Noel Mills won a silver medal in the coxless four in the 1972 Munich Olympics.
On that Olympic finals day there were hundreds of New Zealand supporters at the Feldmoching course, and they made an impressive amount of noise, chanting “black, black, black” as they sought to spur on the three New Zealand crews in action.
The New Zealand coxed four finished sixth, having done well to make the final. Then the coxless four – Mills, Ross Collinge, Dick Tonks and Dudley Storey - fought a magnificent battle with a really crack East German team that had not lost in six years.
The lead changed six times and New Zealand were in front at the 1500m mark. Over the last 500m the New Zealanders were run down by the East Germans, who won by 1.3s. The two boats were out by themselves, with a gap of three seconds to the third-placed West Germans.
In 1973 Mills and the following year claimed a silver medal in the coxless pair (with his Whakatane clubmate Wybo Veldman) at the European championships at Moscow. In 1978 he was a member of the New Zealand eight that took the bronze medal at the world championships at Karapiro.
He grabbed a clutch of national titles representing Whakatane. There were eights titles in 1970, 71, 74 and 75, fours titles in 1970, 71 and 73, coxless fours in 1977, coxless pairs (with Veldman) in 1973, 74 and 75 and quadruple sculls in 1979. After retiring as a rower, he became a coach and helped many Whakatane crews over a long span.
Mills, who was a builder in Whakatane, moved to Brisbane in the late 1990s. With his son, he became a successful property developer. He continued to dabble in rowing at masters level, replacing Trevor Coker (who died in 1981) in the various reunion races the Olympic champion 1972 eights crew has contested over the years.