Brisbane Broncos veteran Sam Thaiday insists star five-eighth Anthony Milford has laid the groundwork and is ready to follow in the footsteps of modern-day greats of the game.
The 23-year-old playmaker will be a key figure in the Telstra Premiership season opener against St George Illawarra at Kogarah Oval on Thursday night.
Milford recently told NRL.com how he had been working overtime on his general kicking and game management skills with assistant coach Kevin Walters.
Thaiday has noticed his teammate's new-found commitment.
"When Milf first came through at Canberra everyone regarded him as a bit of a freak and such a great young talent, but that can only take you so far before you need to up your game, change your game and evolve with the game of rugby league," Thaiday told NRL.com.
"What Milf has learned is that he just can't rely on his talent and over the last two years I have seen him work hard on his craft.
"I see him every day and I see the work he puts in. He's coming earlier, leaving later. They are traits I have seen in some of the best players who have played our game, in Locky [Darren Lockyer], Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater.
"Milf has taken a step in the right direction to becoming that kind of player."
Thaiday said the penny had dropped with Milford - he is working on the one-percenters in his game and not just relying on natural flair.
"Over a 16-year career my personal game has changed, even with the management of my body I'm not as kamikaze as I used to be and I've worked on my passing game a fair bit," Thaiday said.
"These are things that Milf has worked on. He has realised that a good half these days needs to have great game management and to be able to kick and kick-chase.
"Johnathan Thurston will put a bad kick in sometimes but will make up for it with his kick-chase.
"These are all areas where Anthony is learning and improving."
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Broncos legend Steve Renouf said Milford had been "putting in the big ones" to take his game to the next level but added that is how it should be.
"Milford played State of Origin for Queensland last year and that is the standard for him now, so he has got to step up and be more consistent at club level," Renouf said.
"Kodi Nikorima has put his hand up to lead the team around and that should help Milford do what he does best.
"I reckon he is better with ad hoc footy and slicing through the line, and even did it in Origin.
"Milford will do some of the organising and I believe he will step up in that regard. He has got Kevvie Walters assisting him now and that is only going to be a bonus."
He’s coming earlier, leaving later. They are traits I have seen in some of the best players who have played our game.Sam Thaiday
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett said Milford's development had been plain for all to see at the club.
"He is a little bit older and his training would suggest he's maturing a lot more each year," Bennett said.
"His on-field and off-field attitude around everybody would suggest to me that he's taken a lot more responsibility, and that's just part of growing up.
"Some of these guys are so young with so much talent that we forget that they've got to grow up as well. I think Anthony has come along really good and I'm sure he'll take more responsibility this year."
With regard to Milford's focus on game management, Bennett said he was only "going to get better at that over the years. That's just a time thing."