Must Read Tidbits

Newspaper clippings from the 1925 Tournament & 1926 Tournament

Other Notable Players

Sonnybill Williams – League

Lance Hohaia – League

Josh Blackie – Otago

Tawera Nikau – League

Paul Tito – Taranaki

Ben Te’o – League

Jeremy Paul – Hooker for Australia

Rob Waddell – Grinder Team NZ/Rower

Daniel Flynn – NZ Cricket 97 BOP



Brilliant centre-three quarter Craig Innes, whose meteoric rise to All Black honours began with Roller Mills, comes from the ranks of a remarkable rugby family. Craig’s first step towards an All Black jersey began with his selection at fullback for the 1981 Waikato Rangers Roller Mills team. He was back again the next year this time as a centre-three quarter and captain of the team. Craig was also completing a family double, His father Ross, In 1958 had also been captain of Waikato Rangers, But the family tradition was to reach even more remarkable levels.

In 1984 Craig’s brother Mark also captained Waikato Rangers, and then in 1986 another brother, Andrew was also to make the Rangers Roller Mills team, and as captain, four from one family making the Roller Mills is a proud record. But for all four to Captain the team is a record likely to stand for a long time.
1990/91 Program.

Out to Play – Published & Supplied by the Waikato Times 1997

(The following players played in this tournament: Sonny Bill Williams, Keiren Read, Bendon Leonard, Rich Kahui & NZ Cricketer Daniel Flynn)

Roller Mills is about as big as rugby gets for youngsters with their hearts set on glory.

IF THE England Rugby Union had any sense they’d be in Whitianga this Saturday. It’s there that they’ll find the secrets to the All Blacks’ success. They might even find a way of beating New Zealand at their own game.

The annual Roller Mills tournament is one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious rugby events. At it, more than 200 players will take that first step towards a rugby career. Maybe one will go on to become an All Black. Some will represent their provinces. Almost all will become keen rugby supporters. And most will treasure the week for the rest of their lives.

Yet these wannabe All Blacks are still only 12 or 13 years old. Jarred Tansey, 12, has experienced the highs and lows of junior rugby. Last month he became the first player to be sent off in the final of the Gwynne Shield, a Waikato competition. An hour later he was selected in the Waikato Rovers team to play in the Roller Mills tournament, which starts on Saturday.

The tournament dates back to 1925 when the Northern Roller Milling Company presented a shield for competition between primary-age teams in the Auckland province. Today, 10 teams from the upper North Island compete.

Jarred, a No 8 who wants to become an All Black, will captain Rovers. Jarred dreams of victory. It’s been 21 years since the side won the tournament. After debuting at the tournament last year, he wants to do what former All Black and Waikato stalwart Warren Gatland did in 1976 hoist the trophy aloft for Rovers. “I just can’t wait to get there.” The Rovers squad of 21 are drawn from Hamilton, Te Awamutu, Ngaruawahia and Huntly. The team have won the trophy six times.

Dane McLeod, 13, will lead their better-performed counterparts, the Waikato Rangers side. Also a No 8, he has also had a tough season. He has fought back from breaking an elbow to make the Rangers team for the second year running. Rangers’ players come from Tokoroa, Putaruru, Matamata, Morrinsville and Cambridge. They are the only team to win the trophy five times in succession _ from 1978-1982 _ and have won 11 times in all. Players to have worn the Rangers’ red jersey read like a rugby who’s who: Grant Fox, Walter Little, Craig Innes, Duane Monkley and Jamie Cameron. Both Jarred and Dane are quietly spoken. Getting more than a mumble out of them is hard going. But they’re passionate about rugby. They both started young _ their walls are plastered with pictures of their All Black heroes. Christian Cullen is a favourite. Their families give them wholehearted support. Jarred’s father Richard coaches Rovers and also coached Jarred’s Hamilton South side to a 37-10 win in the Gwynne Shield final. He fought to clear his son’s name after he was sent off in that match and suspended for three weeks. He hired a lawyer and successfully appealed the ban. Dane’s father Ross was a well-known senior rugby player in Tokoroa. They’ll be at the Whitianga tournament to support their sons. About 200 supporters and hundreds of spectators are expected to watch the 10 teams and 210 players in action, culminating in the grand final on October 4. The tournament is limited to players weighing 53kg or less and who are 13 years and under at January 1. It is not limited to boys. Last year 12-year-old Greer Wignall of Thames Valley became the first girl to play. The winners of the inaugural tournament were Auckland. Since then Auckland sides have won the event 37 times. Waikato won the shield twice, in 1939 and 1948, before splitting into Waikato Rangers and Rovers in 1953. ALL BLACK selector and Waikato Chiefs coach Ross Cooper will make the trip from his Waihi home to see the action next week hoping for a Thames Valley victory. The last time it was played in Whitianga, in 1989, they won. “The tournament is one of those great tournaments in New Zealand rugby,” Cooper says. But he’s not going along to identify potential All Blacks. “I see it as a good opportunity to meet the real rugby people, the parents and the supporters.” In other professional sports, such as English soccer, promising youngsters are lured by big clubs from the moment they start showing excellence. “That’s the danger. Children need to enjoy their sport. I don’t personally go along and say `that child _ I must write his name down because he could be an All Black’,” says Cooper. “People have to be realistic about the chances of producing a professional rugby player. There are about 230 in New Zealand and something like 140,000 players.” The message at the tournament should be participation is fun, he says. Enjoying the competition, being billeted away from family for a week, donning a provincial jersey for the first time. For young rugby players, Roller Mills is a coming of age.


Prior to 1968, the weight was 8 stone 7lbs (@54Kg’s)(Bob Heal/Dave Delgliech) , It was then lowered to 8 Stone (50.8 Kg’s) in 1968, Whose age must not exceed 14 yrs on the 1st of January, the game was played 25 minute spells for section games and 30 minutes spells for the final. 2 points were awarded for a win, 1 point for a draw. In 1975 the weights changed to 51.0 Kg’s, In (approx) 1993 the weight was 53 kg’s and in 2000 changed to today’s weight of 55.0 kg’s.


This year sees the first girl attending the Roller Mills as a player, We have had Women Managers, Women Physios and Women Referees but Never a girl included as part of a team, until this year.

Greer Wignall, player and Vice Captain of Thames Valley, breaks the last barrier as far as the Roller Mills Tournament is concerned. Greer a loose forward, is in her fourth playing season playing for Whangamata Area School and earned her selection in the Thames Valley side with some stirring performances.

We have had many future All Blacks….just maybe we are seeing our first New Zealand Women’s Representative.

1956 Program States;

  1. Bay Of Plenty and North Auckland were long time participants, but in 1953, after repeated invitations could not be accepted, those unions were removed from the Council’s list.
  2. Weight limit of 8 st 7 lbs, while they must be under 15 years of age on May 1st of this year.