The long and rich history of Featherstone Rovers Rugby League Football Club

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Milan Kosanovic

Born in Lika in what is now Croatia in 1932, Milan Kosanovic’s family was Serbian which would inevitably create problems in that trouble-torn area. He saw his country invaded by the Germans in the Second World War, and when the Ustasha regime came to power his family had to flee their homeland to avoid being massacred. Milan was nine years old. The Kosanovics eventually ended up in a Displaced Persons’ Camp in Halifax once the war was over and they started to make a new life for themselves in West Yorkshire. Milan was soon trying his hand at rugby league and was soon signed by Bradford Northern, where he played for six years, establishing a strong enough reputation as a hooker to gain selection for Yorkshire (perhaps even then the qualification rules were open to interpretation). He then played for Wakefield for three years where he won a Challenge Cup winners medal at Wembley and became a film star (sort of). He and many other Trinity players were extras in ‘This Sporting Life’, some scenes of which were shot at Belle Vue in 1962.

In February 1964 Milan transferred to Featherstone and quickly became first choice hooker. His Rovers debut was against his adopted hometown of Halifax, in what was an easy win that day, with two tries each for Kenny Greatorex and Malcolm Dixon. Skipper Dixon and Les Tonks were to become Milan’s regular front row partners over the next three years. In 1965 Kosanovic faced a challenge for his number nine shirt from a young and upcoming Vince Farrar, who then switched to prop forward with great success.

In the 1966/67 season it was Graham Harris after his place, and both players played some great rugby at the side progressed through the rounds towards our second trip to Wembley. Milan played most of the league games that year, but Graham was preferred for the Cup clashes, and so Harris got the nod for Rovers’ big day out against Barrow at Wembley. Kosanovic was on the bench, but didn’t get a game. With that, at 35 years old, he retired after 94 games as a Rovers player and 307 in his whole career. He managed just one try for Rovers, but try-scoring was hardly the hooker’s job in those days.

Later in life he ran a wine bar in Halifax called “Milan’s” and died in 1989 aged just 57.

2 comments:

  1. great story I have tried to find details of Milan Kosanovic for a while, some time ago I read that there escape from Serbia was a somewhat torrid journey of walking hitching rides and the odd train journey till they arrived as you say in Halifax, I cannot now find which publication this was in so cannot authenticate the story but knowing the area of a few years ago I could quite understand it, Terry Gorman ex Batley scrum half told me of his toughness and his back ground

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    1. Thanks for posting. I think it's fair to say that most journeys undertaken by displaced people in the post-war chaos of 1945 were horrendous, and the Kosanovic family was no exception. This surely formed young Milan's character and outlook on life. There was some info on him in the old Code XIII magazine when he died.

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