Milford's indoor kicking sessions at Lions reap rewards
The vast improvement in Anthony Milford’s kicking game has been years in the making and has included sessions at the Brisbane Lions indoor training facility under the guidance of Broncos assistant coach Kurt Richards.
Milford’s relentless quest for perfection is bearing fruit with regular extra sessions on his days off behind his development, including drills at the Lions indoor facility where Milford hits targets that flash up on a screen.
Cooper Cronk fine-tuned his kicking skills over many years with a wide variety of tutors, including leading biomechanist Kevin Ball who has worked at several NRL clubs as a kicking consultant.
For Cronk it was about understanding the science behind the skill set and his relentless quest for self-improvement over many years has formed the kicking master that we see at work today.
Milford is a natural runner of the football blessed with instinctive abilities like few others. It is a different story with his kicking.
"Milf is not a natural kicker of the ball so it has been a couple of years of hard work with him, and it is a credit to him with the time and effort that he has put in on his own when no-one is looking,” Richards told NRL.com.
"A lot of his practice has been on days off. People have said in the past that he is not a great trainer but they don’t see all the stuff he does in his own time.
"We had to spend a lot of time on his technique, his ball drop and his strike of the ball with a lot of short distance repetitive-type drills."
That is where the Brisbane Lions have provided a helping hand by giving the Broncos access to their indoor training facility.
"They have a good kicking room down there where players and different targets come up on a screen. They light up and he’s got to try and hit them," Richards said.
"It has been beneficial to get Anthony in different environments so it doesn’t feel like training for him.
"We have used different ways of practising technique with Milf, starting with the indoor work and then with bigger picture stuff on kicking long and getting tactically better."
Milford is a statistical leader in the kicking department this year in kick metres (8147m), is second behind Cronk in all kicks with 263 and is equal first in 40/20s with two.
In recent wins over the Sharks, Rabbitohs and Roosters his kicks have been pivotal in Brisbane's wins. It was a pinpoint bomb for a try to Corey Oates that swung momentum back to Brisbane against Souths where Milford was also able to garner repeat sets with several well placed long and short kicks, as he did against the Sharks.
"The Roosters game on the weekend he kicked really well for the majority of the game," Richards said.
"Milf built really well into it. He didn't try and win us the game with his first two or three kicks. He got to his kick, we chased hard and eventually he started finding space with his kicks."
One key reason for that is because Milford has spent countless hours perfecting his ball drop.
"The ball drop is everything in a kick and if you don’t get it right you can shank the ball everywhere. We used to joke that Milf would kick the ball with his shins but he worked hard to get that right and started striking the ball a lot better," Richards said.
"The other thing he has done a real good job of is keeping everything nice and being square to his target, and not trying to kick around the ball He's been getting his eyes up, recognising when the fullback is in the line and getting the distance right to pull up in goal."
Richards said Milford's biggest challenge now was to find the consistency in his kicks.
"He will keep improving if he keeps working as hard as he has been," Richards said.
Milford is up for the challenge, and said Richards had been a massive assistance to him in that regard.
"I knew, and the coaching staff knew it would take a bit of time, but there has been years of hard work with Richo working on my kicking game," Milford said.
"With Benny [Hunt] gone it adds more things I need to put in my game and I think I am getting the rewards now.
"[Richards] has been massive, just making sure we get all our fundamentals right and taking us off campus to do our extras with kicking.
"Kicking is a very important part of these days and I am just trying to prepare the best I can. Now it is making sure I get better every day, whether that is kicking, passing or defensive drills on my day off."
Milford said while it was not possible to be perfect, that would not stop his quest for that elusive goal.
"I always try and strive for it and to be the best player and the best Anthony I can be," he said.
"I'm not the perfect player. There is a still a way to go but I am definitely heading in the right direction."