Milford the man for the moment
Origin matches are decided by moments and Queensland halfback Cooper Cronk has vowed to work doubly hard this week to ensure his new halves partner Anthony Milford is in position to seize his when he makes his Origin debut on Wednesday night.
The dominant storyline of the opening three days of Queensland's 2017 Holden State of Origin campaign was put to bed on Thursday morning when 18th man Johnathan Thurston was officially withdrawn from the squad, paving the way for Milford to start in the No.6 jersey in which he was named on Monday.
It will be the first time in Cronk's 20-game Origin career that he will take to the field without Thurston in the team and the Melbourne No.7 says he must take on additional responsibility to ensure he and Milford get off to a winning start.
The Maroons' new-look halves pairing had their first field session on Thursday afternoon and will have three further runs prior to Wednesday night, Cronk encouraging his 22-year-old five-eighth to bring his electrifying brand of football to the Origin arena.
In the absence of Ben Hunt the past five weeks at the Broncos Milford has been required to take on greater responsibility for the running of the team, something Cronk says he won't have to worry about against the Blues.
"What he needs to do is focus on two things that make him a really good player and concentrate on that," said Cronk.
"There are a few other blokes who know how to get a football team around a paddock so I'll have a chat to 'Milf' and tell him he doesn't need to worry about the other stuff that goes on, there are a few guys that can manage that. You just bring what you do best to the football field in terms of the skill and we'll be right.
"The advice is 'see ball, get ball' and take it from there but don't stress about the running of the game or management of the team because what Milford brings to a football team is that one-on-one ability to explode and beat somebody.
"I'll try, and other people will try, to get him in that position as often as possible.
"We haven't played together and I'm going to work my backside off this week to make sure that we can fast-track our relationship and get the performance that Queensland needs on Wednesday night."
Few players have the ability to turn a game on its head in the blink of an eye the way Milford can, his 106 NRL games to date a proliferation of breathtaking moments of brilliance that Cronk believes can transfer perfectly into the Origin arena.
"In terms of over-calling, it comes quite naturally so if you see a 4-on-3, a 3-on-2, as a rugby league player you're trained to take advantage of those situations," said Cronk, who will earn the Dick 'Tosser' Turner Medal for playing 20 Origin matches for Queensland.
"He won't be sitting back saying, I won't do that. You see an opportunity you don't hesitate, you grab that ball. Because that's what Origin's about, it's about moments and it's about not hesitating.
"When that moment happens you've got to be ready and prepared to do it."
Also helping to usher in the next generation of Queensland halves is the man Milford is replacing, Johnathan Thurston.
Thurston will stay in camp to help fast-track Milford's Origin education and believes making the decision so early in the week will help him adjust to the daunting assignment that lies ahead of him.
"I spoke to 'Milf' [on Wednesday] night, he can get that clarity now and start preparing," said Thurston shortly after the decision was made that he wouldn't play.
"He knows that he is playing. I'm not too sure what Kevvie [Walters, Queensland coach] is going to do with the team but he will be there so he will prepare the best that he can.
"He just needs to worry about getting his preparation right and the best thing about this team is you only have to worry about yourself. Prepare the best you can and do the job for the team.
"We're not asking you to go over and beyond just do your job and no doubt he will do that.
"He is a super talent and I love watching him play."