New No.6 tipped to return fire
Fend for yourself.
That is the message for Anthony Milford from Queensland coach Kevin Walters amid talk that the NSW Blues will target the Maroons debutant in State of Origin I.
The Brisbane Broncos five-eighth can expect plenty of traffic to come his way on Wednesday night, with Blues lock Tyson Frizell training on the right edge throughout the week – directly opposite where Milford will be defending.
Milford is ranked 10th in the league for missed tackles, with teammate Matt Gillett and Blues half James Maloney the only other State of Origin participants in the top 10.
But Walters is not worried, telling media on Tuesday just how confident he is in his little No.6.
"He's got to defend for himself. 'Milf' will be fine. We have a lot of confidence in Anthony and his ability to get the job done for Queensland," Walters said.
"I'm looking forward to it and I'm really excited to see Anthony out there.
"I know they are going to put him under pressure, which is great. I have no doubt that Milf will handle that pressure and then come back with a little bit more."
Questions have been asked about Milford's ability to perform in big games but Walters scoffed at any such suggestions, citing the five-eighth's performance in the 2015 NRL Grand Final as proof of his talent under pressure.
The Broncos may have lost 17-16 to the North Queensland Cowboys in that match but many believed Milford was best on ground and should have been awarded the Clive Churchill Medal ahead of Johnathan Thurston.
That match was when Walters knew Milford was ready for the next step in his development – State of Origin.
"[I think Milford's ready] because I've seen the way he has played over the last couple of years. We are aware of his capabilities," Walters said.
"I'm very excited about his performance tomorrow night. There is some pressure on him. It is Origin. But I think he will handle it well.
"He's played in a grand final before in front of a big crowd and he's played in big games at Suncorp for the Broncos. This is the next step up.
"The good players handle the pressure and that's why we believe Anthony will handle the pressure.
"We need him in the game for 80 minutes. That's what Anthony brings to the team.
"Playing with Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and especially Darius Boyd at the back will really help his game."
Another who has helped Milford throughout the week and will continue to do so on Wednesday night is Maroons utility Michael Morgan.
Morgan had a torrid 2016 Origin series, playing limited minutes due to injury in the first two matches before missing Game III because of a knee complaint.
It has him primed for a big series this time around and Walters has warned NSW that Morgan is ready to tear them apart.
"Michael Morgan is our Mr Fix-it," he said.
"We didn't get much out of Michael last year. That wasn't his own fault. He got injured and knocked out in two games and then missed Game III.
"It's very comforting knowing we have him waiting in the wings.
"There is a lot of talk about Milford and what he brings to the team, but just be careful of a bloke that comes off the bench as well. He's a pretty good player."
In other Queensland team news, Maroons winger Corey Oates has been named fit to play after overcoming a stomach virus.