Brisbane great Allan Langer has urged the Broncos to take a punt on Anthony Milford at five-eighth, insisting he can follow his lead and silence the knockers who believe his small frame will be a defensive liability.
Langer used criticism that his diminutive frame wasn't up to State of Origin by ending his career as one of the game's greatest halfbacks. Ben Barba has shifted into the halves for Brisbane in recent weeks and reports have suggested he might keep the No.6 jersey when Canberra Raiders star Milford joins the Broncos next season.
Newcastle's Darius Boyd has also been touted as an option should he decide to follow Wayne Bennett to the club.
But Langer is adamant Milford, who has been superb at fullback for Canberra, would be the ideal foil for in-form Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt. Langer was impressed by what he saw when he watched Milford train as a playmaker with the Queensland squad before Origin II.
Milford played there as a junior, and Brisbane will get a sneak peak of his capacity to play there when he deputises for injured five-eighth Terry Campese when Canberra plays Parramatta on Saturday night.
Some Raiders fans would prefer halfback Mitch Cornish, who returns to the side on the bench, be given a run in the starting side to prepare for next season.
"Milford trained in the halves with the Origin side and I saw what skills he's got, he'll definitely be a great running half,'' Langer said. "I'd rather see him play in the halves. He'd get his hands on the ball a lot more, and at fullback there's a fair amount of pressure on you as well.
"He can work off second-phase play, and work a lot more with his forwards. I wasn't the greatest defender but you just have to put your body in front of them and play with personal pride.''
Broncos great Darren Lockyer is the best example of a star fullback seamlessly shifting to five-eighth.
But Milford is only 20 and weighs just 88kg, and will be a target for rival forward packs keen to test his defensive resolve and drain his energy for attack.
"It takes a while [to adjust], the only way to get better at it is to get out there and do it,'' Langer said. "I had it [defensive traffic] for most of my career, it's part of the game and rugby league's about putting your body on the line.
"Everyone's got to realise he's only 20 and he's got work in front of him, but he's got a great football mind on him and the skills to match. I'm looking forward to him coming to the Broncos, and playing in the halves. Both he and Benny Hunt have good running games and I think they'd be great together.''
Meanwhile, Milford's agent Sam Ayoub says a mix-up over times was behind him missing a meeting with NRL salary cap investigators. Milford was set to meet members of the NRL integrity unit last week as part of an investigation into claims Brisbane have cheated the salary cap by $450,000 over the past three years. The 20-year-old is joining the Broncos on a two-year deal from next season.
Ayoub said, contrary to reports Milford had dodged the meeting, confusion over times had resulted in it being necessary to reschedule the appointment for this week.
‘‘It was a genuine miscommunication in relaying the time of the meeting,’’ Ayoub said. ‘‘He never deliberately missed anything. It’s all been rescheduled and we’ll meet with them (investigators) next week.’’
There is no suggestion Milford’s move north is in jeopardy. Several Broncos players have met investigators in the past fortnight, including star recruits Ben Barba and Martin Kennedy.
Broncos coach Anthony Griffin said there was nothing untoward about the interviews, which are a normal part of the investigation process.
The NRL’s inquiry was launched in late May and is believed to centre around the Broncos possibly guaranteeing third-party payments. A News Corp report claimed a potential smoking gun is a $400,000 loan from the Leagues Club, a separate entity to the publicly listed NRL business, to former football manager Andrew Gee.
- With AAP