Milford hits high notes ahead of Roosters showdown
Anthony Milford's hot form in big games has been a telling factor in Brisbane's recent wins over top eight sides and Andrew McCullough says another stellar performance will be needed from the Broncos five-eighth against the Sydney Roosters on Saturday night.
Milford was a standout in the 38-18 win over the Rabbitohs where he set up two vital tries, one after taking on the line in a typically evasive dart and another with a pinpoint accurate bomb for Corey Oates to score.
Milford's long and tactical kicking has also been a feature of his play and the Brisbane playmaker showcased his best in that area in crucial wins over Penrith and Cronulla in rounds 19 and 20.
The Roosters boast champion game manager Cooper Cronk in their side but McCullough said Milford was hitting the right notes ahead of a vital clash at Allianz Stadium, where a win will shore up the Broncos' top eight position and possibly give them a shot at hosting a semi-final.
"When Anthony is playing well he kicks nice and early and runs the ball. It is not rocket science," McCullough said.
"He knows he is a good ball runner and always will be.
"When you see Milf running the ball and wanting to take on the line, especially against a big pack like the Rabbitohs, that is good signs. We need him to do that again."
The Broncos halves have copped criticism this year when the side has lost. It is par for the course at Brisbane in particular where the legacy of playmaking greats Kevin Walters, Allan Langer and Darren Lockyer is represented by the six premierships in the foyer of Broncos HQ.
McCullough said half Kodi Nikorima could expect to keep coming under the microscope but added he was handling the constant scrutiny in the only way he could.
"I think it has been a good learning curve for Kodi," he said.
"It was never going to be smooth sailing for him in that position. Get the win and you do get the accolades, but with a loss the halfback is certainly very much under the spotlight straight away.
"If he wants to play at the Broncos in that position that [scrutiny] is never going to stop but it is how you deal with it. He just comes out and tries to get the forwards rolling and play his best footy, and that's all he can do."
The Broncos, on 28 Telstra Premiership points, could find themselves in fifth or sixth if they beat the Roosters and Sea Eagles in the next fortnight.
That is most likely the best they can do, although with four points separating first from eighth, Brisbane could still miss the finals or qualify for the top four depending on results over the last two rounds.
"It is funny how that works," McCullough said.
"It has been a bit like that for everyone during the year. Put some wins together and you can find yourself back up the top of the ladder. We haven't done that particularly well this year but the win against the Rabbits will give us some confidence and the key for us is to back it up against the Roosters, a quality side that is nearly at the top of the ladder.
"It is another challenge in itself and will keep us in good stead to see where we are at."
Bubbling away in the background at the Broncos has been the constant speculation about the future of coach Wayne Bennett in 2020.
It is a weekly, and often daily, saga that plays itself out in the media but one McCullough said he was able to put to the side and not allow it to impact his own focus.
"Everyone deals with different situations differently. For myself it is just another day," he said.
"Every club goes through certain periods. Players go through different sagas [with] contracts.
"It is just a big business. It is a big wheel. Rugby league keeps going regardless.
"I've been around long enough to know there is a bit of drama sometimes but we just get on with life either way."