All Stars call-up to elevate Milford's game
He was the finest player on the field in the eyes of many in the 2015 Telstra Premiership Grand Final but Anthony Milford's game is set to receive a further boost with selection in the World All Stars team in December.
With new guidelines encouraging the selection of six players with Pacific Island heritage and World All Stars coach Wayne Bennett's insistence on playing an exciting brand of football, Milford is perfectly positioned to make his All Stars debut at Suncorp Stadium on February 13.
Voting for the Indigenous All Stars team is open now until December 6 with it and the Bennett-selected World All Stars team to be unveiled in mid December.
In his first full year at five-eighth in the NRL, Milford capped a stellar season with a sublime performance in Brisbane's heart-breaking grand final defeat to the Cowboys, running for 219 metres, making seven tackle busts and two line breaks, the last of which seemed to have put the Broncos within reach of the title.
Entrusted with the famous Brisbane No.6 jersey by Bennett from the very start of the season, Milford finished the year with as many line-break assists as halves partner Ben Hunt (16), 13 line breaks and 14 try assists but Bennett believes a week in All Stars camp will help to further elevate his extraordinary talents.
"Last year I brought a young player in because I thought it would be great for him and it's a really good environment to come into," said Bennett who blooded Matt Moylan and Luke Brooks in the 2015 NRL All Stars team.
"They're good blokes and they all want to be there and I've had a number of them in the team over a number of years.
"Cameron Smith missed last year I think for the first time since it had been going so I like to think there are young guys out there – and maybe Anthony is one of those – that might just give them a bit more confidence about themselves being in such good company.
"With three Test captains there that's pretty important; there's a lot of experience with those three in the team."
There were 11 Australian-aligned players in Bennett's 2015 All Stars team but new selection criteria will cut that number to four along with four Kiwis and four English players.
An allocation of six players from Pacific nations such as Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and Papua New Guinea will form part of the 20-man squad of Bennett's choosing, a number he believes is the correct representation.
"I think it's right and fair numbers," Bennett said of the squad's make-up.
"They all see themselves as equal – Australia, New Zealand and England – in terms of the Test format and the other nations are really developing great.
"It's been wonderful what we've been doing there from an international point of view of the game. There are six of those [Pacific Island players] that I can pick and I think that's a pretty fair number."
Since its inception in 2010 the All Stars concept has always had the backdrop of a celebration of Indigenous culture but founder Preston Campbell hopes that it can now extend to a celebration of the wide range of cultures in the game today.
"We're talking Indigenous culture but there are so many different cultures in rugby league now," Campbell said.
"We're a very multi-cultural game so it needs to be shared around.
"I know there are a lot of guys out there with cultures very similar to the Indigenous one who are also very, very proud of it and I'm hoping they'll show that pride not just during the game but during the week as well.
"In the past, the Indigenous side always felt like they had to lift for the jersey and I think now with this World All Stars, players coming from different countries will feel like they've got to lift for their heritage and their culture."