Milford's key to unlock Hunt combination
Brilliant Broncos five-eighth Anthony Milford is adamant his halves partnership with Ben Hunt will flourish in 2017 if they both remember to do one simple thing: run.
With their complimentary skill sets the combination between Milford and Hunt gelled instantly and helped guide the Broncos to the 2015 Telstra Premiership Grand Final but at times in 2016 neither player looked totally sure of who was in charge.
Hunt's natural play-making abilities are that of a classical halfback while the electrifying play Milford has become famous for seems to stem most often from an off-the-cuff instinctive reaction to what is unfolding in front of him.
When they were paired together for the first time in 2015 Hunt was issued with the role of game manager as Milford settled in to his new surroundings but last year the 22-year-old was handed more responsibility for the function of the team.
Both concede they are still working on how to best combine their skills but Milford says that he knows what their primary focus needs to be in 2017.
"I know when we're on, when we're both running the ball," said Milford, who is preparing to deputise for Jordan Kahu as the club's second-choice goal-kicker next season.
"When we were both running the ball that's when I know we're both on and I know everything will click then.
"That first year I had here he had a lot of pressure on himself and I didn't quite take that much pressure off him during the season and that's what I wanted to do this year.
"I wanted to share the role and I know how Ben plays and what he brings to the team and I didn't want to disrupt that.
"It's something that we're working on and I think we'll get it right this year."
Although he finished third in try assists behind Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk and second behind Thurston for total kicks in general play this season, Hunt in particular came in for criticism for Brisbane's losses.
When he played well it gave Milford the time and space to mesmerise opposition defences and take the plaudits while any loss by the Broncos saw the spotlight turned up and directly onto the No.7.
Hunt is aware that that is the lot of almost every halfback in the NRL but admitted that it would be nice to get some of the credit when the team does well.
"I just think that's part of being a halfback," Hunt said. "If you lose you're going to get a bit of slack but I don't mind at all.
"'Milf' is a great player and he deserves all the credit he gets but at the same time I wouldn't mind getting some myself sometimes I guess."
As for his own personal assessment of his performances throughout the 2016 season, Hunt said that he may have been guilty of stepping back and allowing Milford to dominate rather than taking control of the game himself.
"I maybe took a bit of a back seat to 'Milf' but I couldn't really put my finger on it during the year, what was happening, I just seemed to be fading out of games a bit," said Hunt, who has now played 166 NRL games for Brisbane.
"I'm still trying to work most of it out to be honest. Now and then in games I'd go missing for 15 minutes and after the game I'd realised what had happened. It's something I've got to fix.
"We're still trying to get [our combination] right. We've definitely been improving on it but my role is to control the team and get us into our sets and where we want to go and Milf's job is to put a bit of magic on and score some tries hopefully, which he does.
"We're still working on that and Milf's really good. He always does what's asked of him but I think we've still got a long way to go."
A key contributor to the emergence of Hunt and Milford as an elite halves partnership was the guiding hand of assistant coach Kevin Walters who knows better than most the pressures associated with being a playmaker at the Broncos.
That role has now been handed to Jason Demetriou who is fast developing an impressive coaching resume and Milford likes what he has seen in the early weeks of the pre-season.
"He's done a few skills stuff working with the halves and he's a real good teacher of the game," Milford said.
"It's something that me and the halves will all look at and pick stuff from his brain and put it into our game."