Burns Mills has grown to appreciate the value of taking nothing for granted. The Otago Boys’ High School First XV utility back is the son of David Mills, a legally blind man who won a bronze medal in the Marathon at the 1988 Seoul Paralympics.
“Growing up with a blind dad has its challenges. I guess I am a personal taxi some of the time, but Dad has been blind for 40 years. He has never complained about his condition.” Mills acclaims.
The chance to switch from Roncalli College in Timaru to Otago Boys’ High School in 2015 was an opportunity too great to refuse.
“I enjoyed my time at Roncalli, but the team wasn’t competitive and I wanted to push myself so when I had the chance to leave it was an easy decision.” Mills says.
Otago made the National Top Four two years ago. Mills enjoyed regular game time and reflects fondly on two tussles.
“My favourite game was the South Island final against Southland Boys’ High School. We had drawn the interschool so we were nervous heading into the game, but it was one of those days where everything clicked and we won well.” Mills enthuses.
In the Southland encounter prop Sione Asi scored three tries.
The National semi-final was another highlight.
“Even though we lost it was a brilliant game of rugby. The lead changed lots and it was a real challenge marking some great players like the Umaga-Jensen twins.”
In 2016, Otago had a strong team which appeared on course to have another tilt at making the Top Four, but a misguided compliancy proved detrimental. Otago was stunned by John McGlashan College in the Highlanders Regional semi-final.
“We took them too lightly which won’t happen again. The returning players are certain about that. I missed the kick on fulltime which could have drawn the game. It was disappointing, but it happens in footy and I have put it behind me.” Mills reflects.
Otago hasn’t beaten Southland for two years. Last year New Zealand Schools hooker Flynn Thomas scored twice and fullback Kaleb Talamahina scored a try that went viral in a comprehensive win for Southland. How will Otago reverse that result?
“I think we will play it traditionally, look to keep them on the back foot by plugging the corners and forcing them to run it out of their own half. We have a strong kick and chase and lineout so we will look to force mistakes.” Mills theorises.
Openside Taine TeWhata, halfback James Arscott, first-five Tevita Asi and the brothers of Otago hooker Sekonaia Pole, Tevita (first-five) and Abraham (forward reserve) are players Mills identifies as one’s to watch closely in the Otago team.
Mills himself has been in fine form. He was instrumental in the 24-22 victory over King’s College from Auckland and has stood out in the Dunedin Premier Colts competition as second-five.
“My preference is to play fullback, but I have enjoyed second-five. Our coach Mr Martin likes somebody with vision closer to the ball and I guess that’s what I bring.” Mills says.
In his spare time Mills enjoys “chilling” with friends and playing any sport.
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