Broncos coach Wayne Bennett embraces Anthony Milford of the Broncos during the Round 25 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Sunday, September 2, 2018. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett embraces Anthony Milford of the Broncos during the Round 25 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Sunday, September 2, 2018. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Bennett: Why I chose Milford over Hunt

WAYNE Bennett has backed his decision to sign Anthony Milford ahead of Ben Hunt as the former Brisbane halves prepare for a $2 million showdown in Sunday's Broncos-Dragons sudden-death final.

Brisbane five-eighth Milford and Dragons halfback Hunt will wage a scrumbase shootout at Suncorp Stadium, three years after they combined to steer the Broncos to the 2015 grand final.

Bennett once viewed the Milford-Hunt alliance as the club's most exciting combination since the famous Allan Langer-Kevin Walters union before the Dragons rocked the Broncos with a big-money poaching raid.

When St George Illawarra offered Hunt a stunning five-year, $6 million deal, the Broncos were left with a conundrum that would shape their scrumbase fortunes for a decade.

 

Mindful the Broncos couldn't retain their grand-final halves under the salary cap, Bennett had a difficult choice to make. Either Milford or Hunt had to go.

Bennett decided the Broncos wouldn't get into a bidding war with the Dragons, putting Brisbane's playmaking eggs in the Milford basket as Hunt left to become a Red V millionaire.

Milford then signed a four-year, $4 million extension with Bennett's approval, rubberstamping him as the highest-paid player in the Broncos' 30-year history.

Now Hunt returns to face his former Broncos teammates for the first time in a finals match, and Bennett says he has no regrets over Brisbane's show of faith in Milford.

"At the end of the day, we made Ben an offer and we couldn't match what the Dragons offered him. He made the choice to leave. We didn't ask him to leave," Bennett said.

"(Brisbane couldn't afford Hunt and Milford) on our salary cap, maybe we could with the media's salary cap.

"I've never doubted Milford and I never doubted Hunt either, but the point is we can't have everybody."

Anthony Milford is on $1m a season at the Broncos.
Anthony Milford is on $1m a season at the Broncos.

Asked why he backed Milford, Bennett lauded the unpredictable magic he brings to the Broncos.

"It's just the array of skills that he's got," the master coach said.

"Anthony has a large toolkit of skills and the ­position he plays requires those things.

"That (attacking magic) is what he brings and that's what we like him to bring.

"Sometimes you have players who don't have that, they have other qualities.

"But Milford is in the category who can do the unexpected and do it off the top of his head.

"That makes him unpredictable, and in those positions that's what you want."

Bennett dismissed suggestions Hunt, who was axed as Queensland's starting halfback in July and relegated to the bench after two consecutive losses to NSW, is not a big-game player.

"Ben will be trying hard," he said. "He always does that, that is part of his DNA.

"Whenever I coached him, he was always trying to do his best … it may not always work for him but he is always trying to do his best."

 

 

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