The Brisbane Broncos have made the call they’ve long avoided, dropping Anthony Milford after coach Kevin Walters lost patience with his battling side.
The 26-year-old is bracing to leave the NRL club at the end of the season, when his million-dollar-a-year contract expires.
But fans will get an early taste of the future when the Broncos take on the ladder-leading Panthers at home this week, with Milford dropped to Queensland Cup.
He trained with the reserve team on Monday, alongside first-grade regular Tesi Niu, in the wake of last Thursday’s 35-6 loss to the Rabbitohs.
Milford, who is faced with losing his No.6 jumper next season to Kotoni Staggs, has not been dropped in his nine years in the NRL.
Walters last week declared that Milford’s current form has not been good enough for a contract extension.
But he made no indications then that the former Queensland Origin representative would have just one game left in the team.
“That’s a work in progress, (but) right now you’d have to say no,” Walters said when asked if Milford was playing well enough to earn a new deal.
“We need to see Milf playing better but I’m extremely confident we can get the best out of Anthony Milford.
“As long as we keep building and getting better, taking the small steps … if and when I believe that stops happening, well then things will change.
“We’re backing him. He’s in there having a crack and that’s what I like about him, he’s fully aware of what’s going on and what’s required of him.”
The Broncos are languishing in 12th on the ladder following the loss to South Sydney.
The defeat – Brisbane’s fourth from five games this season – prompted captain Alex Glenn to declare the coaches should axe under-performing players who aren’t putting in the effort.
“If you’re not willing to do that for the team you should go back to Queensland Cup, and that’s myself included,” Glenn said.
The Broncos will announce their 21-man squad for the Panthers game on Tuesday afternoon, with Niu also set to be dropped.
Milford is now set to form a big-name halves pairing with Souths Logan Magpies’ Karmichael Hunt.
The off-contract and injured Staggs has been pegged as the Broncos’ No.6 of the future after the club sought to ward off the Gold Coast Titans’ interest.
Walters, meanwhile, hinted Adam Reynolds could become part of their solution after the veteran halfback led the Rabbitohs to victory over Brisbane last Thursday.
Reynolds is seeking a two-year deal from South Sydney but is prepared to head north and join the Broncos or North Queensland Cowboys.
“I see them pretty similar to Souths,” Reynolds said.
“They’re a passionate supporter base. They’re obviously a big club. They’ve been a powerhouse for a number of years.
“It’s obviously appealing. Obviously they’re not travelling too well at the moment but they’ve got a lot of future stars in that side.”