Patience thins as Milford fights to save career
ANTHONY Milford is fighting to save his career at the Broncos with the club's highest-paid player put on notice following his role in Brisbane's dismal finals loss and poker machine saga.
Milford is under mounting pressure to take more responsibility as a Broncos leader on and off the field given his salary and importance to Brisbane's premiership ambitions.
Milford is the only player in Broncos history to receive a $1 million contract but he was internally identified as one of the chief culprits behind Brisbane's shock 58-0 capitulation to the Eels last Sunday at Bankwest Stadium.
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To compound Milford's plight, the star playmaker is now caught in the crosshairs of a Broncos investigation into revelations he and David Fifita were playing poker machines the night before the finals debacle.
Broncos coach Anthony Seibold was unaware Milford and Fifita had left the team hotel on Saturday night to gamble at a Sydney pub, and the matters will be addressed in one-on-one meetings as part of a club-wide review.
While the incident is not the crime of the century, it raises questions over Milford's professionalism and demonstrates why Brisbane hierarchy are losing patience with the 25-year-old.
When Milford was handed a $4 million, four-year deal in 2017, he was viewed as the playmaker with the talent to break Brisbane's premiership drought and deliver their first title since 2006.
But the Maroons ace has struggled to perform consistently, with his superb display in the 2015 grand final against the Cowboys tempered by his battle to take full control as Brisbane's chief playmaker.
If Milford fails to produce the most dominant season of his career in 2020, Brisbane chiefs will consider the prospect of shopping him to rival clubs.
Former Broncos premiership-winning centre Steve Renouf fears Milford has stagnated at the club and may need a change of scenery to extract the most of his special talents.
"We all like 'Milf' as a bloke but mentally I don't know where he is at," Renouf said.
"Anthony needs to sort out in his own head what he wants to achieve in the game and whether he wants to be at the Broncos.
"He is their highest-paid player, but I don't think he is standing up in the big games and unfortunately he hasn't gone to the next level since the 2015 grand final."
Contractually, Milford holds the aces. He is off-contract at the end of next year but has a 12-month option in his favour for the 2021 season.
Milford has copped brickbats for his performance in Sunday's heavy loss to the Eels.
He was badly out of position for a Mitchell Moses try in the first half, but Milford is still coming to terms with the art of fullback play after being moved there from five-eighth just 10 weeks ago.
In pre-season, Broncos coach Anthony Seibold asked former NSW Origin pivot Matthew Johns to mentor his playmakers, including Milford.
Johns believes Milford can turn his career around at Brisbane if he gets help from a dominant halfback.
"I feel for Milf," Johns said.
"The bottom line with Anthony is he is a running player and that is his strength. He is not a vocal player, he doesn't appear to be a very dominant voice on the field. If Milford is going to go back to five-eighth next season, he needs a quality player alongside him.
"To me, Anthony is a bit of a shy, modest, understated kid. That's how I found him when I worked with him, but I was also impressed with his knowledge and determination.
"He would be better inside a halfback who steers the ship and tells the side what he wants, and that would allow Anthony to slip into his job of running the football."