Dick Milliken was one of the unsung heroes of the triumphant Lions tour of South Africa in 1974.
Star names such as Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett and Willie John McBride may have grabbed the headlines but Milliken played a crucial role on the only unbeaten Lions tour to date.
Arguably the most-improved player on tour, Milliken played in all four internationals against the Springboks, as well as nine other matches on tour.
Prior to departure for South Africa, the then 23-year-old had earned a reputation as a hard-tackling, ball-carrying centre who provided the perfect foil for Mike Gibson in the Irish midfield.
However, Gibson’s absence from the Lions squad saw a new Milliken come to the fore. On the hard grounds of South Africa, he demonstrated his attacking prowess and creative skills as the Lions won 21 of their 22 fixtures.
Milliken played alongside 2009 Lions coach Ian McGeechan in all four internationals in South Africa, scoring a superb try in the second of those Tests. That late effort by Milliken in Pretoria handed the Lions a 28-9 win – their biggest Test victory to date.
Milliken’s name may not be the first to spring to mind when recalling the glories of the 1974 tour but, among a backline that also included legendary figures such as Andy Irvine and JPR Williams, his contribution should not be forgotten.
Dick Milliken’s factfile
Date of birth: September 2 1950
International caps: Ireland 14
Milliken’s Lions lowdown
Lions debut: Versus South West Africa, May 18, 1974
Lions Tests: 4 (All four Tests in SA in 1974)
Lions non-Test appearances: 9
Total Lions appearances: 13 (all in 1974)
Lions points: 25* (5 tries)*under the current scoring system
Final Lions appearance: Versus South Africa, Johannesburg, July 27, 1974
Injury impacts upon Milliken’s career
Having returned from South Africa with his reputation very much enhanced, Milliken took his tally of Ireland caps to 14 in 1975.
However, a painful ankle injury interrupted his progress and he failed to regain his international place when he returned to action in the winter of ’76.
Outside of rugby
A geography graduate from Queen’s University in Belfast, Milliken is a chartered account by profession and was appointed executive director of pharmaceutical solutions company Almac in 2002 before taking on the role of group financial director in 2006.
He was formerly Northern Ireland CEO of the Investment Bank of Ireland and was CEO of Lamont Holdings plc from 1990 until 2001.
Did you know?
Milliken was the first player from the Bangor club in Northern Ireland to win international honours.