw, the discuss and the pole volt. He also competed in the decathlon in the open age group.
Ray started out playing junior football for Delmuth, an inner city team. He was spotted at a Sydney Naval football trial by an Eastern Suburbs official who told him that as he lived in Paddington he was residentially bound to play for Easts.
Debuting in 1949 he made an immediate impression and played centre half-forward for Easts in their one-point loss in the grand final to Newtown on the Sydney Showground. The next season after starring in a Sydney representative team that beat the South-West League, he was selected at age 18, for the NSW State team in the Second Division carnival in Brisbane, which was played at the Gabba.
Ray was recruited by VFL club Fitzroy for the 1952 season and played four senior games for the ‘Roys. A centre-half-forward in Sydney, Fitzroy wanted to make a centreman out of him, but that was the position of captain-coach Allan “The Baron” Ruthven, who had won the Brownlow medal in 1950, so opportunities were limited.
However, he did play for a Victorian 2nd XVIII against a country representative team as a curtain-raiser to an interstate clash between Victoria and Western Australia at the MCG. This meant that Ray played football on the three major grounds on the east coast – SCG, MCG and Gabba – which was quite unique at the time.
He returned to Sydney for the 1953 season and resumed playing for Eastern Suburbs which began its record run of seven consecutive premierships by beating Western Suburbs in the grand final, 21-22.(148) to 15-12 (102).
Easts, which only lost one game for the season, scored 2285 points for and only had 961 points against during the home-and-away matches, and according to the NSW ANFL weekly Record, “This Eastern Suburbs side has been the best in Sydney for a considerable number of years” (6 September, 1953).
Ray told me that the 1953 Easts team would have beaten most VFL 2nd grade sides, “The goal-to-goal line of full-back Mal Dean, centre half-back Alf Penno, centreman Ray Moore, myself at centre half-forward and Joe Hughes at full forward really worked well together, with Jackie Dean leading the ruck division and rover Jack Boucher. Former St Kilda big man, Fred Pemberton, was the captain-coach”.
It was during this season that he played his first game of football at the SCG for Eastern Suburbs against Newtown in a curtain-raiser match to a North Adelaide v Norwood game for premiership points in the SANFL; this was the first occasion that such a game had been played outside of South Australia.
“It was a wonderful thrill to play my first game of football on the Cricket Ground”, Ray told me in an interview for this piece. “I just loved it. Mind you, it was better to play Aussie Rules on the ground than Rugby or League; the centre of the ground where the wickets got so hard, were like concrete,” Ray recalled.
Then in 1954, Ray switched codes to Rugby Union playing with leading Sydney club Randwick. He went straight into first grade under Wallabies Skipper Nick Shehadie, and alongside the Outterside brothers, Bob and Bill. By this time, he had joined the police force and was based at Randwick.
Ray was chosen for a Rugby City Colts team to play RMC Duntroon in a curtain-raiser at the SCG to the Australia v Fiji test match.
He returned to play footy for Eastern Suburbs under Alf Penno in 1956 and was a member of the premiership team that beat Western Suburbs, 10-12.(72) to 9-19 (71).
His next foray was into Rugby League and he signed with the Eastern Suburbs Club in 1957 where he played under legendary Kangaroos centre Dave Brown and alongside Jack Gibson and Terry Fearnley until 1959. Easts were based at the Sydney Sportsground (a ground taken over for the Sydney Football Stadium members car park). Ray played for Easts in two match-of-the-days against St George on the SCG.
He retired from playing senior football after the 1959 season following a stint as captain-coach of the South Western Club Rugby League Club, Mt Pritchard and subsequently built a stellar career in the NSW Police Force and serving in the CIB, rising to the rank of Detective Chief Inspector.
According to one of East Sydney’s star players of the 1960s and later club president, Bob Wilton, “Ray Millington was one of the best, he was highly skilled and very athletic, and had that great ability to play well in the big games. He could match it with the best, in any code he played. I grew up just down the road from Trumper Park and used to go to watch games as a young boy. Ray was one of my heroes”.
For an interview with Ray about his Sporting Journey, click here to listen to a podcast of Ray’s time in football.