Hunt's absence makes Milford stronger
Broncos teammates Ben Hunt and Darius Boyd believe the responsibility Anthony Milford has had to take over the past month in Hunt's absence will hold him in good stead should he make his State of Origin debut for Queensland next Wednesday night.
Until Johnathan Thurston is definitively ruled out from playing a 37th consecutive Origin for Queensland doubt will linger over whether Milford will become the 186th player to represent the Maroons, but if given the opportunity his teammates from club land are adamant that he will step up to the mark.
Since Hunt suffered a hamstring injury against the Roosters in Round 6 Milford has piloted the Broncos to five successive wins and ahead of his return against the Warriors on Saturday his halves partner has seen a noticeable change in him.
Writing in this week's issue of Big League, Hunt said Milford has become a far more complete player in 2017 and has taking on a far greater share of the kicking duties – even when Hunt was still in the team.
"'Milf' has grown as a player every year he's been at the Broncos," Hunt says in the Round 12 issue of Big League.
"It was obvious when he came here that he was an awesome talent and he could play that off-the-cuff type of footy. As the years have gone on he's learnt to play structured football without losing the freakishness in his game.
"He's still got the ability to step a couple of blokes and make something happen when nothing is going on.
"The biggest aspect I've seen improve in his game this year has been his kicking. The first two years he was here I was doing 85 or 90 per cent of the kicking. At the start of this year, even when I was fit he was doing a lot more kicking – and since I've been out injured he's really taken over in that department.
"It's definitely exciting for Queensland to have him in their team."
As part of his preparation for his maiden Origin appearance next week Milford will practise over-calling Maroons halfback Cooper Cronk at training with Boyd of the opinion that his past five weeks of running the Broncos will give him the confidence to assert himself under the game's greatest spotlight.
"We have an over-riding call and we'll just get him to do that at training," Boyd said.
"That's his job, that's his role and the best thing about him getting this call-up now is that without Ben Hunt the last six weeks I think he's really stood up and been doing that a lot.
"He's probably been practising it in particular the past six weeks, to be over-riding calls. With over-riding calls, it's not about saying you want the ball when Cooper wants it, it's always a numbers game.
"If it's not on on the right then he'll know it's on the left and it won't be an over-ride call it's just the call that's right.
"Milf's played over 100 games now, he knows what he needs to do."
The Round 12 issue of Big League with complete Origin preview, stories on Shaun Johnson and Josh Hodgson and the top eight weird coincidences that the game has seen is on sale now at newsagents, supermarkets, at the ground and via www.magsonline.com.au/big-league.