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NZ will not let Milford slip through its fingers

Date

Jon Tuxworth

Raiders player Anthony Milford scores a try.

Raiders player Anthony Milford scores a try. Photo: Melissa Adams

Anthony Milford could be the next player caught in a tug-of-war between Australia and New Zealand, with the Canberra Raiders whiz kid set to earn selection for the Junior Kiwis next month.

Despite starring for the Queensland under-18s this year, The Canberra Times has learned Milford is almost certain to be named for the Junior Kiwis against the Junior Kangaroos at Townsville on October 13.

The 18-year-old guided the Raiders to the SG Ball grand final this year, and has since graduated seamlessly to the club's Toyota Cup side.

His footwork and speed has drawn comparisons to a young Benji Marshall, and he is set to be fast-tracked into New Zealand's side to help keep Queensland at bay.

Milford was born in Brisbane and played most of his football in the Souths-Logan region, a fertile breeding ground for the Raiders.

But he has New Zealand heritage and spent a couple of years of his childhood in the Auckland suburb of Avondale.

Milford announced himself as a star of the future with his match-winning field goal in the Raiders' thrilling Toyota Cup semi-final win over Cronulla last week.

It is believed New Zealand Rugby League will wait until he's completed his finals commitments with Canberra before making contact with the five-eighth.

Milford yesterday said he is yet to make up his mind on who he would pledge his allegiance to.

''I haven't thought about that too much, we'll see what happens I guess,'' he said.

''I'm a bit of both [New Zealander and Queenslander]. I don't know, I haven't really made up my mind yet.''

The New Zealand hierachy is still smarting following Cowboys prop James Tamou's decision to snub his country of birth and play for Australia and NSW this year.

And it is determined not to let another prodigious talent slip through its fingers.

New Zealand high performance manager Tony Kemp said young players can ''get confused'' by the promise of big money and the big stage of State of Origin.

''He's a young kid, you only have to look at him to know he's a New Zealander,'' Kemp said.

''He's been over there [Queensland] and been through the system, but we'd like to think Anthony Milford will choose the black and white jersey and play for New Zealand.

''Money takes care of itself. A short-term gain of $60,000, you can't keep bringing that up and confusing kids.

''If they're good enough to play for New Zealand, the money will follow.''

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