Milne calls time after a decade

Grant Milne will sign off from his job as the Otago Touch Association's development officer after a decade with the organisation. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Grant Milne will sign off from his job as the Otago Touch Association's development officer after a decade with the organisation. Photo: Gregor Richardson
When Grant Milne joined the Otago Touch Association he was promised no more than a six-month job. A decade later he is moving on.

The association's development manager has been a key force in lifting Otago to one of the country's best in the sport.

In March, he will finish in his role and while nothing is in the pipeline yet, he said he knew it was time for a change.

''In 10 years we've sort of come from basement level and achieved as much as I can see us achieving under my role and management,'' he said.

''About a year ago, I figured this season would be our peak.

''We've got the World Cup at the end of the season and we'll have quite a few athletes involved - maybe six to eight - and a couple of coaches and a manager.

''That's pretty exceptional.

''So everything's going well and its a nice time to leave when everything's going well.''

Milne originally made the trek to Dunedin after his job at Touch Southland - where he is from - was disestablished.

That came after a number of years as Touch New Zealand's South Island national coaching officer, a role which gave him plenty of experience.

He brought that knowledge to Otago when the association hired him, with nothing guaranteed beyond that season.

As is often the case, that guarantee was soon extended.

Since then, he has worked part-time for Otago Touch, alongside doing work in rugby league.

He leaves the association in a position to now offer the role as a full-time one to the next person.

There had been plenty of work to get to that point, starting with an assessment when he arrived.

''I had a few ideas. Before I got here, I was employed in touch for five years, so I'd seen what I thought of Otago touch.

''But once we'd done that assessment and realised 'Oh my goodness. There's a whole lot of talent here' we were able to move forward.''

Building the secondary schools programme, developing referees, ensuring representative teams captured the entire region and a group of key individuals had been important.

He mentioned the likes of Alex Buttery, Damian Burden, Toni Wall and Rahul Das - all among those he deemed critical to the success.

The result was large numbers playing the game at community level, Otago teams performing well representatively and the region's players regularly featuring in national teams.

Milne himself played in one of those New Zealand teams in the senior mixed grade at the 2015 World Cup. That had been highlight of his decade in Dunedin, as had going to secondary school national tournaments and seeing the region's youngsters competing on that stage.

It was also a buzz seeing athletes such as Kelly Brazier, Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali and Taylor Haugh having success in their codes after coming through the touch system.

There is a lot to leave behind and he admitted to having mixed feelings about his departure.

''I'm not sad to go because I know we're in a perfect state to move on.

''My motivation has sort of come to its end and I'm excited that whoever comes next is going to have a great foundation to move on and to move it all forward.

''In terms of sadness, I can't even imagine what March will be like when I do actually move and see the athletes and volunteers for the last time.

''I remember when I had to finish coaching at St Hilda's [Collegiate].

''We'd just finished our secondary schools nationals campaign and that drive home was almost unbearable.

''So 10 years worth, its going to be crazy.''

While he was unsure what the future held, it was likely to be in the education or coaching field.

He was likely to head back to Southland, although the ''perfect'' opportunity would keep him in Dunedin.

However, that would not be in touch.

At the conclusion of this season he hoped the sport would return to being a hobby, rather than a job.

He hoped to find a secondary school to coach at and help them on to the national championship pathway.

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