Milford and Hunt's complementary combination

He doesn't drink, smoke or gamble. However many critics believed Broncos coach Wayne Bennett had indulged in all three vices when he decided roll the dice and turn one of the Telstra Premiership's most destructive running fullbacks into a play-making five-eighth.

Originally signed by the club in 2013 while Anthony Griffin was still in charge, Brisbane's former coach had also mooted the idea of playing Anthony Milford at second receiver but never had an opportunity to coach the 20-year-old after being replaced by Bennett last year.

 

 

The master coach already had the runs on the board after successfully overseeing Darren Lockyer's transition from the world's best fullback to champion five-eighth during the 2004 season. 

Lockyer was 26 with 195 games of NRL experience under his belt at the time of his switch and while Milford has a six-year head start over the Broncos legend, he only played six of his 42 games at the Raiders in the halves.

Milford took a number of weeks to ease into his new No.6 role for Brisbane; failing to register any tries, try assists, line breaks or line-break assists during his opening four games.

"You (the media) can write what you like and say what you like," said Bennett, when pressed about Milford's underwhelming performance after Brisbane's 36-6 loss against South Sydney in Round 1.

"When Darren Lockyer went to five eighth you all jumped on the bandwagon and bagged him and bagged me and he went on to be one of the great players of the game.

"They're different players but I'm just telling you I know what I'm dealing with – I'm not going to go away from it."

Questions continued to be raised regarding Bennett's plan for Milford until his prized recruit broke the shackles with a double against the Titans in Round 5.

Since then the Souths Acacia Ridge junior has scored a further five tries and contributed towards the team with five line breaks, four line-break assists and three try assists.

The Brisbane-born speedster complements these numbers with a club-high 42 tackle breaks, meaning if the former Raider isn't ripping the defensive line to shreds, he's using his explosive acceleration to bust through tackles in order to create opportunities for others.

The softly spoken former Samoa representative made 90 tackle busts, 17 line breaks and scored 12 tries during his final season at Canberra, but recognises the work his new teammates and halves partner Ben Hunt are doing in order to make his five-eighth transition easier.

"A lot of credit goes to 'Benny' [Hunt] and our front-rowers that are doing the hard yards so that I can put myself in the game," Milford said.

"That's going pretty good at the moment and we've grown together as a team since Round 1 and it is showing out on the field what we're capable of. 

"Fingers crossed we can only get better as a team and the boys individually as well."

Milford and Hunt's partnership is making better progress than many expected at the halfway point of the season, with the halves duo leading the NRL in tries scored and line-break assists. 

Their contrasting playing styles complemented each other; with Milford's running game and Hunt's organisational skills and kicking game combining together to form one of the game's most exciting attacking amalgamations.

Milford has been sharpening his kicking game at Broncos training throughout the season in an effort to take fifth-tackle pressure off Hunt, who has made more kicks than any other player in the competition this season, booting the Steeden 182 times in 13 matches.

In contrast Milford has only made 32 kicks with hooker Andrew McCullough chiming in 23 times. 

"I'm just trying to do the little things right – getting my head over the ball and ball placement – other than that I just leave it up to Benny and try to learn anywhere I can," he said.

Meanwhile Hunt acknowledged Brisbane's most successful halves pairing – Allan Langer and Kevin Walters – for the work they've done behind the scenes at Red Hill to nurture his fledging partnership with Milford and further improve his kicking skills.

"Working with 'Alfie' has helped a lot and 'Kevvie' also does work with us," Hunt said.

"The biggest thing I wanted to improve this year was my kicking game. I felt I was really patchy last year and I knew I could be a better kicker, I just had to keep working at it and I'm still working on it now.

"Having two old halves that were some of the greats of the game being there is definitely helping."