Stat Attack: Milford and Nikorima's six-week blitz has Broncos bubbling
They are what Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett calls the "eye opener" statistics which reveal why Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima have been the form halves of the NRL over the past six weeks as the Broncos surge towards a top-four position.
In the past six Telstra Premiership games, starting with the round 15 win over the Sharks, the Broncos pair have the best record of any halves in the NRL in average run metres (98m) and combined tries/try assists (13). They are second in the kick metres (243m) and line breaks/line break assists (11) categories.
The Broncos have won five of their past six matches on the back of some brilliance from their playmakers, who have come into Broncos HQ on their day off with assistant coach Jason Demetriou to fine-tune their tactics against each opposition side.
On one occasion Demetriou suggested catching up after a regular training session but the pair insisted on having an extra planning session on their free day.
Milford and Nikorima have been working overtime with assistant coach Kurt Richards on their kicking games.
Milford told NRL.com recently how club legend Allan Langer had also been in his ear, encouraging him to always insert himself in the game and back himself with the short kicks.
"Those guys have been on for ages now, our halves. If you look at some of their stats compared to the other halves in the competition it will be a bit of an eye-opener to you," coach Bennett said.
"They are just improving all the time. I thought Anthony's kicking game was outstanding [against Cronulla] but that has come about through three years of hard practice. Kodi is in the same boat. They are not natural kickers, and weren't to start with.
"The way these guys train is a credit to them because their training days are pretty good all the time and they learn how to do these things properly. I am proud of what they have done."
Nikorima's attacking game has been on the improve in the past six matches where he has made 17 tackle breaks, compared to just nine in his first 12 games of the season.
A blue-chip display against the Panthers where he scored two tries himself and had two try assists was a highlight.
In his last two games, Nikorima has kicked for 398m and taken the pressure off Milford in that area. The precision of many of those kicks has also played a major factor in putting the opposition under pressure.
Milford's four try assists during the same time frame doubled his productivity for all his previous matches in that area and he scored two himself in tight wins over the Sharks and Raiders.
It is his kicking that has been a feature with two deft touches with the boot leading to tries and five kicks forcing drop-outs, often at critical moments.
Milford has the most kick metres in the NRL this season (6506m) and is second behind Cooper Cronk for most kicks with 217. He is also the leading halfback for offloads with 33.
Milford ran for more than 100m on three consecutive occasions against the Raiders, Titans and Warriors for the first time this season. In the past six games he has averaged 100m per game, still 22m per match short of his stellar 2015 season but a marked improvement on what he was producing earlier in the year.
Steve Renouf said in a recent NRL.com column Milford had the makings of "a great half" but added he needed to lift for Brisbane to challenge for a seventh premiership.
"Anthony has been outstanding of late and I thought Nikorima played one of his best games against Penrith a couple of weeks ago," Renouf told NRL.com.
"In the second half last week they both got their hands on the ball early and that made the difference. It changed the match.
"Back when Benny Hunt was back at the club I questioned Ben's kicking ability. I always thought 'why isn't Milford kicking' because I knew he could kick. He is proving it now which is great for the Broncos.
"Nikorima has also stepped up and I love the way he plays his footy."