More needed for Milford to be Origin-ready
Anthony Milford has two weeks to convince Maroons coach Kevin Walters he is capable of stepping up into the intensity of the State of Origin arena but Broncos teammate Andrew McCullough says it will take more than simply outpointing Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans on Saturday night.
The Cowboys were very circumspect in their update of the injury to star half Johnathan Thurston on Monday afternoon, saying only that he doesn't require surgery and that the injury would not be season-ending.
Walters will already have a far greater idea of whether Thurston's timeline to recover exceeds the naming of the Queensland team on Monday, May 22 for Game One nine days later but for those on the selection fringes they must believe it is an opportunity that has suddenly opened up.
Playing for Samoa for the first time in four years on Saturday night Milford struggled to assert himself on the contest other than a try late to bridge the gap somewhat, prompting Broncos and England coach Wayne Bennett to say after the game that he "didn't take a lot of notice of Anthony actually".
Going head-to-head with the in-form Cherry-Evans in the second game of the blockbuster double-header at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night is ideal for Walters who also has Parramatta's Corey Norman and injured Broncos half Ben Hunt under consideration not to mention incumbent utility Michael Morgan.
But rather than focusing on a one-off individual battle with Cherry-Evans, McCullough believes Milford needs to deliver on a more consistent basis in order to put himself in the frame for Origin selection.
"With regards to injuries and speculation as to who comes in Anthony needs to perform every week, not just against Daly this week as is the case, but for the next month or so," McCullough said following a rain-soaked session on Monday morning.
"Good form against quality halves each week is what he needs to do.
"He's been around a while now, he's played in some big games and he's a quality player but there are a few things in his game that he knows he needs to work on to be up there in State of Origin calculations. If he gets that right the rest will take care of itself.
"He's a tremendous player but that's obviously up to Kevvie and their coaching staff for what fits their team and how they think he can fit in or if not."
Since the hamstring injury to Hunt in Round 6 Milford has partnered with Kodi Nikorima in the Broncos halves and recorded wins over the Titans, Rabbitohs and Panthers, McCullough noticing some subtle changes to the 22-year-old's on-field presence.
"He's had to be [more dominant], obviously with Kodi coming in fresh and not having played a halfback for a fair while now," McCullough said.
"That was Milford's job and 'Darbs' (Darius Boyd) is obviously helping him out the back a lot.
"Anthony's got a pretty simple game-plan, he doesn't have to direct the team a whole lot but he's certainly been a lot more direct and a lot more verbal out there."
Hunt (hamstring), centre James Roberts (ankle) and back-rower Tevita Pangai Jnr (knee) all trained away from the main group on Monday but appear to be progressing well.
Currently sitting fourth on the Telstra Premiership, Brisbane's clash with the sixth-placed Sea Eagles and a Titans team with two wins in succession taking on Melbourne makes for a mouth-watering feast of rugby league.
More than 52,000 fans crammed into Suncorp Stadium for last year's double-header and with stadium officials predicting a crowd of 45,000 this weekend McCullough says it is an event all footy fans should want to be part of.
"It's a great concept. The NRL have done a tremendous job with scheduling that well," said McCullough, the NRL's top tackler and leading NRL Fantasy point-getter through nine rounds.
"Other than us and Manly I think the Titans will put in a great show against Melbourne, that will be a tight game as well.
"Overall if you're a rugby league supporter you're going to enjoy Saturday night."