Milford facing scrutiny like few other players

Anthony Milford concedes he is playing for his career at the Broncos, declaring he must step up as Brisbane's senior playmaker - or face being shown the door by coach Kevin Walters.

Milford is off-contract at season's end and after eight seasons and 180 NRL games, the jury is out on whether the highest paid player in Broncos history can find the consistency to break Brisbane's 15-year premiership drought.

Milford has been cleared of a fractured hand to take his place at five-eighth in Brisbane's premiership opener against the Eels on Friday week and says it's time for him to finally silence his growing band of critics.

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While Milford's preference is to finish his career at the Broncos, he accepts the matter may be taken out of his hands if the underfire pivot fails to spearhead a Brisbane recovery mission this season.

"I want to stay here," Milford said.

"That (his contract) is out of my control ... what is in my control is the way I perform on a week-to-week basis.

"It is a pretty big year for myself. My manager has a job to do but it's up to me to perform.

"I am ready for the challenge that comes ahead and whatever comes my way I will take it with two hands.

"I need to be better everywhere, I have to improve my defence and make sure I'm in the game in attack.

Anthony Milford has been cleared to return for round one after breaking his hand in pre-season. Picture: Annette Dew
Anthony Milford has been cleared to return for round one after breaking his hand in pre-season. Picture: Annette Dew

"'Kevvie' (coach Walters) knows I'm on my game when I'm running the ball.

"I need to bring that consistently in games ... I'll see how I go."

NRL halfback Immortal Andrew Johns was particularly savage on Milford last season, calling for the Broncos' $1 million playmaker to be axed after another erratic and injury-plagued campaign.

If anyone can get Milford firing, it is Walters.

As a former Broncos assistant coach to Wayne Bennett, Walters took Milford under his wing in 2015 and the quick-stepping pivot produced the best season of his career, going within a whisker of winning the Clive Churchill Medal in Brisbane's grand-final loss to the Cowboys.

But six years on, Milford's $4 million Broncos contract is on the brink of expiry and even the most rabid Brisbane fans are losing patience with the 26-year-old.

There has always been a question mark over Milford's desire. There is a view he lacks the work ethic to become a bona fide NRL superstar. After two years battling shoulder, hamstring and hand injuries, Milford must stay fit to convince Walters he is worth a new deal.

"Being on the sidelines didn't help (last year). My hamstring was playing on my mind a little bit," Milford said.

"We have a younger group so we have to make sure we improve on last year and not end up with the wooden-spoon again.

"A big part of that is on my shoulders. I have been trying to focus a lot on myself this pre-season to make sure I am in the best physical shape I can be.

"Kevvie brings back the fundamentals of being a half. He is working hard with the halves and making sure we are getting our lines right and making the right calls. It's little basic stuff I need to improve in my game.

"I have passed all the tests on my hand to be passed fit for round one. I haven't played since the Dragons (in August) last year so I can't wait to get back out there again."

Originally published as Milford facing scrutiny like few other players