Jason Millns is something of a throwback.
At a time when North Otago club rugby seems to consist largely of youngsters, Pacific Islanders and Englishmen, Millns is one of a handful of local veterans providing the reliable glue that keeps the Citizens Shield together.
The stalwart Excelsior lock turns 38 later this year but is running around like a spring chicken – and no wonder, when you consider the change of circumstances.
Millns made his debut in 1999 and his first full season was in 2000. Between then and 2003, Blues lost no fewer than 50 – yes, 50 – consecutive games in what was widely considered the worst losing streak in the history of North Otago premier rugby.
“It was quite horrible, really,” Millns recalled this week.
“You sort of spend a long time thinking, ‘What I am I doing here?”‘
Worse was to come.
Excelsior could not field a team at all in 2006, so Millns headed down the road to Maheno and got his first taste of semifinals rugby before returning to Excelsior the next year.
The last decade has brought a few highlights. Excelsior won the Speight’s Shield, the short-lived combined competition between North Otago and Dunedin second division club sides, in 2009, and reached the Citizens Shield final in 2015.
Millns took a year off rugby in 2016 but has come back for one more season, and estimates he has played well over 200 games for Blues.
I still feel 27 or 28. It’s just during the week when your body’s a wee bit stiff that you remember how old you are.”
He said there was a simple reason why he had stayed with Excelsior so long.
“Just being with your mates. That’s what it comes down to, really.
“I haven’t won the Citizens Shield but I wouldn’t change a thing. You’re there because you grow to love the club and you’ve got lots of mates around you.”
Excelsior is two steps away from giving Millns a fairytale finish.
He is confident the club has as good a chance as any of winning the competition, and is eagerly awaiting the clash with the powerful Valley forward pack in this weekend’s semifinal.
If Blues can reach the final – and chase their first Citizens Shield in 20 years – Millns has a preferred opponent.
“I remember in 2005, when I made my captain’s speech, us and Kurow were the struggling teams.
“I said then that as long as people kept working hard, you never know – it could be a Blues-Kurow final some time in the future. It would be nice if that could happen this year.”
Millns and partner Shenae are expecting their first child in January
“I’m pretty pumped about it.”