Melbourne: Footballer Stephen Milne’s wife stood by him as he faced his first court appearance after being charged with the rape of a teenage girl.
The 33-year-old forward is accused of raping the then 19-year-old at the home of teammate Leigh Montagna following St Kilda’s family day in 2004.
Milne raised his hand from the second row to indicate his appearance to magistrate Duncan Reynolds at the beginning of a brief filing hearing at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court.
The Saints player had his wife Melissa by his side, and was supported by his manager, Tom Petroro, and two others.
Dressed in a navy blue suit, Milne played with his wedding ring and chatted to his wife and supporters while he waited for his case to be called.
The alleged victim, then a university student, claimed she was raped in a darkened bedroom of Montagna’s Highett home.
The alleged incident occurred on March 15, 2004.
The woman told police she thought she was having consensual sex with Montagna and ran screaming from the room when a door opened and in the extra light she realised it was someone else, allegedly Milne.
Milne has consistently protested his innocence.
He will learn the full extent of the prosecution case against him when the brief of evidence is served on July 26.
Defence barrister David Grace, QC, said he was concerned about the media attention his client’s case had attracted and requested the case be reported responsibly.
Milne, who will reappear for a committal mention on September 13, made no comment as he left the court after the hearing, which lasted about four minutes.
He has been on a club-imposed leave of absence since he was charged with four counts of rape on June 18 following a review of the 2004 case.
The star forward – who has played 268 games for the Saints since his 2001 debut – was stood down following the charges.
Milne was told on Thursday afternoon that he would miss tomorrow’s clash with Fremantle at Patersons Stadium.
He has continued to train with the senior group and could return as early as next Saturday against Carlton at Etihad Stadium.
Milne, who lives in Cheltenham, was married in 2008 and is a father of two.
The review of the case against him was prompted by an Office of Police Integrity recommendation last year.
The OPI probe into the case began in 2010 after the detectives who prepared the brief went public with their disappointment that their superior officers, acting on the DPP advice, decided not to charge Milne over the rape allegation.
They claimed other police tried to derail the Milne investigation and tried to influence them not to prosecute.
But the latest OPI report found the original rape probe by police was not deliberately hampered or inappropriately influenced.
OPI investigators discovered relevant material was missing from the Milne brief of evidence and recommended Victoria Police review the brief to ensure all relevant evidence and exhibits were accounted for.