A MEMBER of the Bendigo Football Netball League board says the recruitment of Stephen Milne reflects badly on Strathfieldsaye Storm and the league.
Carol McKinstry has criticised the publicity surrounding the former St Kilda forward’s decision to play for Storm next year.
Milne is accused of four counts of rape and has had his case adjourned to a further hearing at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday.
The charges relate to an alleged incident in 2004.
Dr McKinstry questioned the timing of the recruitment. She said the excitement around Milne’s signing was misguided and insensitive to women involved in the league.
“My own view is that I don’t think it reflects favourably on the club,” she said.
“Having him paraded around in a jumper, and people excitedly saying that he will be great for the league, I think is the wrong message.”
“Most people I’ve spoken to have been a bit taken aback by the publicity.
“I can't speak on behalf of the board but my personal view is that they (Strathfieldsaye) should have waited until there’s a bit more certainty around his court case.”
Strathfieldsaye coach Darryl Wilson last night defended the decision to sign Milne.
He said the 33-year-old who played 275 games in the AFL was an exciting prospect for the club and the fans.
Wilson told the Bendigo Advertiser he was unable to comment on Milne's charges.
"We haven't got any comment on that. That's something that will take its course and hopefully, it all goes well for him."
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Dr McKinstry said it was important that Milne was given the presumption of innocence. She said she believes Storm would have been better to wait until the completion of court proceedings.
“While some may believe that all publicity is good publicity, I do not believe this is helpful to the BFNL,” she said.
"I think everyone will be watching to see what happens with the court case."
Milne was sidelined for three games in the middle of this year’s AFL season after he was arrested and charged.
A number of organisations, including the Centre Against Sexual Assault, questioned the league's consistency when Milne was eventually allowed to play again.
AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said before Milne's round 16 return game he was expecting "mixed views" from fans.
"There are people who are still outraged about this particular incident and some other people that understand that he's entitled to play football and will welcome him back," he said at the time.
It's believed Milne will be based in Melbourne for the 2014 BFNL season. His availability to play will rest on the outcome of the rape charges.