St Kilda has thwarted a potential player rebellion by assuring its senior group that it had every intention of clearing Stephen Milne to play, potentially within the next four weeks.
Senior players, including Milne, captain Nick Riewoldt and Jason Blake, met a group of club directors early on Thursday for clarification of Milne's status as a St Kilda player.
Coach Scott Watters also held talks with the board members in a bid to learn their position on Milne's future. He told his players on Tuesday he would back the 33-year-old.
Milne is understood to have had his fears allayed that his playing career was finished. Placed on indefinite leave by the club after being charged on Tuesday with four counts of rape, he released a statement saying he would be contesting the charges.
Milne's first court date has been set on July 5, with a committal hearing not expected for some months.
Club president Greg Westaway confirmed the crisis meetings, telling Fairfax Media: ''We had enough regard for the players to make sure they fully understood the process that we went through in reaching the decision that we did.''
Asked if he could place a time frame on Milne's potential return, Westaway said: ''That's a matter for the coach and for Stephen's welfare.''
While there was no suggestion of a walkout of players, they were not only concerned for Milne and his playing future, but also disenchanted with the club's initial explanation to Milne for placing him on indefinite leave.
On Thursday morning Milne, Riewoldt, Blake and co received a more extensive explanation for the reasons behind the decision.
Milne, along with concerned senior players and with the strong backing of the AFL Players Association,
held talks with Westaway, football director Andrew Thompson and board newcomer Ian McLeod, the managing director of Coles. Westaway was due to hold talks with AFL chief Andrew Demetriou on Thursday night.
The players had been disenchanted after the club appeared to shift its position on Milne after several directors had a change of heart on how to handle his immediate playing future.
Some within the club also believed subtle pressure had come from the AFL.
Club chief executive Michael Nettlefold is understood to have cut short his holiday and was returning from Italy in time for Saturday's clash with Melbourne. Riewoldt and Nick Dal Santo are due to become the 10th and 11th St Kilda players respectively to reach the 250-game milestone.
While Milne and his teammates appeared comforted after the board meeting that the Saints had every intention of ending Milne's enforced absence within the month, he will certainly miss the next two games, including round 14's women's round, and potentially the two after that.
The final decision on his selection and playing future could come from the AFL, which has reserved the right to take action pending further developments.
The AFL Commission met on Wednesday night to consider its position but, in the short term, backed the move by St Kilda to not play Milne for an indefinite period.
In 2009, Adelaide suspended Nathan Bock indefinitely after he was charged with assaulting his girlfriend. Bock returned to the senior team after one week.
Milne released a statement through his management, Stride Sports. ''Stephen is taking the legal matter very seriously and has engaged lawyers to represent him to contest the charges,'' said his manager, Tom Petroro.
''Like every citizen, he is entitled to the presumption of innocence. It is requested that the privacy of Stephen, his wife and his family be respected.''