Another day, another Canberra Raiders player saga: the Milford imbroglio

It has been a while since I wrote about anything to do with rugby league. I am only a fan of the game whilst the Canberra Raiders are playing it and given that they have been out of play since the end of the August there has been little for me to comment on (I have grown weary of the ongoing playing behavior imbroglios that engulf the game and choose to not comment on them).

The news yesterday and today about Anthony Milford and his relationship with the Canberra Raiders has in equal parts infuriate me and disillusioned me. For those who have missed it, it was announced yesterday that Milford has signed a contract to play with the Brisbane Broncos in from 2015. It was then announced that Milford will see out his contract with the Raiders in 2014. Milford has refuted this this morning and stated that he will not be returning on 16 December for pre-season training.

Now let me be clear: I have nothing but sympathy for Milford’s situation. He has an ill father and wants to be close to him and look after him. As a son of a father that I am very close to I understand that completely.

What infuriates me is the fact that his contract for 2015 has already been announced despite him being contracted to another club through 2014. How is it fair to the fans of the Raiders and the other players in the Raiders squad to have the teams most valuable player already in the exit lounge for a season if he actually deigns to honour his contract with the club next year. The situation with player contracts in the NRL is becoming farcical and there needs to be changes made, within the bounds of the competition laws of this country, so that situations like this cease to recur. Fans of the game hate these contractual shenanigans and it is time that the NRL listen to the fans.

My disillusionment this morning stems from I know will happen now that Milford has expressed his vehement position that he will not be returning to the Raiders in 2014. Despite the backlash from Canberra Raider’s fans to the return of Josh Dugan to NRL play some 4 weeks after he was removed from the club due to a phalanx of behavioural issues, I am prepared to bet that the NRL will show its usual lack of steel when it comes to player issues and allow Milford to break his Raiders contract and play for the Broncos in 2014. He is simply too marketable and the Raiders have, as is obvious from their treatment at TV schedule time, simply no power within the construct of the NRL.

During the Super League saga I was lost to the game however I came back when it reformed. The various player behaviour issues over recent years and the treatment of the Canberra Raiders by Channel 9 have had me on the precipice of being lost to the game again. I have to say: if Milford plays in the NRL for any other club other than Raiders I may well be gone for good. I hope that does not happen but I reckon it is odds on that it will.

I repeat that I am sympathetic to Milford’s situation. Equally, he needs to learn the consequences of breaching a contract. The question is whether the NRL will teach him that lesson.

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