How will the ball bounce this time?

By , 12/09/2019 22:12

It should have gone straight. If it had, it would have led to honour and glory and an inviolable place in St Kilda legend and the history of the game. But it didn’t. And in a crude way, it summed up Stephen Milne.

It was inside the last minute of the 2010 grand final, and St Kilda trailed by a point. Norm Smith medallist Lenny Hayes’ rushed kick forward took two jagged, random bounces. The first went left, over the head of Milne and Collingwood’s Ben Johnson. But Milne, as ever, read it first and best, and was now out of Johnson’s reach and tracking the ball on its trajectory towards the goal. There was no one else ahead.

But the next bounce was a rogue, sharp and right, deceiving even Milne and trickling over the line for a behind. St Kilda never did win the premiership that it seemed it must in that time, and Milne never did assume Barry Breen’s messianic mantle, and it was all because of that wrong-‘un of a bounce.

The wrong-‘un is a good ball, skilful, clever and, against the unsuspecting, devastating. Colloquially, it is also someone who has taken a wrong turn. Arguably, Milne in his time has personified both meanings. Across 13 seasons, he has averaged more than two goals a game, an extraordinary number for a small forward, a triumph of living on one’s wits in a position where nothing comes easily. One night against the Brisbane Lions, he kicked 11. The ends at Etihad Stadium are named for the giants Lockett and Coventry, but the man who has kicked the most goals there is the diminutive Milne.

For the past three years, he has led St Kilda’s goalkicking. For the past two, he has been All-Australian. It is a replete career. Ascribe those numbers to Eddie Betts, or Leon Davis, or Cyril Rioli, and the feeling would be warm and fuzzy. Other than among St Kilda supporters, Milne does not inspire that same affection. If graphed, the peak would be at grudging respect. Mostly, this has to do with impressions, about which Milne can do little. There is something about his manner, impish and leering, that aggravates opposition fans. He was Hayden Ballantyne long before Ballantyne. Like Ballantyne, Milne appeared to enjoy getting under the skin of others. It was a persona, but it was inescapable.

Milne was only in his fourth season when the charges now revived first were aired. It has coloured attitudes towards him ever since. Of course, that is not his fault. The animus towards him reached a miserable low earlier in 2010 when in a heated exchange at quarter-time in a match against Collingwood, Mick Malthouse was seen to mouth at him the word ”rapist”.

Malthouse was fined, and apologised, but crowds are notoriously unthinking, and indiscriminate in their favours, and despite repeated appeals to better instincts, the opprobrium has rained down on Milne ever since. For the most part, he gave the impression it was water off a duck’s back. But earlier this season it got to him, and he talked of the vilification and its effect on him and his family. If the field ever was Milne’s sanctuary, it is no longer. With grave charges weighing, he would be a brazen man to set foot out there on Saturday.

It should have gone straight on. It nearly did.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美甲学校.

Comments are closed

Panorama Theme by Themocracy