Anthony Milford. Photo: Rohan ThomsonAnthony Milford’s family has relocated to Canberra, intensifying speculation the Raiders are hatching a plan to keep the exciting fullback from Brisbane’s grasp.
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart was reluctant to comment on Milford’s situation, other than to say he hoped the support of family would enable the 19-year-old to continue his stunning form with the Raiders this season.
Milford won last year’s Mal Meninga Medal as Canberra’s best player after a stellar rookie season, but signed a two-year deal with the Broncos from next year to be closer to his sick father, Halo.
Under NRL rules the 19-year-old is allowed to backflip and stay at Canberra before round 13, a clause the Raiders used to convince his teammate and close friend Josh Papalii to renege on a contract he signed with Parramatta.
Milford’s contractual situation has distracted the club since August, but Stuart said his only focus was on the season opener against North Queensland Cowboys.
Stuart said it was good to see Milford’s family had relocated to Canberra for this season.
”Yes, his family is down here,” Stuart said.
”He’s still a young boy and I need to have him comfortable, happy and looked after off the football field and the best way to do that is with your parents.
”He’s a very close family boy, that’s a wonderful trait and it’s good that his family is here with him.”
Milford’s sister and his parents, Halo and Marietta, have moved from Brisbane to help him overcome the homesickness which prompted him to request a release from the final year of his Canberra contract.
Halo is battling a heart issue, and the Raiders tried to help to relocate the family midway through last year.
The Raiders were able to attract extra third-party sponsorship to retain Papalii last year.
The Raiders showed they were prepared to pay top dollar for Milford before he signed with the Broncos, making a three-year offer that would put him among the top salary-earners in the NRL.
Raiders vice-captain Brett White said he wouldn’t be disappointed should Milford follow Papalii’s lead.
”Don’t worry, I won’t be too disappointed if something like that happened. We’ll just wait and see,” White said.
”I don’t think it’ll be a distraction. Tony’s worked really hard while he’s been here and I’ve got no doubt he’s going to put his best effort in.
”What happens down the track is between Tony and whoever, but I don’t think it will worry the team too much.”
The Broncos are desperate for halves. They have endured a woeful pre-season, highlighted by a 48-4 capitulation to New Zealand Warriors last weekend.
Broncos legend Allan Langer said his old club was desperate for an x-factor such as Milford in the halves, and could not afford to let him slip from its clutches.
”He’s a great player, hopefully he has a great year for the Raiders and he’s only going to get better,” Langer said.
”I think he’s great in the halves with his pace, and the way he reads the game.
”Certainly the Broncos are looking for halves, that’s what we need.”
Milford’s manager Sam Ayoub declined to comment.