Well done Stephen Milne

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Stephen Milne will forever have his name marked in history as an incredible AFL player who kicked more than 500 goals after being elevated as a rookie.

I have the utmost respect for his ability to kick goals, especially in play and mostly from angles - even when he is directly in front. There has never been a greater exponent of the snap shot and I doubt if there ever will be.

Milney can make the ball talk. His skill to bobble the ball end over end on a sideways path is legendary. He started to develop and refine these innate skills before and after training, spending many hours honing his craft.

Matt Rendell was convinced Milney thought he was 190cm. He would patrol the forward 50 like a power key forward, taking up space and providing lead after lead. The big boys, Stewart Loewe, Peter Everitt, Aaron Hamill, Fraser Gehrig, Nick Riewoldt, Justin Koschitzke and any other designated key forwards regarded him as a pest most of the time . They had enormous admiration for the little guy, however it sometimes spilled into manic frustration as they led into seemingly gaping holes in the opposition's defence only to see Milney bob up in front of them with his man and spoil the party.

There were times that Milney faced the brunt of their frustration and on occasions it was over the top and unwarranted - these things happen in the cut and thrust of an AFL game. It is also true he was harshly treated on occasions and was an easy scapegoat when conversion was not at an acceptable standard from forward 50m entries.

On top of all that he had earned the name "Yapper" which needs no explanation. He was the cheekiest player in the competition and riled opponents incessantly (and teammates) with his sharp tongue and wit. Milney would inadvertently fire up the opposition with his baiting and snapping, yapping nature - much to the chagrin of his fellow forwards.

He simply loved nothing better than smashing an opposition team at Etihad Stadium. He was the smallest "bully" in the business, but he absolutely adored his fans screaming, his opponents whingeing and his team flogging anyone at his favourite place - beloved Etihad Stadium. It was like his home, he felt safe, secure, in control, on top of things, like Linus and his security blanket.

There was no better player in the competition against inferior teams at Etihad stadium, however his fluctuation in effort was too great when we were interstate or playing in big games against intimidating opponents. We had spent lots of time working on the dilemma and focussed on different preparation patterns - most failed.

In the preliminary final at Adelaide against Port Adelaide in 2004 we got nailed by a kick after a brilliant start. Milney had a very bad night having one disposal.

The following year I distinctly remember him kicking 11 goals in Round 22 against the Brisbane Lions in 2005. It was a flawless game from a small forward, including great pressure and tackles and we went on to win that game by 139 points - something that didn't happen often against the Brisbane Lions.

During selection the week leading into our first final I dropped a bombshell to the other coaches. I had Milney's magnet to the side of the board, he was out of the side. I told them I wasn't prepared to take him to Adelaide for our first final against the Crows who finished the season on top of the ladder and were a very difficult proposition at home. I knew it was going to be a last man standing affair and we needed to take soldiers who could play their part and contribute - unconditionally. I did not have that faith in Stephen Milne.

The coaches thought I had finally gone completely troppo. There was a mixture of laughter and cracking jokes until they realised I was deadly serious. After explaining my rationale, Matt Rendell said to me that whilst he was convinced I was right and he understood where I was coming from he sincerely felt for my coaching career - which was the last thing I was concerned about. "Bundy" Rendell felt the media would savage me and Jason Cripps thought it would affect team morale. The media savagery wasn't a concern, but the team morale was. I was out-voted and reluctantly relented.

Thankfully we got up against the Crows in Adelaide in the qualifying final against the odds in one of our most courageous victories. Milney kicked one important goal, had five kicks and no tackles. He played poorly. Two weeks later we played the Sydney Swans in the preliminary final and Milney had two kicks, two handballs and no score.

That was a total of three finals on the big stage, eight kicks and one goal. I absolutely subscribe to the mantra that players don't fail, organisations fail and to that end I am responsible for not making him a better player interstate or in big games during my tenure.

At the end of 2004 and 2005 we offered Stephen up for trade. We were desperate to secure either Dean Cox from West Coast or David Hille from Essendon. Michael Gardiner's long-term injury potentially saved Milney from a Cox deal, which fell over as a result. We could not gain any interest from any club about Stephen Milne during 2004-2006. This was odd to us given the amount of time and effort they spent preparing against him. We had several players getting towards the end of their careers and we saw the need to replace them with a quality player or draft picks. We wrongly thought Stephen Milne had some currency - we were wrong.

There is no doubt that the more structured, zoning, forward press style over the last five years has helped Milney's concentration and focus towards pressure and effort in a more confined space. He has also improved his interstate and big game contributions commensurately with the team's overall performance.

I have been on his case since I departed at the end of 2006. In my last discussion with him I informed him that he was to be traded if I remained as coach so take advantage of my termination. I also informed him that I would be at him and at him and would not let up until he finally delivered consistent effort and performances. I think we have both delivered.

Well done on a marvellous career Milney.

User comments
Respect? for playing football? are you serious? gee.. I respect people for being people, not because they can kick a ball better than someone else. And certainly he is not a role model.
I think Grant Thomas summed up Mr. Milne perfectly as a footballer. A good snap shot, he is a fabulous smalltime "Bully" and as an Etihad specialist. The reason he has kicked so many goals is because he's been so greedy and has only ever played as a forward. He "gets on the end of" so many goals and does the easy flashy stuff adequately. What annoys me most is the comparison being made between Mr. Milne and some greats from yesteryear (namely Matthews, Bartlett and Daicos) Milne has played his 240 odd games as a permanent forward. Matthews played only the last 60-80 of his there. Similarly Bartlett and Daicos were midfielders who played the last few years of their careers as forwards. If any of these 3 had played 250 games as a forward, they would have kicked a thousand goals. I think if anyone checked their histories they would see that all three played dominant roles in big games (including Grand finals). Mr. Milne is an adequate player that has kicked big bags against poor teams.
I very fair and accurate assessment of Stephen's career Grant, and a worthy appraisal. Whatever we feel about Stephen's ability or conduct it still is quite a remarkable effort remembering his is a small player in now what is regarded as a tall and big man's game. Well done!
Look, if we really apply a high standard to rate players as champions, he isn't. I don't think he would have ever been rated in the top five in his club. But fair is fair, he has kicked 500 AFL goals and 99% of forwards would take that. Sort of like Warwick Capper. Champion? No. Kicked 100 in a season? Yes. Less then 30 blokes have done that in history so he deserves some respect, no matter what you think of him.
Fair article Thomo, I agree Milney certainly changed his game over the years and became a much better team player up forward. Nasty comments from Mick Malthouse and others re Milney are embarassing as I feel that Mick was in charge of players with more questionable characteristics than Milney. Big Deal and Player Only are not true Football followers if they cannot appreciate a player who has kicked 500 goals in the most elite of competitions.
He may or may not be a good player? He is not a champion and does not conduct himself as one.
The above comment from 'Big Deal' sums up the ignorance of many who allow their prejudice against the man to cloud their judgment on his footy ability. Mick Malthouse's players have far more question marks over the character of the players he oversaw, ie Didak, Swan, Shaw, etc etc. Thommo's article is very fair minded and honest. Milney has become far more consistent in finals, and in the 2010 qualifying final, was responsible for turning that game on its head. A terrific effort to kick 500 goals from the background he came from - rookie. well done Milney
Only Saint supporters would care as most have little respect for the guy. What has he won? Still question marks about his character hang over his head that we never heard the truth about. Although at least Mick had his say. Hes a good player but hes no champion.

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