SOME people believe that the small forward position is the toughest one to play in the AFL. That didn’t stop two 5′ 9″ warriors from carving out a pair of incredible careers kicking over 1,000 goals between them and becoming fan favourites in the 21st century. Both Jeffery Farmer and Stephen Milne could put forth a case as the games greatest small forward, although the likes of Eddie Betts and/or Peter Diacos might have something to say about that. Regardless, there’s no doubt Milne and Farmer are some of the games greatest, but who can claim bragging rights over the other as the owner of a better AFL career? It’s time to Compare the Pair.
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ALL THE NUMBERS
FARMER – 249 games, 10 finals, 483 goals, 38 Brownlow votes, 11.6 disposals per game
MILNE – 275 games, 16 finals, 574 goals, 37 Brownlow votes, 11.9 disposals per game
THE per game numbers are relatively similar from Farmer and Milne. Both players were good for roughly a dozen disposals and about two goals every time they stepped onto the park, with Milne holding a slight edge in goal average over the man affectionately known as ‘the Wiz’ (2.09 goals a game compared to 1.94). Despite playing in fewer games, Farmer actually recorded more career Brownlow votes than Milne, yet eight of those votes came in the 2000 season, hands down his best pro season. That year also saw Farmer kick a career-high 72 goals, marking one of just two seasons that he kicked 50 or more compared to Milne’s six such seasons. Considering he did it for slightly longer while showing more consistency, I have to Milne the slight edge.
Edge: Milne (Just)
Image from thecourier.com.au
BOTH players have to live with the unfortunate hurt of coming up short on Grand Final day, with the pair failing to win a premiership between them. Milne played in 16 finals with a large bulk of them, including three Grand Finals, coming towards the end of his career. Farmer, on the other hand, managed just 10 appearances in the post-season and yet, he still managed to kick three more goals (28-25) than Milne during their respective finals careers. One could argue that number is boosted by top-heavy performances from the Wiz, including hauls of six and eight goals in two games, however, Milne went goalless on three occasions, something that happened only once in Farmer’s career. His ability to step up and change the outcome of the contest, especially in his Demon days moves the ledger to 1-1.
Edge: Farmer (Just)
FARMER – 2000 Preliminary Final
KICKING a goal after the siren against your former club is going to be pretty high up on your list of career achievements, as is kicking nine goals in a single half! However, a match-winning performance with a spot in a grand final on the line is hard to pass up as the finest moment from Farmer’s career. After heartbreak against North Melbourne two years earlier, Melbourne and their leading goal-kicker found themselves in a rematch against the Roos in the 2000 prelim and Farmer wasn’t going to let this opportunity slip. The game was effectively sewn up by half time as he kicked five snags before the main break, pushing the margin out to 39 points. From his 16 touches, Farmer finished the game with just one behind and eight majors most of them coming in characteristic Wizard fashion, manufacturing an impressive goal out of nothing.
MILNE – 2005 Round 22
AN unfortunate bounce in the 2010 Grand Final will probably be the footage that Milne is linked to for the rest of his post-football life, but his crowning moment came a few seasons earlier. No offense to Milne, but he didn’t have as many captivating games or moments throughout his career, known rather for his consistency over 12 pro seasons. However, in the final home and away game of the 2005 season, Milne was at his goal sneak best, kicking 11.0 in a 139-point thumping against the Brisbane Lions. You could argue that it was easy for him to kick 10+ goals in such a colossal win, but Milne is one of just 16 players who has managed to kick at least 10 goals in a single outing and he did so without a single miss in front of the big sticks.
LIKE I said, it might be unfair, but Milne never had the same breathtaking showings that Jeff Farmer did. For that reason, I think the Wiz’s eight-goal prelim effort outshines Milne’s bag of 11 against Brisbane.
THIS one is tricky with both Milne and Farmer recording few personal accolades over their careers. St Kilda’s goalsneak does find himself 39th on the all-time goal kickers list with Jack Riewoldt, Matthew Pavlich and a few other active players overtaking him since his retirement. Milne narrowly topped Farmer for club goal-kicking awards (4-3) however his first and last wins came 11 seasons apart, with Farmer recording all of his within a four-year span. With the All-Australian nods also falling 2-1 in Milne’s favour, he deserves to come out as the winner in this category.
NEITHER Farmer or Milne was super popular off the field, with some controversies tainting their respective AFL careers, however, there’s no denying they’re two of the greatest small forwards to play the game. From a legacy standpoint though, as illustrious as Stephen Milne’s career and numbers were, it’s hard to build a case against the cult-hero that was/still is Jeffery Farmer. Nicknamed ‘The Wiz’, the excitement machine was a talent the likes of which we might never see again, with his trademark goal celebration bound to be re-enacted in backyards all over the country thousands of times.
Image from thewest.com.au
VERDICT – JEFF FARMER
THIS is one of the toughest CTP arguments I’ve had to date, with both players putting forward strong cases. While Jeff Farmer didn’t have the longevity or consistency that Stephen Milne had, you could argue that he had a higher peak, kicking 72 goals one year, topping Milne’s personal best of 61. From a popularity and legacy standpoint Farmer looms as the runaway winner, with his antics outshining Milne’s superior game/goal/award tallys.
IT might be a bit of personal bias, it might be the popularity factor, but regardless I have to side with Jefferey Farmer. 13 times in his career the Wiz kicked six goals or more compared to just Milne’s five times. If you are arguing who had a more consistent career over a longer period of time then Milne could get the nod, but that’s not the argument at hand. I can see the case to give the former Saint the win and the purple blood in my veins may have influenced my decision, but at the end of the game Jeff Farmer had a higher peak, captured a national audience with his antics in front of the big sticks and Melbourne/Fremantle fans won’t go forgetting him anytime soon.