Axe finally falls on Milford’s Broncos career
Anthony Milford's career at the Broncos is all-but over after his second axing in a month has opened the door for Albert Kelly to make his Brisbane debut in Saturday night's clash against the Roosters at the SCG.
News Corp understands the off-contract Milford will not be offered a new deal for next season, meaning he must find a new home as coach Kevin Walters looks to unleash the Kotoni Staggs-Adam Reynolds halves alliance in 2022.
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Walters has consistently challenged Milford to prove he is worth retaining but he delivered an emphatic statement on Tuesday, dropping his $1 million playmaker in the wake of Brisbane's 50-6 Magic Round loss to Manly.
That has sensationally cleared the path for Kelly, the former Titans halfback who will play his 48th NRL game - and first in 2505 days - when he starts at five-eighth alongside Tyson Gamble against the Roosters.
The Kelly-Gamble scrumbase union will be Brisbane's fifth halves pairing in 11 games.
Walters has wielded the axe in other areas. Winger Corey Oates has been dropped in favour of David Mead, Keenan Palasia will replace the suspended Jordan Riki in the back-row and Kobe Hetherington, the son of former Queensland Origin hooker Jason, will make his NRL debut off the bench.
The 30-year-old Kelly joined the Broncos in pre-season after five years in the English Super League and has been rewarded by Walters for his strong form with feeder-club Souths Logan in the Intrust Super Cup.
"If Albert is getting picked there, he brings a wealth of experience," Broncos skipper Jake Turpin said.
"He's setting the house on fire in Queensland Cup so if he comes into the team, we have full confidence he will do the job."
Kelly's promotion effectively sounds the death knell for Milford's 146-game career at the Broncos.
Publicly, Walters is imploring Milford to fight for a new deal but privately Brisbane are making other plans and it will take a miraculous recovery from the 26-year-old to be in Broncos colours next year.
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Alarm bells rang when Milford was dropped to the Intrust Super Cup last month and his latest axing - after a two-week reprieve - is a sign Walters has run out of patience with the highest-paid player in Broncos history.
Speaking before Brisbane's heavy loss to Manly last week, Walters refused to guarantee Milford's future when asked if he would be given a new contract.
"That's something we will look at down the track," he said. "We do have a plan around our roster and we will get to that as the weeks unfold."
While Milford is on the outer, 22-year-old back-rower Hetherington will make his Broncos debut against the Roosters after impressing with his no-nonsense workrate for Souths Logan.
"He's one of those players I love playing with," Turpin said.
"Kobe is one of my good mates, he's like a little mongrel.
"He's tough as nails and he puts everything on the line each and every run and each and every tackle."
Originally published as Axe finally falls on Milford's Broncos career