Broncos coach amazed Milford still playing

·2-min read

The axe finally fell on Anthony Milford this week but Kevin Walters is surprised the under-fire Brisbane five-eighth hadn't already quit after copping years of scrutiny the coach believes has been unfair.

Walters has dropped Milford for Thursday's clash with Penrith, with Brodie Croft and Tom Dearden preferred in the halves against the unbeaten Panthers at Suncorp Stadium.

It will be the ninth tweak to Brisbane's halves in the last 15 games, starting when former coach Anthony Seibold shifted Milford to fullback and promoted Dearden to halfback during their historic wooden spoon season.

Croft, Sean O'Sullivan, Tyson Gamble and Kotoni Staggs have worn the No.6 since, but Thursday will be the first time Milford has been dropped instead of shifted or missing through injury.

That's despite his generally underwhelming form since starring in their extra-time grand final loss to North Queensland in 2015.

A five-time title winner as a playmaker for Brisbane, Walters says he takes the challenge of "fixing up the Broncos" - and particularly their halves crisis - personally, but that he feels for 26-year-old Milford.

"The pressure he's received in the five years since that game, it's a lot to take on for a young man and I do feel sorry for Milf," Walters said.

"In some regards, he's been accused of everything (bad) that's happened here and it's really unfair.

"When you look at it, the scrutiny and pressure he's been under, it's amazing that he's still playing the game."

Milford's four-year deal worth reportedly around a club-record $4 million expires this year.

Walters, who said last week Milford wasn't playing well enough to warrant a new deal, wasn't sure what to say when asked if that sum had burdened and inhibited him.

"It's probably a question I shouldn't answer; I don't know how to answer that one so I won't," Walters said.

"More than any other he has been singled out, but now the pressure's off, he can go back and play his footy (in the Queensland Cup).

"It'll be an interesting next four weeks for Anthony and where he's at, mentally and physically."

Meanwhile winger Corey Oates is also poised for a return from reserve grade, pending the health of Jesse Arthars, who was set to replace the axed Tesi Niu in the centres.

Oates had aspirations of transitioning to the backrow but the former Queensland Origin winger changed his tune on the eve of the season.