Stephen Milne
Stephen Milne

St Kilda coach Scott Watters has expressed empathy towards Stephen Milne but maintains the under-fire veteran had to be held accountable for directing a homophobic slur towards Collingwood defender Harry O'Brien last weekend.

Milne was fined $3000 and required to undertake an education program for his transgression.

While Watters felt for Milne, who routinely bears the brunt of taunts from opposition fans and was on the wrong end of a contentious umpiring decision that denied St Kilda a chance to salvage a draw at the death against the Magpies, the Saints boss reiterated he had to remain 'disciplined' despite the 'enormous pressure' he was under.

"We need to take responsibility for our actions," Watters said.

"I'm not someone that wants to hide or not be accountable.

"You have a choice in how you react, regardless of the pressures, and the players are under enormous pressures.

"But you still have a choice on what you say and how you react so Stephen's choice of vocab was poor.

"You need to be disciplined, you need to be controlled and it's not about laying blame at the doorstep of someone else."

While some are suggesting this may be a case of political correctness going too far, given neither Collingwood nor O'Brien lodged an official complaint with the AFL, Watters is pleased with how industry standards have changed.

However, he conceded the scrutiny that the players are now subjected to is 'almost impossible to comprehend' and the standards they're expected to reach were virtually unrealistic.

"The line has changed I think for the better," Watters said.

"There are a lot of stakeholders in the game now that need to understand their responsibility to kids, to presenting the sport in the right manner.

"Having said that it's a very, very difficult situation now that the players are in and the scrutiny that they're under.

"Unless you've actually been within it, it's almost impossible to comprehend so I don't envy the position that they're in a lot of the time but it doesn't mean we won't still demand really high standards of them.

"I don't think they're being judged too harshly but I think at times the standards are almost impossible to achieve all the time so we'll aim for them but under the pressure they're under it will never be perfect."

Watters confirmed the AFL umpiring department acknowledged to St Kilda Collingwood received unwarranted free kicks last Saturday night, most notably the arm-chop ruling against Milne on O'Brien in the dying seconds which did not appear to occur on TV replays.

St Kilda (9-9) are 10th on the ladder and Watters admitted they would have to win their last four matches to have any hope of playing finals.

And given their recent good form which has seen them beat Essendon, Brisbane (away) and the Bulldogs and push top-four teams Sydney and Collingwood, Watters said he was frustrated by where they found themselves after Round 19.

The St Kilda coach blamed skill level as the main reason and improvement in that area was one of the club's biggest targets.

"Our effort and our general level of commitment over the whole year I think has been unquestionable, our execution at times has put us in the position on ladder where we currently sit," Watters said.

"This club over a period of time hasn't been renowned for outstanding skill execution so our development program has a massive focus on improving that over a period of time."

Meanwhile, Watters confirmed utility Jason Blake (ankle) would play for St Kilda's VFL affiliate Sandringham this week while goalsneak Adam Schneider (hamstring) was still a week away from resuming.


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