How Milford's advice set 'Jet' free
The timing could not have been worse for Titans fans still smarting from his off-season departure but Anthony Milford has revealed how some calming words helped James Roberts to find his place in the Brisbane Broncos juggernaut.
Freed to look beyond the Gold Coast following the discovery of a discrepancy in his Titans contract Roberts was snapped up by Wayne Bennett as a replacement for the retired Justin Hodges at right centre and faces his former club for the first time on Friday night.
The reigning Dally M Centre of the Year struggled for involvement in the opening three weeks – failing to register a try or single line break – before cutting loose last Friday against the Cowboys with Brisbane's go-ahead try in the 74th minute along with a try assist, three line breaks and six tackle busts.
While Bennett and Roberts' Brisbane teammates remained patient, the public was beginning to wonder when 'The Jet' would finally catch fire, something Milford was easily able to relate to.
Similar acts of brilliance were expected from Milford upon his arrival at Brisbane 12 months earlier and he copped criticism as he sought to find his feet, that experience helping him to ease Roberts into his Broncos introduction.
"After our first game I told him not to worry about it," Milford told NRL.com of the expectation on Roberts.
"I was the same last year; I was in the same boat. I didn't have the best start to my Broncos career but I just told him that it would take him a little while to get used to how things are done around here and that he didn't have to do too much.
"You just have to do your own job and if you do yours things will work out for yourself."
The Milford-Roberts double act that tore the Cowboys to pieces on a couple of occasions is one of the most exciting aspects to Friday night's south-east Queensland showdown between two teams level at the top of the table on three wins apiece.
In the first half a Roberts line break led to a try for Milford and then Milford repaid the favour in the dying stages, happy to see the speedster looming on his outside when he broke through a Johnathan Thurston tackle deep inside Brisbane territory.
"As soon as I made my break down that side, if you saw me I'm looking for someone straight away," Milford said.
"I knew 'Jimmy the Jet' was coming through so I was lucky enough that he was lucky enough to come through and score the try.
"You just saw on Friday night that he came alight and it was a good sight to see."
Although deep down in still hurts, even former Titans teammate Greg Bird was pleased to see Roberts return to the type of form that netted him an equal club record 16 tries last season.
The pair have remained in close contact since the 23-year-old's sudden departure and Bird is expecting an even better performance from Roberts at Cbus Super Stadium on Friday.
"Jimmy's a great player. He's one of my favourite players to play with so we're going to have our hands full this week playing against him," Bird said. "He was at his best again last week.
"It took him a little bit to get going this year and going to a new team, it's always going to be like that, but he showed why he was the Dally M Centre of the Year last year and expect quite a similar performance if not more involvement this week.
"I'm sure he'll be wanting to get one up on his former teammates.
"I've been in close contact with him the last couple of weeks, just texting him to see how he's going and to congratulate him on a good performance last week and he does the same, we're still good mates.
"I'm filthy that he left but whether he plays up there or down here I still think he's a good fella and I'd like to think he'd call me a mate as well."