Leaving? ... Raiders player Anthony Milford is reportedly seeking an early release from his contract to join the Broncos. Photo: Melissa Adams
The Canberra Raiders intend to move heaven and earth to keep star rookie Anthony Milford at the club after he requested a release from the final year of his contract.
The saga looks set to drag on, after the Raiders confirmed they would wait until the end of the season to resolve his uncertain future.
Milford’s manager, Sam Ayoub, asked for a release on Sunday, the same day the Raiders suffered a record 68-4 defeat to Melbourne.
The 19-year-old’s father is ill in Brisbane, and it is near certain he will link with the Broncos should the Raiders grant him a release.
He is contracted to Canberra until the end of next year, though his contract has a get-out clause relating to family illness.
But Fairfax Media understands Milford requires consent from Raiders management to activate the clause.
It could be some time before his future is resolved and Raiders coach David Furner is adamant he wants the fullback to concentrate on football.
The drama is a potential distraction Canberra can ill afford after the biggest loss in club history.
Milford’s potential departure would be a huge blow for the Raiders, who are tired of developing elite junior talent only to see them depart for other clubs.
In a statement by the club on Monday, Raiders chief executive Don Furner confirmed Ayoub had requested a release for Milford. Furner said the Raiders would wait until the end of the season before discussing the rising star’s future.
‘‘We always treat welfare issues of our players seriously and we will meet with Anthony and his manager at the end of the year to avoid distraction as the team prepares for their remaining games of the season and a bid for the finals,’’ he said.
‘‘We want Anthony with us here at the Raiders long-term and we will be doing all we can to keep him at the club and Anthony’s welfare is of the utmost importance to us.’’
After one of the darkest days in club history, Canberra faces competition leaders Sydney Roosters in Sydney this Saturday.
Coach Furner said the Milford matter would need to go to before the board.
‘‘At the moment we need to worry about footy games, that’s all I need the team to think about and Tony as well,’’ Furner said.
‘‘It’ll be at the end of the year. I don’t want to entertain it right at the moment because we don’t need to make a decision on it.’’
Under NRL guidelines, rival clubs are prohibited from talking to contracted players until November 1.
Milford had explored the option of moving his family to Canberra, but his father’s doctor reportedly has advised against it.
A candidate for rookie of the year, Milford was spotted by Raiders scouts in Brisbane at age 13.
Meanwhile, Furner won’t guarantee Blake Ferguson an NRL return against the Roosters on Saturday, despite the Raiders suffering their worst loss on Sunday.
Ferguson has played two games for NSW Cup side Mounties after returning from an NRL-imposed suspension to undergo alcohol rehabilitation.
Raiders winger Sandor Earl is in some doubt after suffering a cork to his leg in the 68-4 loss against Melbourne.
Prop Tom Learoyd-Lahrs should be available for selection after missing the past 11 games with an ankle injury.