Hot property ... Anthony Milford. Photo: Getty Images
Canberra halfback Mitch Cornish has implored good friend Anthony Milford to remain loyal to the Raiders as the club ramps up negotiations to ward off his move to Brisbane.
Milford's manager Sam Ayoub met with the Raiders on Thursday, but the tug of war for his services looks far from a resolution.
Earlier this year Ayoub requested a release on behalf of Milford from the final year of his contract so he can be closer to his sick father Halo in Brisbane.
Mitch Cornish. Photo: Colleen Petch
His future at the Raiders is more uncertain after former Parramatta coach Ricky Stuart was installed as head coach ahead of interim mentor Andrew Dunemann.
Nineteen-year-old Milford capped a stunning debut season by winning the Mal Meninga Medal on Wednesday night, and Cornish is hopeful it will help convince him to stay in green. The pair combined last year to guide Canberra to the under-20 grand final, and have the potential to forge one of the NRL's best young halves partnerships.
Canberra is also desperate to lock up in-demand centre Jack Wighton beyond next season.
''They're two of my best mates, both are absolute freaks and two of the best young players in the competition, especially Tony,'' Cornish said. ''I love playing with him, we've got a pretty good combination.
''You can just see what he can do out of nothing. It would be great to keep building that with him.''
Dunemann coached Milford in the under-20s last year, and the pair have developed a tight bond.
It is believed the chances of Milford staying would have skyrocketed if he was coach, but Ayoub's long friendship with Stuart could also be a factor.
Speaking after his Mal Meninga Medal win on Wednesday, the 19-year-old said he is remaining open-minded about his future.
''I've left the contract stuff up to my manager, I'm just concentrating on things I need to work on over the off season,'' Milford said. ''I have a father that's at home, we're going to have to see about his health.
''Compared to where he was 12 months ago when he had the heart attack he's going a lot better than expected, things are looking good.
''The options are wide open.''
It is understood the Raiders are more optimistic than a month ago about keeping Milford. Stuart said on Thursday he would seek an urgent meeting with Milford, comparing him to a young Johnathan Thurston and saying Canberra could build a team around him.
Ayoub confirmed Milford would head home to Brisbane for a few weeks while his future is resolved.
''It [Thursday's meeting] was just a general catch-up with Don [Furner, Raiders chief executive] about a number of things,'' Ayoub said.
''We probably talked about five or six players. I haven't spoken to Stick [Stuart] since his appointment, no doubt he'll be proactive in what he thinks is important.
''I'm not losing any sleep over rushing into anything, there's no need to.''
Stuart's defection from Parramatta could open the door for Canberra to make a play for Souths hooker Nathan Peats, who signed a three-year deal with the Eels in July. Peats is also part of Ayoub's stable, but he declined to comment when asked whether the 22-year-old is one of the Eels recruits who has a get-out clause in his contract if Stuart isn't coach.
It is understood the Raiders considered pursuing Peats last year after they missed out on Manly rake Matt Ballin.
Canberra's first-choice hooker Glen Buttriss has been ruled out for six months with a shoulder injury.