Australian footballers pursue a powerful dream – excelling on the world stage in the world’s most competitive sport. 

From Johnston to Salisbury and from Kewell to Kerr, our players have illustrated their capacity to turn this dream into reality. 

As much as the PFA’s role has been about supporting our members to pursue this dream, it has equally been about the advancement of the game. 

Each generation of players has been intent on building a lasting legacy – of leaving the game in a better place for those that follow. To this end Australian football has produced not just world class players but world class leaders. Leaders that have displayed courage, respect and a selflessness to always put the interests of others above their own; leaders like Mile Jedinak, Lucas Neill, Julie Doolan and Melissa Barbieri. 

On Wednesday their peer in leadership and impact Mark Milligan announced his retirement from professional football. Following his announcement to retire at the conclusion of Macarthur’s A-League campaign, a stream of tributes from media, players and fans this week have acknowledged his achievements on the pitch. 

KAZAN, RUSSIA – JUNE 11: Aaron Mooy, Tim Cahill and Mark Milligan of Australia are seen after an Australian Socceroos training session at Stadium Trudovye Rezervy on June 11, 2018 in Kazan, Russia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

In a professional career that has spanned 18 years, the AIS graduate captained his country, appeared at four FIFA World Cups, three Asian Cups, an Olympics, won two A-League Championships, was selected in the PFA A-League Team of the Decade and was voted by his peers into the PFA A-League Team of the Season on three occasions. 

Off the pitch Milligan’s impact was no less immense. Like Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell, Mark served on the PFA Executive. During his three years on the Executive he was instrumental in our sport’s first ever whole of game collective bargaining agreement, an agreement that paved the way for a genuine career path for Matildas and established player development programs and services such as mental health and education support that are now so invaluable for our members. 

When Milligan attended the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup with his three daughters, it illustrated once again his commitment to the sport and its players. Just a few months later, this commitment was reinforced with the PFA and Football Australia (FA) announcing profound progress for the players he saw play in the Green and Gold in France – the historic equal pay National Teams CBA. Whilst never one to seek the limelight, Mark played a critical role behind the scenes.

It was Mark’s initiative and drive that also resulted in the establishment of the PFA’s Footballers’ Trust, which has delivered just under $100,000 in donations to support organisations such as Rural Aid, the Red Cross, John Moriarty Football, the Leukemia Foundation, Australian Blind Football and his national team peers the Pararoos. 

Mark has shown us all what is required to achieve excellence on the pitch whilst at the same time leaving a profound legacy off it. 

The former Socceroos Captain has been a leader for our players and our game. In doing so he has provided the game and the players that follow him with a remarkable inheritance, one that we will honour by upholding the standards Mark set on and off the pitch.