Milne breaks silence on drugs ban
TAANE Milne sat down and penned a handwritten letter in a bid to save his NRL career. Just months after being sacked by the Tigers because of a second positive drug test, Milne looked destined for the rugby league scrapheap.
But a note to Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has helped resurrect his career leading to a two year deal with the club.
Milne's note was simple.
"I told him I'm not a drug addict," Milne told the Sunday Telegraph. "I wrote to him - spelling errors and all - telling him that I wanted to play in the NRL again. That I owned up to my errors and I was on the right track. I knew I could offer something to the club."
Kearney phoned Milne directly two days later saying he would speak with the Warriors leadership group and would think on the decision for a week. Warrior skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck - who played alongside Milne at the Roosters - reached out and offered his support as did Warriors recruitment manager Peter O'Sullivan - who lured Milne to the Roosters as a teenage rugby prodigy.
Milne leaves for New Zealand today and will start pre-season training tomorrow. The 23-year-old said he has matured plenty since being axed from his deal worth about $300,000 with the Tigers which lasted just six months before his axing.
Milne had joined the Tigers on a two-year deal this year.
"I don't have a drug problem," Milne said. "I made a mistake. A really costly one and I embarrassed myself and my family. I felt so much embarrassment.
"It was my fault though and I can't blame anyone else. I did this to me. But I have learnt so much. I've grown up. I had a really good job and I lost it all.
"I thought my NRL career was done and people would just remember as a guy who had a drug problem. I want to use this to help people. Only now am I comfortable speaking about what I did.
"Alcohol was a factor and I've been off it for months. I've made a promise to myself not to drink the entire pre-season."
Instead of continuing what was a blossoming NRL career turned to carpet-laying with his stepdad's business to make a living. He was given a lifeline of sorts by Mounties to resume playing rugby league late this season after his three month ban ended but after starring for Fiji at last year's World Cup, where he helped lead them to a shock semi-finals appearance, Milne still had a burning desire to add to the 18-games he played for St George Illawarra.
"Carpet laying was the biggest wake up call I needed," Milne said. "People say you don't know what you've lost until it's gone. Well I lost it all so I know.
"There was one day I was walking up all these flight of stairs carrying a 10 metre carpet on my back, sweating. I had enough. I got to the top and threw the carpet on the ground yelling 'I need to get out of there'.
"There were so many times I was on the job and I'd text my manager 'find me a club'."
That proved more problematic than Milne anticipated with constant rejections from clubs leading him to penning the letter to Kearney in what was his final shot at redemption.
Milne was born in Auckland and will live his grandmother Pauline, in the same room he spent the first six years of his life in. He will be surrounded by a close-knit family group with members from both sides of his family living nearby.
"(My grandmother) knows I love my shoes so she's already bought me a couple of shoe racks," Milne said. "I wouldn't have been given another chance if it wasn't for my family, my partner Casey and the NRL."