Brisbane coach Kevin Walters has explained why he had to drop $1 million man Anthony Milford as mixed messages emerged about the under-fire five-eighth.
The Broncos — who have won just once from five attempts in 2021 — confirmed Milford would be banished to reserve grade this weekend, as the team shows few signs of improvement since claiming its first ever wooden spoon last year.
Watch The 2021 NRL Telstra Premiership Live & On-Demand with No Ad-Breaks During Play. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >
The size of his pay packet has made Milford a lightning rod for criticism in recent times and Walters said he needs time away without the burden of expectation to regain his confidence.
“He needs to go back and find himself, find his form and find the Anthony Milford we all know he can be,” Walters told The Australian.
“I think a lot of them here have (lost confidence). It hasn’t been a great couple of years for them. We’re trying to drag them back out of that world and it is taking time.
“We will get there with it. Anthony has been part of all that. I feel it is a time to relieve the pressure off him and he can just go and play some footy.”
Mixed messages reveal Kevvie’s mess
Walters said he expects Milford to be back in the top flight within a month, but the decision to axe the 26-year-old comes just days after the coach declared his playmaker had “his best game of the year” in a 35-6 loss to the Rabbitohs last Thursday.
Tom Dearden and Brodie Croft will play in the halves this week against Penrith as Walters continues to chop and change his key positions in a bid to find the best combination.
Speaking on NRL 360 on Monday night, Paul Kent said: “I think he (Walters) is more confused than anybody (when it comes to managing his halves).
“All I can say in Kevvie’s defence there is he’s obviously gone away and watched the video … and re-appraised what his thoughts were. That’s the only way you can understand him saying that (about Milford’s best performance) after the game, then dropping him today.”
Young gun Dearden was tipped to start the season as Brisbane’s first choice No. 7 but was left out of the team altogether for the first two rounds before being brought onto the bench for a round three win over the Bulldogs.
The 20-year-old took Croft’s spot in the starting line-up when Melbourne hammered the Broncos 40-6 and kept it in the last start against South Sydney.
Fox Sports chief NRL reporter James Hooper told NRL 360: “I don’t think Tom Dearden’s overly happy with the way the beginning of the season played out, and the North Queensland Cowboys have been pushing very hard to try and convince him to move up to Townsville.”
Ex-Queensland Origin star Ben Ikin has a theory on why Walters has kept reshuffling his halves, suggesting the problems at Red Hill were more severe than the coach anticipated.
“Why I think I see this merry-go-round at the moment is that this season, for the Broncos, because Kevvie inherited such a broken organisation, is as much about getting a sense for who can do what,” Ikin said.
“I’ve got no doubt that the three blokes he’s inherited as playmakers this year, he didn’t get what he thought he was getting.
“So he’s trying to find out who works best with who.”