Rugby League


Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart defends Anthony Milford benching

Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has defended the move to start boom fullback Anthony Milford from the bench in Friday's 22-14 loss to Canterbury, which virtually buried his side's remote finals hopes. 

As if losing six of their past seven games isn't bad enough, Mother Nature also conspired against the Green Machine when Milford's return from Queensland Origin camp on Thursday was delayed by fog at Canberra Airport. 

Milford's plane from Brisbane was diverted to Sydney and he only narrowly arrived home in time for Canberra's final training session.

But Stuart said the plan was always for the 19-year-old to be on the bench, with Reece Robinson to start at fullback given he was able to train all week there. 

Milford came on five minutes into the second half, and scored a late consolation try for the hosts. 

It was a golden chance for the off-contract Robinson to nail down the No. 1 jersey for next season with Milford to join the Brisbane Broncos. 


But he had a night to forget, highlighted by a second-half gaffe that gifted the Bulldogs a try and took the wind out of Canberra's sails. 

"He [Milford] got back probably an hour before training. His plane got to Canberra and had to be turned around and go back to Sydney,'' Stuart said. "But I planned to do that [start from bench] because Milford was in camp all week, and he only got the one session. 

"It was easier to train as a team with Reece at fullback for the four or five sessions we had this week.''

Milford is likely to be rushed back into the starting line-up for Saturday night's clash with Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium. 

It will be the first time Tigers fullback James Tedesco has confronted Canberra since he used the round 13 rule to backflip on a rich deal he signed with the Raiders. 

Basic errors again crippled the Raiders against the Bulldogs, and Stuart challenged his players to take individual responsibility.

"We had 12 turnovers and five of them were on tackle zero, or one or two,'' Stuart said. 

"We can't beat good footy teams like that by turning over that amount of possession; we just make it so hard for ourselves. 

"Until individually we take responsibility for it [we'll get nowhere], because that's how it's got to be. 

"I've got to fix me before we fix the squad is the attitude each individual has to have.

"I can't knock their effort. A lot of other teams would like to have what we've got in that regard, but I'd like to complete sets like other teams.''

Raiders skipper Terry Campese admitted it was ''scary'' when he left the field in the second half with an issue with his left knee, which has been reconstructed twice. He was relieved when he was cleared of major damage, and later returned to the action. 

"I just got a knock in the first half and after sitting down over the half-time break for 10 minutes, I came out and it was a bit sore,'' Campese said. "It was just a cork in a weird spot and I had to double check with the doc, because obviously it was a bit scary there at the start of that second half. Lucky enough it was nothing serious."