For success, just add a dash

 

by Pete Edwards

It was a pleasant day for June. The Cats’ form had been fluctuating wildly, and they were coming off a draw at home against Brisbane the week before.  The game against the Bulldogs that afternoon was a must-win. To beat the rush, I got to Kardinia Park early to watch the second half of the Reserves game.

Part way into the third quarter, I noticed a skinny, scruffy looking kid setting himself for a ruck contest.  With jumper hanging out and socks around his ankles, he looked rough and ready, but being some 6 or 7 inches shorter than the opposition ruckman, and many kilograms lighter, I expected the worst.

He didn’t flinch. He ran in hard, jumped high and was duly flattened, but bounced straight up again and chased the play. At the next ruck contest, he did the same.

“On ya Dasher,” someone near me yelled. It was a fleeting introduction to a first year player, but I’ve never forgotten it. The Seniors went on to win comfortably and Gazza kicked a lazy 5, but I left that game inspired, not by the great man, but by the courage and determination of that skinny, scruffy kid.

Darren Milburn made his debut in Round 1 of the following year (1997), showing all the courage and determination I’d seen in that Reserves game. The Cats finished second on the ladder on percentage, and were playing unbelievably good team football.

North Melbourne, who had finished 7th, were Geelong’s opponent in the first final. Wayne Carey played one of the greatest games I’ve ever seen and got the Roos home, but Darren Milburn played a blinder in his first ever final. The kid was the real deal.

In 1999, he started the season in the midfield for the Cats and was a ball magnet. By mid-season though, his wiry frame couldn’t take anymore of the crash and bash and he started playing across half-back, using his exceptional ability to read the play to great advantage.

In 2001, the Cats had had a forgettable season. In Round 22, it got even worse as the Cats were being embarrassed by Carlton at Princess Park. With minutes to go however, Dasher created an indelible season “highlight” when he shirt-fronted Stephen Silvagni and knocked him out. Clapping the Carlton faithful as he left the ground, and as the Blues legend lay prostrate on the ground, sent the crowd into a frenzy.

Whether it was fair or not, whether it was accidental or deliberate, whether his behaviour towards the crowd was acceptable or not, it left no doubt in the minds of Geelong players’ and supporters alike that Dasher was uncompromising, and that he hated to lose. He wasn’t interested in just playing AFL footy, he wanted to be successful.

When the Cats played Carlton in the first couple of years after the ‘Silvagni incident’, the Blues players went after Dasher relentlessly. Every ball he had to stand under, every tackle they laid, every opportunity they had to lay a bump or shepherd, they did so with murderous intent. But he kept standing under the ball, and he kept getting the ball, and he kept putting himself in harm’s way, and even though many Carlton supporters never got over it, the players eventually did.  They had tested Milburn’s courage and it was beyond question.

As the Cats started their run of success in 2004, it was often said that Dasher did not say much, but that when he spoke, everyone listened. Quiet off the field, his passion on the field was palpable. Laid back off the field, he played with absolute ruthlessness.  He did not accept second best from himself, nor from anyone else. When it came to the “will to win”, Dasher set the benchmark and the team eventually followed.

“As a footballer, he’s got white-line fever. Very competitive, very tough, and he’s skilful. He’s just the complete package, I reckon,” wrote Matthew Scarlett in an article for the Herald-Sun in 2008.

“He’d be the first teammate picked if I was picking the team. He’d definitely be No. 1.”

To win a premiership, a Club needs many things to go right in a season.

To win 2 premierships in 3 years is an outstanding achievement.

To play in 4 out of five Grand Finals and win 3 of them requires, more than anything else, a complete and ruthless dedication to accepting nothing less than success.

Darren Milburn did not play in the 2011 Premiership team, but it was awash with his spirit.

Dasher, you have given me so much enjoyment as a watcher of football, and for the part you have played in making the Geelong Football Club a better Club than when you started, thankyou.

Comments

  1. John Butler says

    I’ll 2nd that.

    Cats hadn’t fired a shot that day. The game was done and dusted. Then Milburn went and did that. Gutless.

    I remember this incident when I hear Cats fans bleating about Hawthorn tactics.

    I was standing near the Cat bench that day.

    Milburn did his best to further inflame an already angry crowd when he came off. He thought it was all a big joke.

    He deserved whatever he copped.

  2. Peter Flynn says

  3. Quite illuminating Flynny.

    It was absolutely disgraceful. (The score in the top left hand corner).

    The bump was average as well.

    Loved that dude bashing on the Cats box.

  4. John Butler says

  5. John Butler says

  6. John Butler says

  7. John Butler says

  8. Hey, what happened to the “Everyone Barracks for Geelong, Even Carlton Fans” Love-in we had going? Is it all over? Can we now cast aside the hogwash that all Geelong players are saintly and community- spirited? If so, good. It was getting a tad tiresome.

  9. PS. Maybe MIlburn is the reason SOS got two-thirds of the All Australian half back line wrong a few weeks ago.

  10. Re ‘Everyone barracks for Geelong, even Carlton fans”, that applied primarily for the Grand Final only.

    Milburn is the only reason I dislike Geelong – well, that and the Michael Mansfield trade.

    The reasons I hate Collingwood are encyclopaedic – Arizona; Blair, Jarryd; Conroy, Stephen; Didak, Alan; Eddie…

  11. Aaaaaah Craig, the Mansfield trade. It broke my heart at the time.

    But time heals and Chapman turned out ok: I suppose.

  12. Phantom

    That trade really broke your heart? The only time he ever pinpointed a Geelong player was when he played against them in a Carlton jumper.

    Chapman twisted the knife.

  13. How’d you know I was talking about you, Litza?
    It’s OK, I’m not calling for an Everyone Loves Collingwood Collective. Just noticed that there were quite a few non-Cats slithering up close to get some vicarious Premiership pleasure, particularly from quarters that haven’t experienced the real thing for a while. ‘s all.

  14. John Butler says

    MOC, or is that Disgruntled of Abbotsford?

    Don’t fret. We all still hate the Pies. Your place in the firmament is secure. :)

    You may all note there’s none of this rancour over on the Lingy hagiography.

    This is a Milburn thing. Not particularly a Geelong thing.

    Although, now that Mansfield has been mentioned…

  15. Peter Flynn says

    Looks like A Hickmott set up the collision.

    Geelong’s last goal of the match was scored in the first quarter.

    An unimpressed and unimpressive J Murphy played for Geelong.

  16. Jeez, I get up at 6am, start editing lovely pieces for the Almanac (book), work all day, stop for some taramasalata on stale bread, keep working, stop to see Atlantic Jewel, keep working.

    And look what I miss! The most colourful discussion since left wing sportspaople. And I missed that one as well. Do you reckon you might coordinate your good comment days with my less-busy days.

    And, just try not to get me sued chaps.

    On the incident itself, I didn’t like it.

    Dasher Milburn’s overall career is a different issue.

    In a big hurry – about to take the kids to the park – so I’m not sure if the comments pulled down all warranted being pulled down. Or equally, the ones that have survived warrant survival. That makes no sense I know. It’s been a long day.

  17. John Butler says

    In retrospect, fair enough.

    Though I reckon Cookie is probably a bit stiff.

    That’s what happens to moderates come the revolution.

    First against the wall.

    A lesson to the reasonable.

  18. It’s all about perspective people. To me it looked like SOS kissing Milburn’s arse.

  19. Phil, a comment like that could start the fireworks again and get Harmsy all nervous and sweaty again!

  20. John Butler says

    Pete

    We’re probably fine as long as he doesn’t mention Didak.

  21. yeah pretty poor show that day by dasher. But in the whole he has been a great servant to the club. Even the great Leigh Matthews had a moment he would regret along with many others.

  22. Richard Naco says

    I’m pretty sure that Barry Robran has a Leigh Matthews’ moment he’s regretted for quite some time.

    ;)

  23. It is significant that the most clear moment of Milburns career for many of us was this in
    discretion.

Leave a Comment

*