St Kilda have gone against the wishes of their celebrated captain Nick Riewoldt by handing an indefinite suspension to long-time teammate Stephen Milne as he fights rape charges.
Regardless of Milne's guilt or innocence, age and form could well determine whether the two-time All-Australian plays again in the AFL.
Milne faces four rape charges and is due to face court on July 5.
While Milne remains on the Saints' playing list, he is 33 and out of contract at the end of this season.
His renowned goalkicking prowess has been down on previous years.
The Saints board met on Tuesday night to discuss the crisis and finally decided on Wednesday morning to stand down Milne.
In announcing the suspension, club president Greg Westaway said the board had considered "the best interests of all parties concerned".
"The board acknowledges this is a most serious matter, one that is distressing to all the parties involved," Westaway said.
"It also recognises that the extended timeframe of the matter and the complexities of the issues involved, make it without precedent.
"In considering the matter the board has been mindful of the rights and obligations of everyone impacted."
In 10 games this season, Milne has only kicked 18 goals.
That is well down on the 57 goals in 2010 and the bags of 56 he kicked in his 2011-12 All-Australian seasons.
The AFL would not comment on the suspension.
While the Saints met with senior league officials on Tuesday, privately they are insisting it was their decision alone to suspend Milne.
Milne was charged following a re-opened Victorian Police investigation into an alleged incident a few days before the start of the 2004 season.
Milne was at training on Wednesday morning and long-time teammates Riewoldt and Nick Dal Santo made it clear they wanted him to keep playing.
Riewoldt and Dal Santo both celebrate their 250th games on Saturday against Melbourne.
"Milney is the absolute heart and soul of the football club and everyone knows how passionate he is and what the football club in particular means to him," Riewoldt told SEN radio.
"If he feels like he can contribute and he can put it to the side and go out for two hours, which he's stated unequivocally that he's going to be able to do, and he wants to do, then I think that's where it should stay."
Dal Santo had also hoped Milne would play against the Demons.
"He's a quality person and we support him fully, and it'd be great to have him out there," Dal Santo said.
But Riewoldt acknowledged that others would starkly disagree with their enthusiasm for Milne to stay in the side.
"Certainly I understand because this a difficult time for everyone," he said.
The Saints indefinitely suspended Andrew Lovett on Christmas Eve 2009 after it emerged he was under police investigation and sacked him two months later when he was charged with rape.
More than a year later he was acquitted, but by that stage his AFL career was over.
The AFL issued a statement late on Wednesday, saying the commission had met to discuss the issue and that it supported the actions of St Kilda.
"The AFL welcomes the decision to subject the allegations to legal scrutiny as no player is above the law," said AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou.
"The AFL acknowledges the importance of the presumption of innocence in this case and also the need to treat the complainant with respect and understanding.
"In addition to the actions taken by the club, the AFL will monitor the case and reserves the right to take action under its rules in the event of further information coming to light, or any further developments.
"Further, the AFL has determined that there will be a restriction placed on Milne's AFL and Club promotional and development duties."