Anthony Milford's career at the Brisbane Broncos appears to be on tenterhooks, with the playmaker set to be dropped from first grade for the first time in his career.
Kevin Walters is done with being Mr Nice Guy, with the Broncos coach seemingly axing Milford for Thursday's NRL clash against leaders Penrith.
'NO CONTROL': Key player's big call on under-fire coach
Milford trained with the club's reserves on Monday and looks set to be the highest-profile casualty so far from Brisbane's miserable 1-4 start to the 2021 season.
The five-eighth is the highest paid player at the Broncos after famously signing a four-year deal worth around $1 million-a-season.
However, the talented playmaker has often underperformed and struggled for consistency, with league great Greg Alexander brutally declaring that Milford had “stolen money from them (the Broncos) for the last four years”.
Walters told media last week playmaker Milford had done little to convince him he deserved a new contract at Red Hill and after his team were belted 35-6 by South Sydney last Thursday, the Broncos coach has clearly decided enough's enough.
"He's drawn a line in the sand ... you can't keep doing the same thing week-in, week-out and expect change," prop Matt Lodge said.
"Kevvie's looked at the game and found some things that he's not happy with and he's holding people accountable.
"We all know Milf's a talented first-grade footballer but him and a couple others aren't doing the things Kevvie wants and I applaud him for putting his foot down and taking a stand for something.
"The team needs something obviously .... we've played the nice guy for a long time and it's not getting us anywhere."
Milford pays price for Brisbane's struggles
Whether Milford is completely left out or moves to a bench utility role is unclear but it looks certain youngsters Tom Dearden and Brodie Croft will be the halves combination at Suncorp Stadium against the red-hot Panthers.
Penrith head to Brisbane with a perfect 5-0 record including wins over reigning premiers Melbourne and 2020 preliminary finalists Canberra.
Lodge says it's probably too much to expect Walters' tough love to bring about a complete form reversal for last year's wooden spooners, but the message is clear - do your job or be replaced.
"Milf cops a lot of heat and pressure. He should know it's not all on him," Lodge said.
"There's a lot of guys around him that were letting him down and unfortunately he's taking a bit of the rap for it.
"I'm sure he'll be back.
"Crofty gets in and he was dealing with the same disappointment a week ago. Everyone across the squad is vulnerable to it.
"If you're not performing Kevvie's shown he'll sit you out including myself."
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