Ultimatum: Broncos prepared to axe club’s $1m man
ANTHONY Milford faces a career-defining year at Red Hill, with Broncos bosses ready to slash his $1 million salary - or axe him altogether - if he fails to ignite Brisbane's offence this season.
Milford has shown he is ready to fight for his future by producing a sizzling preseason, slashing almost 5kg from his frame ahead of his 2020 debut in the NRL Nines tournament, which starts on Friday in Perth.
His past two preseasons hampered by surgeries, Milford is finally fit and injury-free.
Broncos assistant coach Kurt Richards has revealed the pivot is the fittest he's been in his five-year career at the Broncos.
It is an emphatic statement by Milford at a time when Broncos powerbrokers are applying a forensic microscope to the $1 million-a-season contract that makes him the highest-paid player in Brisbane's history.
For all Milford's natural talent, the monster contract has been a millstone around his neck and now Brisbane coach Anthony Seibold is assessing the ramifications for the Broncos' salary-cap position.
The 25-year-old is contracted until the end of next season, but the 2021 component of his deal is a 12-month option in his favour, technically making him a free agent this year.
Milford has until May to produce some sublime form and convince Brisbane bosses he is worth retaining on the same salary, or risk being released on a subsidised deal if the Broncos finally lose faith in his ability to be their franchise player.
Seibold pulled no punches with Milford in the off-season, warning he must work harder, and the Queensland Origin utility has responded in a sign he is ready to fight for the Broncos' No.6 jumper.
"He is certainly the fittest he has been at the club," Richards said of Milford, who joined the Broncos from Canberra at the start of 2015.
"He has spoken about his skin folds, but he will obviously be judged on what he does out on the park.
"There's plenty to expect from Anthony and being with someone like Brodie Croft (halfback recruit from the Storm) will suit him well.
"Anthony isn't one to game-manage a team and get them around the park and focus on his sets on the last play. He now has 'Crofty' who can do that job and he can sit back and keep his eyes on the opposition and pull the trigger when he needs to.
"I am pretty excited to see that combination blossom between him and Crofty."
Richards admits he has seen an attitude shift in Milford, who is primed to fire in this year's NRL Nines after some below-par displays in a format that is tailor-made for his attacking style.
"He has gone to a few nines competitions and he will say himself he didn't fire a shot in those tournaments," Richards said.
"My role with him is working on his kicking game and I have noticed a big change in him.
"He has put a lot of time and effort into it like he did back in 2018 and I think he will reap the rewards at the back of the season.
"I'm pretty excited for what he will bring this year because of what he can do."
Veteran Broncos fullback Darius Boyd said the club could not afford to lose Milford.
"When the team plays well and guys are doing their job, Milf is usually our best player every week," Boyd said.
"In years gone by, when we've been successful as a team, Milf has stood out and shone and it will be no different this year.
"You have to ask Milf about his future but he can't worry about things he can't control. I just know Milf loves playing footy and being around the group at the Broncos.
"He's in great shape and he is one of those guys you love having in your team because he makes other players look good."
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