Milford reveals how Benji made him a better player
Gone, but certainly not forgotten.
Benji Marshall has left the Broncos but five-eighth Anthony Milford has told NRL.com of the major contribution he made to making him an all-round better player.
With Ben Hunt also moving on, Milford is set to take on extra responsibility with kicking duties and game management generally in 2018.
They are two areas where Marshall was a major influence.
As a youth, Milford sensed a kindred spirit in Marshall and would study his game with awe.
"There were days at school where I'd just sit on You Tube and watch highlights of Benji," Milford told NRL.com.
"I loved his natural flair. What he does, you just can't coach. So having him at the Broncs last year was pretty surreal.
"He was a big help to me and it was like having another teacher.
"He helped my kicking game a lot and really broke things down with kicking.
"Benji's game management is really good and that is something I need to build in my game. I took a lot of knowledge from him on that."
Milford said this year he would "pick out all the things I've learned from Benji" and add them to his kitbag.
"Last year, and the previous couple of years where Ben [Hunt] was here he was our talker on the field and was getting us to certain points," Milford said.
"I was more of a runner and setting up our left side.
"Taking more control of the side will be my big focus this year."
After shoulder surgery at the end of last season, Milford had his first hit-out of the pre-season against the PNG Hunters on Saturday where his body held up and he set up several tries.
Now he can't wait to reboot his halves partnership with Kodi Nikorima in the Telstra Premiership opener next Thursday against St George/Illawarra.
Milford first came across his halves partner when he was a junior at Souths-Acacia Ridge and Nikorima was at Aspley Devils
"It all goes back to our junior football 12, 13 and 14 years ago," Milford said.
"I grew up playing against him. He was always the best player in the opposing team and killed it every time.
"They had a strong side and we just couldn't get a win against them, and it all came off Kodi. He was their main guy.
"Then I went into rep camps with Kodi and got real close and that bond grew from then on, so it was pretty surreal last year when we got to put the six and seven jersey on together for the Broncos."
Pretty successful too, with 11 wins resulting from the 13 games the duo started together.
Milford said he saw no reason why that success would not continue.
"I think it can work because we both have a belief in the process that goes with winning," he said.
"It is a good thing when we jump on the training paddock and do our team runs and build those combinations.
"There are a few things we are doing at training where I will jump down his short side or he will come over to my side.
"In attack we have really nailed it down where we are not locked on the one side of the field.
"I am looking forward to seeing what we can build for the next three or so years, and hopefully this year we can build something special too."
Helping the pair build that combination is Broncos assistant coach Kevin Walters who has been driving the duo to take their game to the next level.
"Kevvie has been real strict with us," Milford said.
"He has been big on Kodi and I doing the little things properly and to the best of our ability, that's with passing, kicking …everything.
"He's making sure we just don't go through the motions at training and that everything we do is for a purpose and that we get something out of it at the end of every session."
At the end of training Walters can be seen with a giant bag of balls slung over his shoulder walking out to the training field to put Milford, Nikorima and the other kickers through their drills.
They are sessions Milford has cherished.
"Kicking has been the main focus for me for the last couple of years because it was something I needed to get better at, and I think I have got better," he said.
"It comes down to repetition and practise and that is what we have been doing all season."
Milford is well aware of the winning legacy left by Walters and Allan Langer and said he was committed to putting in the same effort each week that they did for a decade and more.
"I can't be the players they were years ago, but week-in and week-out I will go out and do my best so I can walk off the field knowing that I gave each game my all," he said.
"Hopefully the fans can walk home proud of their team and proud of what we did."
As he walks that path it will be with fond memories of the year he spent with Marshall.
Milford said there was one word that described how the Wests Tigers legend made him feel.
"Happy," he said.
"Having him here last year, he was just a happy guy who was really good for morale in the team and always lifting our spirits.
"He was pushing Kodi and I as halves and always wanted to improve our games and I thought that brought out the best in him too.
"Now Benji has gone back to the club that he loves and where it all started for him. It is good to see."