Milford needs to take ownership: Prince
The puzzling equation that will be the making or breaking of Brisbane's 2018 season has only one solution, according to former halfback Scott Prince: Anthony Milford has to step up and take ownership of the Broncos.
The loss of Ben Hunt and addition of Jack Bird leaves Broncos coach Wayne Bennett with the conundrum of working out just who takes responsibility for the running of the team amongst three playmakers whose primary instinct is to run first and think later.
Milford's brilliance is unquestioned and he has the natural ability to change games in an instant but after having the steadying hand and dominant kicking game of Hunt by his side for the past three seasons, he will now have to play the senior role alongside Kodi Nikorima in the halves.
Given Hunt's shift into hooker late in the season Milford was required to take on more of the kicking duties but was less than consistent when it came to successfully forcing repeat sets and building pressure with attacking kicks.
There were times when a deft kick stayed in-goal long enough to force the opposition to make a play but there were plenty of others where the fans in the front row were the first to the Steeden.
A quiet person by nature whose commitment on the training park has at times been questioned, Milford can influence a game in extraordinary fashion but in his 118 NRL games to date the 23-year-old has shown little inclination to take ownership of a contest in the more subtle ways that define the champions of the game.
According to Prince, it's a skill he will need to learn quickly if the Broncos are to live up to their own lofty expectations.
"The thing that takes time for these super-talented young players to learn is that game management, knowing when to kick and what your team needs at a certain time," Prince told NRL.com.
"You're in the game but as a half you have to almost step out of the game and be aware of the clock, be aware of what your team needs at that moment, what the opposition are doing.
"I remember when people would say I was a half and I just wanted to play five-eighth or fullback. Until you're settled in regards to your position in the team, that's a hard responsibility to take on.
"Is he ready? He needs to be ready."
With nine players on World Cup duty and both Milford and Bird nursing shoulder injuries back to health it is a relatively sparse Broncos squad that has gathered at the University of Queensland's St Lucia campus for the early days of pre-season training.
Overseen by assistant coaches Kevin Walters and Jason Demetriou as Wayne Bennett plots England's path through the knockout stage of the World Cup, Milford is unlikely to begin working on new combinations until the new year.
When Milford does finally return, he needs to take note of the evolution of Johnathan Thurston during his career and try and find the balance in brilliance and control, according to Prince.
"'Milf' now knows he's an important cog in the machine for it to work and the players look for Milf to do something," said Prince, who played 50 of his 300 NRL games at the Broncos.
"He's got to be the game-breaker but he's also got to manage all those brilliant things that he can do with getting his kicking game in order, that game management and have that balance in his game.
"'JT' (Thurston) through his career was just playing off instinct and as he got older he just managed the game so well.
"His kicking game was spot on and that just comes with experience."