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Why Bennett chose Milford over Hunt

Broncos coach Wayne Bennett has revealed why he showed faith in Anthony Milford to be the club's chief playmaker as former half Ben Hunt prepares to return to Suncorp Stadium for the first time with the Dragons in Sydney's elimination semi-final.

In May of last year the Broncos re-signed Milford until the end of 2021 as their million-dollar-per-season man, months after Hunt had secured a five-year $6 million deal with St George Illawarra.

The Broncos had no intention of matching the Dragons offer for Hunt because they had already decided Milford was the priority and made him their "money man".

Brisbane great Peter Ryan used to call Allan Langer the "money man" because, in his words, he "always brought home the bacon."

Bennett has always favoured playmakers who boast a certain kind of magic as they are the ones who have delivered titles – from Allan Langer and Kevin Walters in the 1990s through to Darren Lockyer in 2006. Milford is his kind of player.

"That's what he brings and that's what we like him to bring," Bennett said on the subject of Milford and "magic".

"Sometimes you get players that don't have that," he said.

"They have other qualities, but Milford is in that category where he can do the unexpected and can do it off the top of his head without thinking about it too much.

Broncos playmaker Anthony Milford.
Broncos playmaker Anthony Milford. ©Paul Barkley/NRL Photos

"In those key positions you need those kind of guys. He has a large tool kit of skills, and the position he plays requires those things."

Bennett confirmed there wasn't room for Milford and Hunt under the salary cap.

"We made [Hunt] an offer but we couldn't match what they offered him, so he made the choice to leave. We didn't ask him to leave," Bennett said.

"I have never doubted Milford. I didn't doubt Ben Hunt either but we can't have everybody and Kodi [Nikorima] has stepped up and is playing great footy."

The Broncos aim to continue a remarkable 26-year hoodoo over the Red V in do-or-die finals football.

From the 1992 grand final until the St George and Illawarra merger in 1999 the Broncos did not lose a sudden death final to the Dragons. The Broncos have also not lost an elimination final to the Dragons in the NRL era.

The only final they have lost was in 2006 in week one of the finals when both sides lived to fight another day. The Broncos went on to win the premiership despite that first-up loss.

The history between the two clubs is rich, and the fact Bennett coached St George-Illawarra to a title in 2010 only adds to the intrigue.

"I spent three years there which was a great time in my life coaching the Dragons and I think they have the same philosophy as we have here, or we have what they've got … we treat our players really well, it is a good environment and both clubs like to play football," he said.

Then there is Bennett's previous history as club coach of Hunt and of his halves partner Gareth Widdop on the international scene, two players he rates highly.

"[Hunt] will be trying hard. He always does that. It is part of his DNA. He never turned up to a game I coached him in not trying to do his best," Bennett said.

"I have a lot of time for Gareth. I've coached him in the English team and loved coaching him. He's an easy guy to coach and he always plays flat out and is doing his best."

Bennett said he would not be underestimating the Dragons but refuted suggestions all the pressure was on Brisbane.

"I don't feel that [pressure] and the players don't feel that," he said.

"All the pressure is off us. We are in a position we want to be and playing a home semi-final, something we should be enjoying."

The Brisbane coach confirmed Alex Glenn would not play due to a calf complaint. David Fifita moves from the bench to the starting lineup and Kotoni Staggs comes onto the bench.

Broncos v Dragons - Elimination Final

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