Whatever opinion one might have of Stephen Milne as a person, his efforts as a footballer cannot be denied. Sitting well inside the top 50 goalkickers of all time, as well as fourth for all current players, “Milney” is one of the greatest small forwards to have ever played the game.
Any way you look at it, 572 career goals over 274 games is a very good effort. This is even more impressive when you realise that the individual in question is only 176cm and started his career off the rookie list.
In his 13 seasons, Milne kicked 50 goals or more in six of them. He has been St Kilda’s leading goalkicker on four occasions, and an All-Australian twice. He holds the games record for a player originally drafted from the rookie draft, and has kicked more goals than any other player at Etihad Stadium. From a footballing perspective, Milne has been a mainstay of the Saints forward line since his debut in 2001.
With Milne announcing his retirement earlier this week, it’s only natural to look back over his career and marvel at the accomplishments of a player who was divisive amongst fans of the sport.
St Kilda fans have idolised Milney, supporting the underdog that fought his way from Essendon’s reserve side all the way to three Grand Final appearances. However, he still holds the title as the most maligned player in the game for opposition supporters, with Hayden Ballantyne a distant second.
Milne’s career reflected St Kilda’s era – one of promise, disappointment, highs, lows and controversies. He played in three Grand Finals, and almost made himself a hero in the 2010 Grand Final, but for the bounce of a Lenny Hayes kick. He is one of only seven current players to have kicked ten or more goals in a match, thanks to an 11-goal haul against Brisbane in 2005.
Yet despite his on-field exploits, Milne might be remembered for his possible criminal activities, with police reinvestigating an alleged rape from 2004. The investigation, regardless of the eventual findings, will always represent a black mark on Milne’s career, much like the current Essendon investigation.
When Milne retires along with fellow Saints veterans Jason Blake and Justin Koschitzke, he will be sent off to rapturous applause from an adoring Saints faithful. However, had St Kilda been drawn against a team with a stronger Victorian presence, it would be interesting to see whether he would be jeered by opposition fans. While most players would be offended, I don’t think Stephen Milne would have it any other way.