Anthony Milford in action against the Cowboys. Photo: Getty Images
Canberra Raiders prodigy Anthony Milford says he used suggestions he wouldn't play with commitment this season as motivation to ''prove a point'' against North Queensland on Saturday.
The fullback was outstanding in Canberra's 28-22 round-one loss in Townsville, quashing any doubts about his attitude in his final Raiders season before heading to Brisbane Broncos.
While he was electric in attack, it was Milford's desperation in defence which proved he's ready to put his body on the line and leave on a high.
Faced with stopping rampant Cowboys back-rower Jason Taumalolo in the first half, the pint-sized teenager brought him down in a one-on-one try-saver.
He also stopped Cowboys fullback Michael Morgan in the first half to prevent another four-pointer.
Asked if the criticism stung him and he used it as motivation, Milford said: ''I guess you could say that, but you take the good with the bad and you just try and push that out of your head.
''From week to week I need to try and prove a point to everyone. I was always going to give 100 per cent to my game.
''I didn't really focus too much on the outside and what happened there, Rick [Stuart, coach] kept us focused for this game and we were unlucky not to get the two points.''
Milford said he was relieved he could play football after the off-field circus that surrounded his contract negotiations over summer. ''A hundred per cent, [it's a relief],'' he said.
''Ricky sat me down and said 'don't worry about what's been said', he just wanted me to have a good year and it's good to finally be back playing footy.
''He just encourages me to back myself, and that's what I try to do.''
Stuart said the question marks aimed at Milford were unfair, and he never questioned the 19-year-old's commitment to the cause.
''I don't read very much of the media because of those types of comments,'' he said.
''If anybody knew Anthony Milford, they would never doubt him and have that opinion. He's a terrific competitor.''
The Raiders expect centre Jarrod Croker to be available for Sunday night's clash in Newcastle, despite aggravating a quadriceps injury scoring a long-range try against the Cowboys.
Croker relinquished goal-kicking duties to Reece Robinson as a precaution after scoring midway through the first half.
The Knights, already without star five-eighth Jarrod Mullen (hamstring) for several weeks, have a host of new injury concerns after Saturday's loss to Penrith.
Fullback Darius Boyd (hamstring), halfback Tyrone Roberts (concussion) and hooker Kurt Gidley (concussion) will be assessed this week.