Here’s a fact: I don’t like Stephen Milne.

Here’s another one. I hate him. To be honest, I enjoy hating him, and always have. Long before the rape allegations.  There was always something about him, a projected cockiness that was so easy to take personalyl. Not the Jarman sort of bluster, or even Carey sort. A shifty sort.
He ran away from packs, was always doubling back towards goal, rather than charging the ball, never handballing. He celebrated goals like a spoilt brat, not Darren Bewick happy, but tensing muscles, fists clenched, snarling like an origami warrior for the cameras. Posing for the back page. Always screaming into the crowd as if he thought he was a sexy warrior beast. He was a bully, too, kicking tonnes against the mediocre, bugger all against the best. He was a superstar! Such skills! True. But I never liked those sorta blokes.

It felt good defining myself like that, having an enemy to barrack against. Good, and immature, with more than a splash of jealousy. He seemed to love it, too, and used it to kick goals. Everybody was happy.


Another fact is I didn’t know the man, and still don’t.

How many of his sort have I loved as teammates? Suddenly, all that seemed bad about them was fun. Some were what you saw and didn’t like at the start, others were top blokes!

With Milne, who knows?

It was all television. My hate was heroes and villains stuff. Comic books.
Greg Burns, the 80s St.Kilda champion, would never talk to his opponents for fear of liking them. His hate of any and everybody wearing a rival jumper was what made him so good.

John Northey would use hate to push an average playing group to Grand Finals. “The Press hate us! The other teams hate us! It’s us versus them all!”

I would imagine most people don’t like losing, but Shimma and Archer would HATE it! And look how good they were.

Me? Way down in my level of competition I hate the occasional opponent, but only the real nobs. Life is too short, footy too grand.
Milne, though, well, as a supporter his whole vibe just rubs me the wrong way.
Yet here’s the most important fact. Something way bigger than me, you, or the image of the game.

In a democracy you’re innocent until proven guilty.


This is a foundation of our society, of our morals, something that dragged us out of the medieval days of witch-hunts. Of vigilantes killing the wrongly accused, and the innocent being burned at the stake. A rule of law that took us out from the Stone Ages, from being cavemen to women and men.

Without the presumption of innocence we have no law, the judicial system means nothing. The baying mob rules.
Each case is different, we don’t know all the facts. House Speaker, Peter Slipper, was falsely accused of all sorts of stuff. Most people thought he was guilty. He was made to stand aside before his day in court. It almost toppled a democratically elected Government.

Bugger the image of the game if the mob is what it reflects. It has a duty of care to society, bigger than itself. A shiny surface can sometimes be polished by appeasing spite.
Personally, do I think Milne did it? The investigation sounded like a disgrace. I’m looking forward to the results of due process, both for potential justice for an alleged victim of the most horrible of crimes, and, whether he did it or not, to put under the microscope a sexist police culture of hero-worship before victims’ rights. But nothing is proven yet. That’s what the process is for.

For the rule of law Milne should be allowed to play until he is convicted. If he is convicted. Give him his day in court.
With all this baying we are doing ourselves and the alleged victim no justice.
Football is our religion, which is the grandest thing, but right now too many of us are throwing stones from behind its walls, either because we hate, or for the sake of an image.

A clear failure of the separation of Church and State.



  1. Hugh Jones says

    Of the one hand, Milne should be allowed to practise his profession while innocent until proven guilty. On the other, given the nature of his profession and the general public interest in his particular workplace, his continued presence would be a distraction to teammates and a target for opposition (particularly opposition supporters). Milne might not realise it (God knows, the AFLPA doesn’t) but his best chance of surviving this testing time is to drop out of sight, build confidence and character for the trials ahead. Seems to be the Saints have done the right thing.

  2. Matt

    Awkward one isn’t it. I wonder what the reaction would be to a higher profile player with a ‘clean’ record in the same situation. So many of us who don’t follow the Saints probably agree with your feelings about Milne, so how would we react to a clean-skin or a legend or a ‘good bloke’ accussed of the same.

    I am not a lawyer but it seems to me that whilst there’s a presumption of innocence, things like search warrants, approval for wire taps and phone bugging, surveillance, peopel being remanded in custody and even bail are all examples of people having some potential for guilt assumed before final decisions are made. In business, it isn’t uncommon for people to be stood down on pay pending an investigation in serious matters, that makes no assumption either way of guilt.

    We can debate as to whether St Kilda have made a moral or image focussed decision, but I think letting him play would have been wrong. These are serious charges that deserve to be respected.

    We all know what supporters are like, and the more rabid ones will have a field day about this, regardless of whether any potential court matter occurs and whatever the outcome.

    I like the fact that you mention the victim, as I think what oftens happens here, as you allude to, is that we hold up the great clubman comment and forget that there’s a scared and injured young woman involved too.

    I feel for the situation if there’s no case to answer. But also, I think St Kilda have done the right thing, and their actions don’t presume guilt in this matter


  3. The Wrap says

    I agree with you on that Matt, the separation of church & state – but maybe St Kilda are thinking of the reaction of the fans. No political correctness restraint here – as there would be if we were talking racial vilification. And I don’t think there’s any doubt that we can point to double standards in play at many levels. But I suppose we have to take our own position on the matter, and for what it’s worth, I’m with the St Kilda Footy Club. They’re standing by Milne in two ways: keeping him on the payroll and protecting him from the ugliness of the mob.

    And speaking of ugliness, there’s a fair bit of it right through this sorry saga. Right down to the Victoria Police saying the investigation was botched, when it would appear from statements made by the investigators that they were ‘warned’ off the case. There’s a fair few questions to be answered all round in this one. Including whether ‘dropping’ a case at the behest of a colleague(s) is normal practice, and the rights of the victim of the alleged rape.

    Watch this space. This may turn out to be bigger than it first appears.

  4. Barry Levinson says

    Good piece Matt. My wife and I had a decent debate on this topic last night. It’s a really difficult one but I tend to agree with you. I think most non Saints fans have a general hatred for Stephen Milne the footballer, but I’m not sure he can be suspended indefinitely until he has his day in court, which could be months or even a year away. There are much bigger concerns than football here, but it is natural for it to be a talking point, because a non footballer wouldn’t generate the same level of attention. The AFL set a precedent allowing Liam Jurrah to play last year when he was facing serious charges and the prospect of 14 years’ jail. The Milne charges are different, but unless the league brings in a black and white rule, such as any criminal charges above a certain level mean an automatic suspension, it is hard to see how the cases should be judged differently. Given the Saints have suspended him now and the relative slow pace of the legal system, I can’t see how how he will be allowed to play in a few weeks’ time. That would be even more confusing. Sadly, I think the importance of the player to a team too often influences these decisions. Milne is 33 and a long way off his best form and the Saints need to bring through youth. I can’t help but think the Saints’ decision may have been different had he been 26, in All-Australian form and the team challenging for the finals. As I said, it’s a very difficult issue, bigger than football and I hope the matter is promptly dealt with for the sake of the alleged victim. If he is guilty, he deserves the full force of the law. Until that is determined, he deserves the same rights as everyone else.

  5. Mark Doyle says

    Comments about the way that Stephen Milne plays his football and that football is a religion are stupid and ridiculous.
    The Board of the St.Kilda Football Club have made a good decision to suspend Milne indefinitely from playing AFL football and presumably this suspension will apply until the rape charges are resolved by the judicial system. This decision is not judgmental and provides support to Milne by continuing to pay his salary and train with his team mates.
    Most of the media comments by the buffoon journalists and some of Milne’s team mates are pathetic and demonstrate a lack of empathy for the woman who has endured nine years of trauma, anxiety and injustice of this alleged rape.

  6. As a Saint supporter I agree wholeheartedly with this article.

  7. Chris Bracher says

    Oh Matt….brilliant, evocative.
    Quite apart from any views I might have about his guilt or otherwise and the matter of due process……your description of your juvenile response to the Milne “vibe” made me cringe. My own response has mirrored yours when he has (frequently) run my Swans ragged. Primal, but embarassing upon reflection.

    If Milne goes down, at least we still have Hayden Ballantyne!

  8. Michael Viljoen says

    The phrase “separation of church and state” is an American cliché. It doesn’t have much relevance in Australia, and we don’t need more American jargon coming into football. For example, differently to what some TV commentators might think, there are no ‘quarterbacks’ in Australian football.

    I don’t know the pertinent or critical facts about the Milne case, and I don’t know anyone in the public that does.

    I do know that St Kilda fell one point short of beating Collingwood in the 2010 Grand Final. If they had Andrew Lovett running through the midfield, that probably would have made up that one point difference. But unfortunately, they had chosen to cut him earlier that year.

  9. Matt Zurbo says

    Michael, I agree with you totally on Americanisms, and how they have no place in Aussie Rules, but separatism i’s a political reality, not a saying. It would go back as far as Ancient Greece I guess or maybe as recently as the French revolution – either way it predates America. It’s an Australian reality as well.

  10. Separatism a cliche??????????????????? Wow. Well tackled Matt

  11. Michael Viljoen says

    For the record, I agree with you that Steven Milne should be allowed to play. He hasn’t been convicted of doing anything wrong. He’s training with the team, and it’s been reported that he’s hoping he’ll be picked to play again in the match against Carlton.

    I don’t think the French Revolution predates America. But anyway, if we stick to Australia, ‘separation of church and state’ might be a catchy slogan for some, but it’s not a reality in the sense that it’s not written anywhere official, such as in The Constitution or anywhere. It’s an idea that means different things to different people (and more so to Americans).

    I believe it’s our freedoms that characterise our nation; freedom of thought; freedom to write; freedom of religion. You’re free to follow your moral convictions. If your religion is football, you’re free to follow St Kilda, Carlton, or whomever. I follow Carlton, so I hope Milne doesn’t play, as we’d have more chance of winning.

  12. Again, the separation of church and state is NOT a cliche or a slogan!

    To quote ‘The separation of church and state a key constitutional liberty which protects the public from tyranny. It protects all people from the religious tyranny of any one religious group or tradition and it protects all people from a government intent on tyrannizing some or any religious groups.’

    Also, might I draw your attention to Ch 5 § 116 of Australia’s constitution: The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

  13. Michael and T-Bone,
    Which one of you is Roadrunner and which is Wiley Coyote?

  14. To use footy parlance Pete, I reckon it’s more of a Craig Bradley / Micky Gayfer dynamic. Michael plays an unaccountable brand of footy, kick chasing and not picking up his opponent, whereas I just can’t help putting a hard tag on him (like, I just hate someone getting easy, uncontested stats, is the thing.)

    As for his latest offerings, well, all I can say is someone forgot to do their homework.

  15. Michael Viljoen says

    Thanks, T-Bone, for comparing me to Craig Bradley. I take that as a compliment, for he was a champion runner, known for his endurance. But I’d prefer his teammate and lookalike, Fraser Brown, who was from the same mold but tougher.

    I’m well aware of what’s written in the Australian Constitution. But to use the phrase “separation of church and state” is only interpretive. As you’ll note, even from your own post above, what you’ve quoted from the Constitution doesn’t even mention the words ‘separation’, or ‘church’ or ‘state’. That’s why I say the phrase is merely a political catch cry or slogan (and one borrowed from a foreign land.)

    Our Constitution does mention the “free exercise of any religion”, which is why I said it’s our freedoms, such as freedom of religion which truly characterises our nation. 

    We were once a colony fettered by convict chains, now our own island nation; a free land with no borders. So is our freedom to run anywhere reflected in our game. We have no such rule as “running off-side”.

  16. Well, what’s in Ch 5 § 116 is a little more than a slogan or clliche to me, mate.

    As for the analogy, Michael, I love it. Who knows, maybe our game evolved the way it because of these characteristics. I think you’e on to something there.

    PS .. and I think I’ve found an appllication for evolution here that we can both agree on, have I not?

  17. Michael Viljoen says

    The Australian Constitution is real. The associated slogan is allusive and perhaps divergent from the real deal.

    I think we agree that we both appreciate that part of the Constitution. But I wouldn’t describe the Constitution of Australia, nor the Rules of Australian football, as having evolved. They were carefully designed and crafted by intelligent minded people with purpose and foresight (well, Kevin Bartlett excepted.)

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