Milford's voice empowering young men
It's a voice that is at its strongest within the confines of a rugby league field but quietly-spoken Broncos superstar Anthony Milford is now using his profile to encourage young men in Brisbane's south to have the courage to be heard.
Fuelled by the tragic loss of close family friend Francis Winterstein last year, Milford volunteered his time to the students of Marsden State High School when he heard about their student-inspired program called 'Mates Talk Change'.
Centred around young men being able to express how they are truly feeling, it is one school's way of addressing the alarming increase in youth suicide and one that Milford now dedicates time each week to participate in.
Having completed his qualifications as a youth worker in 2014 at just 20 years of age, Milford said his primary role at Marsden is to give the students someone they feel they can talk to about whatever issues they may currently be dealing with.
"A lot of them are shy of me at the moment but we're a month in now and they've opened up," Milford told NRL.com.
"We all spoke about the fact that for this program to work everyone has to be committed towards it. Everyone is slowly opening up and everyone is getting to know each other's story. Just letting them know that there is always someone there to talk to and there are ways around what they're going through.
"I think anything is fixable and I think that's just what they need to get through their heads, that opening up would help that.
"Trying to keep things bottled in is not going to help your situation."
In his role with the community arm of the Broncos, Jharal Yow Yeh often visits Marsden State High School to deliver the Beyond the Broncos program that encourages high attendance rates for Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander kids.
Yow Yeh has also had to deal with the loss of a close friend to suicide and said the presence of Milford will be leaving an indelible imprint on the students at Marsden.
"He's Anthony Milford. He's a kid who is an absolute star, probably one of the best players in our game at the moment, and to be able to get him out to a school and send a message is a credit to him," Yow Yeh said.
"It doesn't happen all the time and he's put his hand up to go out of his way on his days off to go out there.
"I know what he's like as a friend and how passionate he is about helping kids. He lost one of his mates and I lost one of my mates and we don't talk about it much but when we do he gets real passionate about it.
"Young men are realising that something's got to change and that you don't have to be embarrassed to talk about anything.
"It's exciting that they've addressed it and they wanted to start this little group up and to have a mentor like Anthony there... He's been through it all and he's probably really, really happy that it's happening."
With Samoan heritage Milford is able to form instant cultural connections with the large number of Polynesian students who attend the school and said he is encouraged by the work being done within the NRL to address issues of mental health in young men.
"A lot of Polynesians that are coming through the NRL, especially through the 20s, are doing really well but then they get the sense of depression and pressures of different areas but they can get better if they know about it earlier," said Milford.
"It's pretty encouraging that a lot of the NRL players and a lot of the NRL clubs are trying to get programs like that inside and trying to do more about it.
"Educating the younger players coming through and notifying them that there's going to be pressures and there's going to be places that you are going to be put in that are very uncomfortable and that there are ways around it and different ways to handle different situations."
To learn more about mental health visit the NRL's State of Mind website.