How dumped Milford can still save Broncos career
Kevin Walters insists Anthony Milford is not finished as an NRL playmaker and hopes his axing will motivate Brisbane's misfiring five-eighth to salvage his career at the Broncos.
News Corp can reveal Milford faces up to a month in the Intrust Super Cup after being dropped for the first time in his 185-game career for Thursday night's clash against Penrith at Suncorp Stadium.
Instead of lining up against the Panthers, Milford will be the highest-paid player in Intrust Super Cup history, with the $1 million pivot to turn out for Souths Logan against Norths Devils this Sunday at Davies Park.
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Milford is off-contract at season's end and there is a view he is ostensibly a dead-man walking at Red Hill, but Broncos coach Walters says his senior playmaker's demotion can be the catalyst for a career-defining wake-up call.
"I want to make it clear I haven't given up on 'Milf'," said Walters, who has opted for a Brodie Croft-Tom Dearden halves pairing for the Panthers clash
"If we are going to improve, I need to make the hard calls and ensure everyone wants to get better and if that happens, the team will benefit.
"I know Milf is copping a lot of criticism, but I honestly believe I can work with Anthony and get him firing again.
"It has to come from Milf, too. It has to come from within. He needs to have the desire and hunger, I've seen it in him in the past, so hopefully he can fight back and have a good career at the Broncos."
Milford has become one of the most maligned players in the game, with NRL Immortal Andrew Johns and Penrith playmaking great Greg Alexander particularly scathing of his attitude and on-field form.
Such is his natural talent, Milford almost won the Clive Churchill Medal in the 2015 grand final, but he has lost his way, and seemingly his self-belief, in the past three seasons.
The 26-year-old Milford faces a $500,000 pay cut to remain at the Broncos, who will decide in June whether to offer him a new contract for next season.
The Broncos are examining their scrumbase options, with Kotoni Staggs another candidate to play five-eighth next season if the off-contract strike weapon inks a new deal to remain at Red Hill.
There was speculation Milford, who has interest from two NRL rivals, could seek a release after being axed, but Walters explained the methodology behind his relegation.
"I sat down with Anthony and I took him through a few things I needed him to work on. It's my job as coach to get him back performing," he said.
"There's a few things Milf needs to work on, his kicking is a key area that has to be addressed, but everything about his game can be better.
"To Anthony's credit, he took it well. He understood my reasoning and he took it like a man, which I respected.
"During my career as a player, it was a regular occurrence for players to get dropped to reserve grade if you didn't perform. That's the way it was.
"I'm sure Anthony can respond to what I want. You talk about his contract ... well that's what I'm trying to do, I'm searching for ways to get him back to his best football.
"I want Milf to go back to the Intrust and work on a few things in his game. At his best, he has special things in his game. I told him to go back and be the Anthony Milford which we haven't seen for a while.
"I want him to get some confidence back. My hope is that he gets better there and if he does that, I will bring him back into the team.
"It's up to Anthony how long he stays in Intrust.
"It will be longer than a week, but I need him playing well and we'll put the support around him to get back to the NRL.
"Ultimately, he has to drive it."
Originally published as How dumped Milford can still save Broncos career