Stephen Milne stars in his 250th match with five goals in St Kilda’s 71 point win

In last night’s 71 point victory against Essendon at Etihad Stadium creative St Kilda small forward Stephen Milne starred in his 250th match with five goals and two goal assists, setting game-highs in both categories.  It was the 16th time in his AFL career that Milne has kicked five goals or more in a match, having reached this mark at least once in nine of his 12 seasons, the exceptions being his debut season of 2001, 2006 and 2007.

In the second quarter against Essendon Milne kicked a superb set-shot goal from 48 metres out on the non-preferred side for a right footer to extend the Saints lead to 10 points, he then took centre stage in the third quarter, kicking four goals, all in a different fashion  to put the result of the match beyond doubt.  Milne’s second goal for the match came in the opening minute of the second half, marking a pass from Arryn Siposs 30 metres out from goal on the boundary line, Milne played on, running around to improve the angle but miskicked the ball which led to it landing a couple of metres short, luckily the ball bounced high to evade the outstretched hand of David Myers and went through for a goal. Goal number three was a set-shot 45 metres out from goal as a result of a free kick for being tackled whilst not in possession of the ball. For his fourth goal Milne timed his run to a boundary throw-in to perfection, gathering the loose ball whilst running hard towards goal and snapping truly from 25 metres out.  For his fifth and final goal Milne was running towards goal chasing a loose ball, in trademark Milne fashion whilst under pressure from an opponent he went to ground, gathered the ball, quickly sprung to his feet and kicked the goal from five metres out.

St Kilda started the round just outside the eight in ninth position and were given little chance of defeating their bogey side, Essendon who were fourth on the ladder with 10 wins and three losses by a combined margin of 11 points. The Saints performance in which they completely dismantled the Bombers to record a comprehensive victory, gain much needed confidence and bounce back into the eight, together with Milne playing a key role in the victory with his best football for the 2012 season meant that at the end of the night Milne couldn’t have written a better script than what unfolded to celebrate his 250th match for the St Kilda Football Club.

In the Round 15 match against Essendon livewire small forward Milne became just the second player to kick 500 goals and play 250 games for St Kilda, joining Stewart Loewe who reached both milestones late in the 1998 season.

Reaching the two significant milestones during the 2012 season is a great reward for the persistence and resilience of Stephen Milne who didn’t make his AFL debut until six weeks after turning 21. Throughout his football career, even dating back to before he made his AFL debut Milne has had to fight hard to get the recognition and opportunities that have come much easier for many other players. Despite showing prowess around goal and the ability to get possessions up the ground as a junior footballer Milne had to bide his time and continue persevering before making his AFL debut for St Kilda as a mature age player in 2001.

Of the 12,000 plus VFL/AFL players from 1897-2012 Stephen Milne is ranked 47th for career goals with 522, placing him in the top 0.4% of players in the history of the VFL/AFL.  At just 176 centimetres tall Milne is considerably shorter than many of the players surrounding him on the goalkicking list and whilst Milne gets many of his goals as a traditional small crumbing forward would, he also has another string to his bow, being an effective leading target when required which came to the fore during Nick Riewoldt’s abscence for half of the 2010 season due to a hamstring injury.

Milne’s teammate Lenny Hayes comments “Sometimes I think he plays like a key forward, not a small forward. When he leads, he’s always in the right spot. He was forever getting told off for being in front of the big fellas when he was meant to be at their feet. He just knew where to go.”1

Five players have kicked their 500th career goal in 2012, with Milne and three current club captains, teammate Nick Riewoldt, Jonathan Brown and Matthew Pavlich being joined in the 500 goal club by Hawthorn’s Lance Franklin today.  After 15 rounds of the 2012 season Milne ranks equal sixth in the AFL for goals with 32, Franklin is leading with 51, ahead of Jack Riewoldt (39) and Nick Riewoldt (38).

Throughout his career Milne has kicked 522 goals, 292 behinds for 64% accuracy. Of the 46 players ahead of him on the goal-kicking list only 10 have an accuracy of better than 64%. Milne has shown remarkable durability to play at least 21 matches in nine of his 11 completed seasons, the exceptions being his debut season 2001 (17 games) and 2003 (14).

In 1997 playing for the Dandenong Stingrays Milne led the TAC goalkicking with 49 goals. Only one other player from the top nine goalkickers went on to play AFL football, Cameron Ling who kicked 33 goals in 1997 for the Geelong Falcons. Whilst Ling was handy around goal for Geelong throughout his 246 game AFL career he was much better known for his exploits as a hard running midfielder than as a goalkicker. The Dandenong Stingrays finished on top of the ladder with 16 wins and two losses but lost the Grand Final to the North Ballarat Rebels with Rebel Adam Goodes winning the medal for best afield. Despite leading the goalkicking in 1997 Milne was not selected in the TAC Cup team of the year.

Milne played for the Essendon Reserves in 1999, kicking 35 goals from 24 matches.  Milne played well rotating between the midfield and forward line to kick three goals in the Grand Final win against St Kilda, the club that he would join months later.

In 2000 St Kilda picked Stephen Milne with selection number 23 at the AFL Rookie Draft after Milne had been overlooked by all 16 clubs at the National Draft.  Milne played his junior football with Noble Park and Dandenong Stingrays Under 18s,  he was 176 centimetres tall and weighed 75 kilograms at the time of the draft.

Milne was promoted off the St Kilda rookie list at 21 years of age to make his AFL debut in Round 4 2001 against Port Adelaide at AAMI Stadium.  In a superb debut Milne had 14 kicks, three handpasses, took seven marks, laid three tackles, kicked two goals and had a disposal efficiency of 88%.

Throughout his career Milne has shown that he can be very damaging despite not getting many possessions, one of the first times that this came to the fore was Round 12 against Fremantle at Subiaco, although he was restricted to seven possessions for the match, all kicks, Milne was instrumental in the 10 point victory with three final quarter goals.

In his debut season Milne averaged 7.8 kicks, 1.5 handballs, 2.9 marks and 1.6 goals per game with 67% disposal effectiveness. Milne kicked three goals or more four times with a season best of four goals in Round 19 against Port Adelaide at Colonial Stadium. Milne kicked 27 goals for the season, ranked fourth at St Kilda behind Barry Hall, Peter Everitt and Aaron Hamill. Milne played 17 games in 2001, only missing two games after his debut, Round 15 and 16 when he was dropped to the VFL.

The Saints had a turbulent 2001 season finishing second last and sacking Malcolm Blight as coach after only 15 Rounds. Grant Thomas was the caretaker coach for the remainder of the season and was appointed the permanent head coach for the 2002 season.

Milne only missed one match in 2002, Round 12 when he was a late withdrawal due to an elbow injury. Stephen kicked three or more goals on nine occasions, with a seasons best of five goals in Round 10 against the West Coast Eagles at Colonial Stadium, however his best game of the season was against Sydney in Round 5 at Colonial Stadium even though Milne kicked only one goal.

In Round 4 Geelong had thrashed St Kilda by 122 points at Skilled Stadium, the Saints were severely undermanned against Sydney with Nathan Burke, Peter Everitt, Fraser Gerhig, Heath Black, Aaron Hamill, Robert Harvey, Justin Koschitzke and Stewart Loewe all missing due to injury. To prevent a repeat effort of the previous week St Kilda employed defensive tactics and flooded heavily against the Swans turning the game into a low scoring arm wrestle.

Spending more time playing up the field than usual Stephen Milne stood out like a beacon, using his creativity to great effect in the congestion to bring his team-mates into the play with his superb ball-use. Milne amassed 18 possessions comprised of 17 kicks and one handball, he also took a season high six marks.  The brave Saints drew with Sydney eight goals, eight behinds apiece and Milne received the first Brownlow votes of his career, being judged best afield by the umpires. Milne polled in one other game during 2002, receiving two votes for his five goal, 15 possession game against West Coast in Round 10.

Milne finished sixth in the 2002 Coleman Medal, and was remarkably accurate, kicking 50 goals and only 11 behinds for an elite accuracy of 83.3%.  Milne’s greatest strength besides his accuracy was his unpredictability, enabling him to create goals seemingly from nothing. Milne was rewarded for his great 2002 season with selection in Australia’s International Rules team and seventh place in St Kilda’s best and fairest.

In 2002 Milne played 21 matches, averaging 8.4 kicks, 2.3 handball, 2.3 marks and 2.4 goals per game, with 76% disposal effectiveness.  Milne crumbed well in the forward line to record 2.8 groundball gets inside 50 per game, placing him among the league leaders in this category.

During the 2002 season Milne easily led the St Kilda goalkicking with 50 goals, more than twice as many goals as the next highest Saint, Aaron Hamill with 22 goals. The only other Saint to kick 20 goals or more was 19 year old Nick Riewoldt (21), who in his second AFL season won St Kilda’s best and fairest and the AFL’s Rising Star award.

Milne “began 2003 in slashing form with nine goals in the opening two rounds and 16 from the first five, but a two-game suspension for striking took the wind out of his sails.”2  Milne missed St Kilda’s Round 6 & 7 matches with suspension and returned to the St Kilda line-up for Round 8, however he was unable to recapture his brilliant early season form and was dropped for Round 16. Milne returned to the St Kilda side in Round 17 kicking two goals, however he was suspended again, this time missing one week.

Milne returned through the VFL and was unable to regain his place in the St Kilda side for the rest of the season.  In the final five games of the year Milne watched from the sidelines as St Kilda had four successive 10 goal plus victories from Round 18 to Round 21 before losing to Geelong by 19 points at Skilled Stadium in Round 22. The young St Kilda side showed significant improvement in the second half of the season and competition for spots in the side was hotting up.

During 2003 Milne averaged 98 minutes, 6.9 kicks, 1.4 handballs, 2.3 marks and 1.9 goals per game with 65% disposal effectiveness. Whilst Milne’s disposal effectiveness still remained very good for a small forward, his average disposals and the impact that he was making on the scoreboard had reduced.  Whereas his accuracy placed him in the absolute elite during 2002, in 2003 he was about average, kicking 26 goals 19 behinds from his 14 games to be ranked third for goals at St Kilda behind Fraser Gehrig and Riewoldt.

In Round 2 2003 Milne had 12 kicks, two handpasses, three tackles and kicked five goals against the Adelaide Crows, receiving two Brownlow Medal votes for his brilliant performance in the eight point victory.

On three occasions Milne kicked more than three goals, with all of these matches being in the first five rounds, with a season best of five goals and he kicked four goals twice, in Rounds 1 and 5. After Round 5 the most goals he kicked in a game during 2003 was two, three times.

Milne’s season had been de-railed by his two suspensions, and in order to remain a key part of the St Kilda side he needed to be more disciplined in the future and avoid missing games due to suspension. Even though he had finished the season in the VFL Milne signed a three-year contract with St Kilda in October 2003.

Milne played in St Kilda’s 2004 Pre-Season Wizard Cup premiership against Geelong and although he was having some off-field issues he was able to remain focussed and unaffected whilst representing St Kilda, playing very well during the first 16 rounds, kicking 41 goals and nine times he  kicked at least three goals.

Milne received Brownlow Medal votes in two matches during 2004, receiving the single vote in Rounds 8 and 13. Against Collingwood in the Round 8 47 point victory  Milne had 11 kicks, one handball, five marks, one goal assist and kicked five goals.  St Kilda defeated Hawthorn by 66 points in Round 13, Milne was instrumental in the big win with 13 kicks, two handballs, five marks and five goals.

Stephen had 17 possessions, two goal assists and kicked six goals in the 108 point Round 10 victory against Carlton at the Docklands but didn’t poll a Brownlow vote, Fraser Gehrig kicked nine goals to receive one vote, with midfielders Nick Dal Santo and Lenny Hayes polling three and two votes respectively. It was the Saints second successive 100 point victory, having defeated West Coast by 101 points the previous round.  After winning their first 10 matches of the season St Kilda were on top of the ladder three games and more than 40 per cent clear of four teams on seven wins.

The Saints fell away from Round 11 onwards, splitting the rest of the home and away season with six wins and six losses which resulted in St Kilda slipping to third on the ladder and losing the all important home ground advantage for the first week of the finals.

After kicking four goals in Round 16, Milne failed to kick a goal in Round 17 and 18 which resulted in him being dropped. After being named an emergency in Round 19 and Round 21 Milne returned to the St Kilda side for Round 22, he kicked one goal and was left out of the Qualifying Final team to play Brisbane. It was the first final St Kilda had played in since 1998 and Brisbane comprehensively defeated the Saints by 80 points at the Gabba.

In wet conditions during the Semi-Final against Sydney at the MCG, a recalled Milne was back to his opportunistic best, scoring four goals from just six kicks as the Saints recorded a 51 point victory and progressed to a Preliminary Final against Port Adelaide at AAMI Stadium.

Port Adelaide and St Kilda played one of the matches of the season in a great Preliminary Final. St Kilda full-forward Fraser Gehrig registered his 100th goal of the season early in the match which resulted in play being halted for more than five minutes due to many members of the crowd running onto the ground. After leading by a point at three quarter time the Saints fell just short losing by only six points to Port Adelaide. Milne was held goalless as Gehrig, Nick Riewoldt and Luke Ball kicked 10 of St Kilda’s 13 goals between them.

In 2004 Milne played 21 matches, averaging 88 minutes, 5.9 kicks, 1.7 handballs, 2.7 marks and 2.2 goals per game with 67.7% disposal effectiveness. On 11 occasions Milne kicked at least three goals, with a season best of six goals, two games with five goals. Milne finished third in St Kilda’s goalkicking with 46, behind Coleman Medallist Gehrig with 103 and Riewoldt with 67.

Milne was one of six Saints along with Steven Baker, Luke Ball, Nick Dal Santo, Lenny Hayes and Brett Voss to play all 24 matches in 2005. Milne kicked at least three goals 11 times, including five occasions with four goals or more.

Milne polled six Brownlow Medal votes in 2005 comprised of three in Round 22, two in Round 5 and one in Round 10.  In St Kilda’s 68 point Round 5 victory against Richmond Milne had 11 kicks, six marks, six handballs, three goal assists and kicked five goals. Against Sydney in Round 10 Milne had 14 kicks, two handballs, took four marks, kicked three goals, had one goal assist and was sublime with his ball use to have a disposal efficiency of 88%.

In Round 22 against Brisbane, Milne had a night out kicking the most goals in a match during the 2005 AFL season with 11 goals straight at the Telstra Dome and becoming just the eighth St Kilda player to kick 10 goals or more in a VFL/AFL match, joining Dave McNamara, Bill Mohr, Allan Davis, George Young, Mark Jackson, Tony Lockett and Fraser Gehrig.

Milne had 15 kicks, one handball, took six marks and for just the second time in his career received the three Brownlow Medal votes. St Kilda defeated Brisbane 186 points to 47, registering their third highest score in club history and recording their greatest winning margin with 139 points, eight more than the previous best against Adelaide in Round 7 1991 at Moorabbin.

During 2005 Milne’s “scoring accuracy was the best of any forward in the competition at 75%, which included 86% accuracy from set shots. Milne’s average of three groundball-gets inside 50 was the best in the competition, yet he also took 40 marks in the forward 50 and booted more of his goals from marks than from general play.”3

In 2005 Milne was able to maintain very good form throughout the season, kicking 61 goals to finish equal seventh in the AFL goalkicking. Stephen played 24 games, averaging 96 minutes, 8.5 kicks, 2.7 handball, 3.5 marks and 2.5 goals per game, with a disposal efficiency of 69.8%.

Milne finished seventh in St Kilda’s 2005 best and fairest and second in the Saints goalkicking behind Fraser Gehrig who won his second Coleman Medal in a row. Milne was ranked fifth at St Kilda for loose-ball gets with 54, behind Nick Dal Santo, Ball, Lenny Hayes and Aussie Jones. While Milne predominantly played as a small forward he also spent some time in the midfield and recorded 17 goal assists and 25 score assists.

In 2006 Milne played 22 of St Kilda’s 23 games, having been being dropped for Round 7 against Geelong at the Telstra Dome. Milne averaged 102 minutes, 9.8 kicks, 2.6 handballs, 3.7 marks and 1.3 goals per game with a disposal efficiency of 63.4%. Milne was ranked fifth at St Kilda for score assists and third for goals behind Gehrig and Riewoldt.

Milne’s accuracy which had been very good throughout his AFL career, let him down during the 2006 season as he kicked 29 goals, 29 behinds. Milne was only able to kick three goals in a game on three occasions however he spent less time inside forward 50 than in previous seasons and set a new career best with 273 possessions for the season. In their profile of Milne AFL Prospectus 2007 said “Milne pushed up the ground more than ever last season, winning only 41% of his possessions in the forward 50 compared to 59% previously in his career.”4

St Kilda had a disappointing 2006 season and were defeated by Melbourne in the first week of the finals. The St Kilda board reacted swiftly, sacking head coach Grant Thomas and replacing him with Ross Lyon who had been an assistant coach at Sydney for the previous three seasons including the 2005 Premiership.  This decision by the St Kilda board had a direct impact on Milne as Thomas has gone on record as saying that if he had remained as St Kilda’s coach for the 2007 season Milne would not have been playing their as the Saints would have sought a trade for him.  With Thomas being sacked and Lyon becoming St Kilda’s coach, Milne got a reprieve and remained a Saint.

Milne played all 22 games during the 2007 season and had a purple patch kicking 13 goals between Round 3 and 7, three times kicking three goals and twice kicking two goals, however Milne did not kick more than two goals in a game for the rest of the season and finished with 32 goals, 22 behinds.

In 2007 Milne played 109 minutes a game, averaging 10.1 kicks, 2.1 handballs, 4.5 marks and 1.5 goals per game with a disposal efficiency of 60.7%.    Stephen was ranked number 1 at St Kilda for total minutes played, third for goals and goal assists and fifth for contested marks. “Milne’s scoreboard impact has been slashed in half in the past two seasons after booting a career-high 61 goals in 2005. He has totalled only 61 in the two years since and has been used up the ground more in a bid to increase his impact.”5

Milne received three Brownlow Medal votes for the third time of his career in Round 7 2008 for a scintillating performance against Richmond in which he had 17 possessions, took six marks including five inside 50 and kicked seven goals in St Kilda’s thrilling three point win at the Docklands. Milne was one of only two players to kick more than two goals in the match, the other one being Richmond’s 33 year old Matthew Richardson who had been reinvented as a wingman in 2008 and kicked five goals against St Kilda to receive two Brownlow Medal votes.

In the first 12 rounds of the 2008 season Milne kicked 27 goals at 2.3 goals per game which is slightly above his career average of 2.09, and considerably higher than his output during the 2006 and 2007 seasons. St Kilda took the surprise step of dropping Stephen Milne and midfielder Nick Dal Santo for the Round 13 match against Fremantle. At the time of being dropped Dal Santo and Milne had the two longest current consecutive games streaks for the Saints with 114 and 50 games respectively.

St Kilda had a hard fought eight point win against Fremantle and Milne and Dal Santo returned the next week to both be named in St Kilda’s best players for the Round 14, 15 point victory over the Kangaroos. Milne had 11 possessions and kicked four influential goals against the Kangaroos, earning him two Brownlow Medal votes.

Given that Dal Santo and Milne only spent one week each out of the Saints side it is likely that St Kilda dropped them both to send a message to the entire playing list not just these two players, and encourage the entire team to focus more on the team aspects of their game including sacrificial acts to assist teammates.

Whatever the reasons, the entire St Kilda football team looked rejuvenated and a different team after Dal Santo and Milne were dropped. That Milne took the feedback on board from the St Kilda coaches and has been able to adjust his game to become a better player is a credit to him and St Kilda, as some players aren’t prepared to adapt their game for the greater good of the team.

In his second game back in the St Kilda side, Round 15 against Carlton Milne was brilliant with 13 kicks, four handballs, four marks, five goals, two goal assists and a disposal efficiency of 82%. Between his career best haul of 11 goals against Brisbane in Round 22 2005 and being dropped in Round 13 2008 Stephen Milne played 58 matches and kicked more than three goals on two occasions, both in 2008, yet after being dropped his form instantly transformed and he kicked more than three goals in his first two matches back in the St Kilda side.

Milne suffered a fractured cheekbone in Round 20 2008 against Fremantle at Subiaco. To reduce the risk of further damage he was driven back from Perth to Melbourne with St Kilda medical staff.   Milne showed great courage and mental toughness to play with the fractured cheekbone the very next week against Adelaide in Robert Harvey’s Tribute game at the Telstra Dome. Milne had 20 possessions, took a season high 10 marks and kicked two goals, making a valuable contribution in St Kilda’s 48 point victory.

St Kilda registered a 108 point win over Essendon in Round 22 at the Telstra Dome to sneak into fourth place on percentage ahead of Adelaide, Milne played a key role in the thrashing having a then career best 24 possessions and kicking seven goals to receive two Brownlow Medal votes.

In 2008 Milne had his most accurate season since 2005 to kick 60 goals 32 behinds and finished second in St Kilda’s goalkicking, five goals behind Captain Nick Riewoldt. In 24 matches during 2008 Milne played 106 minutes a game, averaging 10.6 kicks, 3.3 handballs, 4.3 marks and 2.5 goals a match with a disposal efficiency of 63.2%, he was ranked fifth at St Kilda for inside 50s.  Milne kicked three goals or more eight times, including two bags of seven in Round 7 against Richmond and Round 22 against Essendon. Milne proved to be a barometer of St Kilda during 2008, on all eight occasions that he kicked at least three goals the Saints won. Milne’s tally of seven Brownlow Medal votes was a new career best and ranked him fourth at St Kilda behind Hayes, Riewoldt and Montagna for 2008.

In Round 19 2009 with a host of stars missing St Kilda defeated Hawthorn by 25 points at York Park in Tasmania, Milne had 17 possessions, kicked three goals, laid five tackles and received 2 Brownlow medal votes.

With a great all round game in Round 22 against Melbourne Milne kicked two goals, had two goal assists and set a career high for disposals with 26, comprised of 14 kicks and 12 handballs, he was also an effective leading target, taking an equal game-high 11 marks in the 47 point victory.

During 2009 Milne averaged exactly two goals a game, kicking 46 goals, 28 behinds from 23 matches.  The profile for Milne in AFL Prospectus 2009 said “perceived as a selfish player, he does bring his teammates into the game, recording at least 24 score assists in each of the past three seasons.”6

Like many of his St Kilda teammates Milne increased the defensive pressure that he applied during the 2009 season which resulted in him almost doubling his tackles per game from 1.5 in 2008 to 2.7 in 2009.  In his first eight seasons Milne’s best had been 1.8 tackles per game during the 2006 season.

In 2009 Milne averaged 106 minutes, 9.3 kicks, 4.0 handballs, 4.7 marks and 2.0 goals per game with a disposal efficiency of 60.5%. Milne finished third in St Kilda’s goalkicking, behind Riewoldt with 78 goals and Justin Koschitzke with 48 goals. Milne kicked three or more goals 10 times, with a season best five goals against the Western Bulldogs in Round 17.  The dynamic Milne was selected in the initial All-Australian squad of 40.

Milne kicked a total of two goals from three finals in 2009, and whilst he wasn’t as damaging on the scoreboard as he and St Kilda would have liked, his work-rate and defensive pressure was still there as he averaged 11.3 possessions and 3.7 tackles a game.

At quarter time in Round 3 2010 Stephen Milne was involved in an altercation with several Collingwood staff including their head coach Mick Malthouse. Many players after being involved in such an incident would have been distracted and found it difficult to perform at a high standard for the remaining three quarters.

Exacerbating matters Nick Riewoldt seriously injured his hamstring in the final minute of the first half against Collingwood, it was imperative that the Saints found another leading target in the forward line for the second half. Milne was the Saint to step up and provide this target, although he kicked just one goal, he played a great team game, having nine kicks, nine handballs,  seven marks and laying three tackles during St Kilda’s gutsy 28 point victory.

In the 15 point Round 4 victory against Fremantle at Etihad Stadium Milne kicked five goals straight including the goal of the week when he used great body positioning to get away from Paul Duffield and proceeded to kick a sublime dribble goal from the right forward pocket at the Coventry end to put the Saints 20 points up in the last quarter. Milne received one vote from True Sainters members for his performance against the Dockers with 12 kicks, nine handballs, five marks including three inside 50, and a goal assist.

Milne was at his lively best in Round 11 against Richmond, having 16 kicks, five handballs and kicking five goals, five behinds to receive two Brownlow Medal votes. Milne was a great focal point in attack for St Kilda taking 11 marks including an incredible nine inside 50 and was as effective as ever gathering the loose-ball inside 50, with his 399th career goal he managed to kick another goal of the week contender. Shortly afterwards Milney brought up his 400th career goal with a set shot in the second quarter.

In Round 12 against Fremantle at Subiaco, Stephen Milne became only the 21st player to reach 200 career games for St Kilda. In his 200th game Stephen Milne gave St Kilda the perfect start when in true Milne style he managed to dodge three Dockers before snapping truly to register the first goal of the match, earning himself another goal of the week nomination.  Milne had a 200th game to celebrate, kicking four of St Kilda’s eight first half goals and was a major reason for St Kilda enjoying a 25 point lead at the main break which setup the 18 point victory.

Milne’s fantastic goal against Fremantle was his fourth goal of the week nomination for 2010.  Given that approximately 200 goals are scored in each AFL round and that Stephen Milne averaged 2.5 goals a game during the first 12 rounds of 2010, for the average AFL player this would result in approximately a 3.75 % chance of being nominated for goal of the week in each round which would equate to one nomination every 27 weeks. As we all know Stephen Milne is not your average AFL footballer, but to be nominated for goal of the week four times in 12 rounds is absolutely extraordinary and underlines Milne’s freakish ability around goal.

During captain Nick Riewoldt’s absence Stephen Milne led the St Kilda forward line admirably to be St Kilda’s most effective marking option inside 50, and hurt the opposition on the scoreboard, several times kicking team-lifting goals when the Saints needed them most. Riewoldt returned to the St Kilda side in Round 15 against Brisbane at the Gabba.

In the four point Qualifying Final victory against Geelong Stephen Milne was voted best Saint afield by True Sainters members for a brilliant performance both around goal and gaining possessions up the ground.

Milne spent time playing in the midfield as well as his customary role as a small forward and was the only player in the match to have two goal assists, he also had 19 possessions, nine marks including four inside 50 and an equal game high three goals.  Milne made a significant contribution when he played in the midfield and laid seven tackles, ranked second at St Kilda behind Hayes with nine.

During the second quarter Stephen Milne took centre stage kicking three consecutive goals in six minutes during the middle of the quarter, including the goal of the week when he outbodied his opponent Josh Hunt to mark and played on immediately to kick a dribbling goal from close to the boundary line in the right forward pocket.  During six minutes of Milne magic no other player on the ground scored and St Kilda’s lead extended from two points to 20 points, which ended up being the half-time margin.

In 2010 Milne played 25 matches, averaging 106 minutes, 10.4 kicks, 4.6 handballs, 4.4 marks and 2.3 goals per game with a disposal efficiency of 59.7%. Milne finished ninth in St Kilda’s best and fairest and kicked 57 goals, ranked seventh in the AFL and first at St Kilda. Milne received three Brownlow Medal votes in 2010 comprised of two votes in Round 11 against Richmond and one vote a week later in his 200th match against Fremantle.  Milne kicked at least three goals ten times including four consecutive games from Round 9 to Round 12.

The profile in the AFL Record Season Guide 2011 said Milne “was comfortably St Kilda’s leading goalkicker and became the go-to man in the absence of Nick Riewoldt for much of the season.”7

In the Round 2 2011 draw against Richmond at the MCG Milne received two Brownlow Medal votes for his performance with 24 possessions, five marks, 11 scoring shots and two score assists. With straight kicking Milne would have been the match-winner and clearly best afield, however his accuracy let him down as he kicked four goals, seven behinds.

Small forward dynamo Stephen Milne kicked the second biggest bag of his career, with eight goals against Adelaide in Round 18 and more than doubled Adelaide’s score with 50 points to the Crows 24. Not surprisingly Milne received the three votes on Brownlow Medal night.

As well as kicking crumbing goals in the traditional manner for a small forward Milne also proved to be very effective as a leading target, taking an equal game-high three marks inside 50. The modern small forward is expected to attack and make a contribution on the scoreboard whilst also working hard the other way and applying great defensive pressure. Milne was superb in both areas to take full advantage of his opportunities around goal to kick a very accurate eight goals two behinds and he also laid an equal career best seven tackles to be ranked equal third on the ground in this category behind teammates David Armitage and Clinton Jones.

In Round 23 against North Melbourne Milne had 14 kicks, three handballs, seven inside 50s, seven marks, and had a significant impact on the scoreboard, kicking four goals and having four goal assists.

In 2011 Milne played all 23 matches, averaging 108 minutes, 10.0 kicks, 3.3 handballs, 4.0 marks and 2.4 goals a game with a disposal efficiency of 61.4%. Milne led St Kilda for goals, goal assists and was ranked sixth for kicks, fifth for inside 50s, fourth for loose-ball gets and second for marks inside 50 with 48, five behind Riewoldt.  Milne kicked at least three goals 12 times during 2011 including six straight games from Round 15 to Round 20 when the Saints had a season best six game winning streak.  Milne finished a career best fifth in St Kilda’s 2011 best and fairest.

Stephen Milne was named in the forward pocket of the 2011 All-Australian team.  Milne kicked 55 goals during the 2011 home and away season to finish equal fourth in the Coleman Medal with Barry Hall, behind key forwards Lance Franklin, Jack Riewoldt and Travis Cloke. Milne was one of nine players selected in their first All-Australian team and was joined in the team by St Kilda team-mate Nick Dal Santo who was selected in the team for the third time, having previously been chosen in 2005 and 2009.

Milne was St Kilda’s best forward during 2011 and was consistently the player to kick-start the Saints into action, having the phenomenal record of kicking the opening goal of the game 11 times from 23 matches, for a strike-rate of 47.8%, head and shoulders above the next best player in the AFL.

In 2012 Milne has played all 14 matches in the first 15 rounds, averaging 84% game-time, 10.0 kicks, 2.5 handballs, 3.8 marks and 2.3 goals per game with a disposal efficiency of 58.9%. Milne has kicked 32 goals, ranked second at St Kilda, he is also first for goal assists and second for marks inside 50.

Milne has kicked three or more goals five times in 2012, including five goals against Essendon in Round 15 and four goals against Carlton in the Round 7 24 point win at Etihad Stadium. Milne has kicked at least one goal in his past 25 matches, the last time he was kept goalless was Round 13 2011 vs Geelong.

In an interview with AFL.com.au in the week of his 250th match Milne commented about the infamous moment from the drawn 2010 Grand Final against Collingwood “There’s not a night that goes by where I don’t think of that moment in my life. Where would I be right now if that ball had have bounced my way? It would have changed my life and the footy club’s life, but everything happens for a reason and we’ve still got a pretty good chance this year.”8

Whilst the ball didn’t bounce Milne’s way on that fateful last Saturday in September 2010 if it wasn’t for some luck and having the right contacts Stephen Milne might not have been provided with the opportunity to play one AFL match let alone 250.  With Essendon short of players for a pre-season practice match in 1999 new recruit Adam Ramanauskas was asked if he knew anyone that could make up the numbers. Ramanauskas suggested his close mate Stephen Milne which resulted in Milne being invited to take part in the Essendon practice match.

Milne went on to get a spot Essendon’s supplementary list and played in their 1999 reserves premiership against St Kilda. Whilst Milne never got put on Essendon’s main list and was overlooked by all 16 AFL clubs in the National Draft it was his performances for the Essendon Reserves that led to  St Kilda selecting him in the second round of the 2000 Rookie Draft.

It was a football tragedy that the AFL career of Adam Ramanauskas was adversely affected by and cut short by cancer. Ramanauskas was runner-up in the 2000 AFL Rising Star award behind Fremantle’s Paul Haselby and ahead of 20 other nominees including Matthew Pavlich, Andrew Embley, Jude Bolton, Matthew Scarlett and Chad Cornes. Adam was a member of Essendon’s 2000 Premiership side and finished third in the 2002 Essendon best and fairest. In 2002 Ramanuskas was extremely impressive with clean ball handling skills and great composure, averaging 17.3 disposals and a disposal efficiency of 88.7% which placed him in the AFLs elite for this category.

Early in the 2003 season at just 22 years of age and in his fifth AFL season Ramanauskas was diagnosed with cancer, and whilst he continued playing AFL football until his retirement in 2008, understandably he was never able to recapture the great heights he had reached during his first four AFL seasons.

I am grateful that Adam Ramanauskas was able to make such a brilliant start to his AFL career allowing the football world to witness the great performances that he was capable of as an Essendon midfielder/ half back. I am also thankful that Adam was great mates with Stephen Milne since without this mateship we might not have had the privilege of being enthralled by Milney’s 250 games of brilliant goal sense and creativity at its finest.

Of the 64 players selected in the 2000 Rookie Draft Milne is one of only six players still on an AFL list in 2012, along with Michael Doughty (selection 4 – Adelaide), Shane Tuck (23-Hawthorn), Dean Brogan (26-Port Adelaide), Dean Cox (28-West Coast) and James Podsiadly (58-Essendon).  Shane Tuck didn’t play any AFL games for Hawthorn, but has gone onto play more than 150 games for Richmond after they picked him with selection 73 at the 2003 National Draft. James Podsiadly had to wait even longer, only making his debut in 2010 as a 28 year old mature age Rookie for Geelong after they picked him with selection 50 at the 2010 Rookie Draft.

Milne has played the second most games of all players recruited through the Rookie Draft, behind only James MacDonald who has played 261 games, comprised of 251 with Melbourne and 10 with Greater Western Sydney this season.

In all 12 seasons in the AFL Milne has kicked at least 26 goals, including 50 goals or more five times, 2002 -50, 2005 – 61, 2008 – 60, 2010 – 57 and 2011 – 56. On several occasions before 2011 Milne had been close to making the All-Australian team without being able to break through into the final team. In 2011 Milne kicked more goals than any other small forward, and was also adept at setting up goals for his teammates, leading St Kilda in goal assists. Milne has been one of the best small forwards in the AFL for many years now and it was much deserved that he received recognition with selection in the 2011 All-Australian team.

This led to Milne finally being rewarded with a berth in an All-Australian team.

Milne holds the record for most goals kicked at Etihad Stadium with 326 goals from 132 games at an average of 2.47 goals per game.  Milne kicked his 300th career goal at Etihad Stadium in Round 20 2011 against Collingwood to break Matthew Lloyd’s stadium record of 299 goals.

Stephen Milne polarises opinion like few players in the AFL, St Kilda fans love him for his creativity and great goal sense as well as the enthusiasm he shows with his goalkicking celebrations, leading the way singing the St Kilda theme song and finding a way to get under the skin of his opponents.

Opposition supporters don’t share the above view and Milne regularly features prominently on most hated player lists, having finished at number one several times. In order to get booed or feature on ‘most hated’ lists you must be doing something right and making a valuable contribution for your team or else the opposition supporters wouldn’t be concerned about you. Milne wouldn’t be bothered in the slightest about featuring on these lists.

The milestones that Milne has achieved in recent seasons of reaching 250 games, 500 goals and playing more than 10 seasons in the AFL has led to many football followers and people within the football industry reassessing his career and realising that they had under-rated Milne throughout his career and in the past couple of years he has been deservedly receiving greater recognition for his career achievements.  Late in his career Milne has developed into a more consistent player and in each of his past completed four seasons he has kicked at least 45 goals and had at least 300 possessions.

In the press conference after Milne’s 250th match St Kilda coach Scott Watters was effusive in his praise for Milne, saying “the way he cares for his family, the way he cares for his teammates, the passion that he brings to our footy club, training-wise and on game day. To do that over 250 games, the impact is immeasurable. He’s a champ, there’s no doubt about it.”

Stephen Milne has shown great perseverance, fighting spirit and a positive attitude to bounce back from setbacks and adverse situations throughout his career. The resilience and adaptability Milne has shown to thrive in the AFL for more than a decade as a small forward and become just the ninth Saint to play 250 matches and one of five to kick more than 500 goals, being ranked fourth with 522, behind Tony Locket (898), Bill Mohr (735) and Stewart Loewe (594), and just ahead of Nick Riewoldt (511) highlights the magnificent contribution that Stephen Milne has made to the St Kilda Football Club throughout his career.

By Dean Andrews

1. The Age, An unlikely bromance as told to Martin Blake by Lenny Hayes, 7 July 2012

2. AFL, AFL 2004 the official statistical history, page 256.

3. Champion Data, AFL Prospectus 2006 – The essential number cruncher for season 2006, 1st edition page 236.

4. Champion Data, AFL Prospectus 2007 – The essential number cruncher for season 2006, 2nd edition page 258.

5. Champion Data, AFL Prospectus 2008 – The essential number cruncher guide for season 2008, 3rd edition, page 273.

6. Champion Data, AFL Prospectus 2010 – The essential number cruncher guide for season 2010, 5th edition, page 233.

7. AFL, AFL Record Season Guide 2011, page 283.

8 AFL, Saint Survivor by Luke Holmesby, 4 July 2012, AFL.com.au

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