Milford ready to hit the next level
Broncos matchwinner Anthony Milford is adamant the NRL has not seen the best of him as the attacking maestro prepares to outsmart premiership-winning Roosters halves Luke Keary and Cooper Cronk.
Milford's burgeoning three-game scrumbase union with 18-year-old Tom Dearden will receive the ultimate test Friday night when the Broncos duo confront the Keary-Cronk wonder pairing at Suncorp Stadium.
Ever since he was handed a $1 million-a-season deal by the Broncos in 2017, Milford has copped incessant criticism about his inconsistency.
But it was his Origin debut at five-eighth two years ago, playing alongside then Maroons halfback Cronk, which opened Milford's eyes to the art of game management.
Milford accepts he is not the finished article but his best-on-ground performances against Cronulla and Manly in the past three weeks is evidence the 24-year-old is striving for the excellence that has taken Cronk to greatness.
"I think I can get better as a player, I really want to and I'm working towards that," said Milford, who reaches a crucial midpoint of his career in July when he celebrates his 25th birthday.
"The coaching staff are pushing me to make sure I realise my potential. I know it's on me. I'm ticking every box at training so that come game day, I perform consistently.
"I played with 'Coops' in Origin a few years ago and the way he organises things, he is a step ahead of everyone else. He still has that quality now.
"The big thing Cooper does well is how he controls the play. It's taken me a little while to learn that, but I feel every time I step on to the field, I'm learning from experiences."
Once renowned purely for his attacking zip to unlock a defence, Milford is now using his flashy feet in other ways.
For the past 18 months, the kid from Inala has worked overtime on the short-kicking game that made Allan Langer the greatest halfback in Broncos history.
Milford set up two tries against Manly last week with deft grubbers, the first for Matt Gillett and the second for skipper Darius Boyd to ice a 26-10 victory.
It was a nine-minute blitz Milford must reprise tomorrow night to counter the ultra-slick game awareness of the Keary-Cronk alliance which has turned the Roosters into a premiership machine.
"I was more of a running five-eighth a few years ago but I'm trying to be a better player overall," Milford said.
"I'm finding a balance now between running and kicking. The coach (Anthony Seibold) has been working hard with me to pick my moments and see what the defence is doing.
"It's important myself and Tom are 'on' against the Roosters.
"Keary is an awesome player. I've watched a couple of his games lately and he has been the best player in the comp this year with Cody Walker.
"He is on fire ... I admire his competitive nature."
The Broncos received a setback when Milford's left-edge partner Alex Glenn failed to finish training due to the flu, but the back-rower is expected to face the Roosters.