Canberra Raiders: Milford a Bronco … And that means he must go now

The Canberra Raiders released this statement this evening:

Canberra Raiders fullback Anthony Milford has informed the club he will be honouring the deal he made with the Brisbane Broncos and will depart at the end of the 2014 season.

Milford said the decision to leave the club where he developed his game and made his NRL debut was the toughest of his career so far and thanked everyone involved in the Raiders organisation for the opportunities they have given him and the patience they have shown.

“This was a very tough decision for me and my family and I want to thank everyone at the Raiders for everything they have done for me,” Milford said. “I’ve been with the club since I was awarded a scholarship at the age of 13. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the Raiders and I will never forget the support they’ve given me.

“I’m 100 per cent committed to the Raiders for the rest of the season and I look forward to helping the team play well for the rest of the year.”

Milford will honour the final year of his current deal with the Raiders and remain with the club until the end of the 2014 season.

Whilst I appreciate the sentiment and the comments of Milford towards the Raiders, I am left to ponder what benefit there is to the club in Milford continuing to play for the Raiders in 2014.

Let’s be plain: the Raiders are in disarray at the moment and a large part of that appears to fall to a player group that is either uninterested or just plain bad (I don’t know which). This is after they got the coaching change they wanted.

Now the club’s members and fans are expected to continue to support a player who has been financially rewarded by the club since he was 13 and who is now leaving. To me that, at best, is a questionable position to be in and, at worst, is just plain wrong.

I make no criticism of Milford or his motives BUT to continue to select him in the top side each week and to continue to develop his game before he leaves is something I can not countenance. In what will be a losing season for the Raiders surely the best option is for Milford to play out his contract with the Raiders’ feeder teams and let a young player actually committed to the club play.

Such a move is also in Milford’s best interests given that the feeder team he would likely play for (Brisbane Souths) is located in the place he so desperately wants to be.

I wrote recently about the tenure of the coach and my keenness to see the Raiders improve as a team: the selection of Milford will make a mockery of that imperative as the only club being improved by him being on the park is the Broncos. It is clearly time for Milford to exit and exit now!

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.

Canberra Raiders: Ferguson, Milford and the quest for players who want to play

Is there a week that goes by in the NRL at the moment where there is not some off field “news” about a Canberra Raiders player? Of recent weeks, whilst the team that I have followed for nearly two decades has been in the midst of playing the top 5 teams back to back and losing, the only news one seems to read is of players wanting a release from their contracts. Coming after the Josh Dugan debacle of earlier in the season, this constant cloud over the Raiders is almost becoming too much for this lifelong fan to bear.

I am not going to rehash all of the news of recent weeks save to say that it seems pretty clear that Blake Ferguson and Anthony Milford do not want to be at the club. In Ferguson’s case, whether he was on the grog at the weekend or not, he has shown nothing that could even be considered as resembling interest in being at the club since his return to the fold following his suspension over sexual assault allegations. The club stood behind him and now he, seemingly, not only wants to leave but cannot be bothered to watch a whole game that he was allegedly too injured to play? What a fine way to repay the faith the Raiders showed in him.

The Milford case is a sad one given his father’s illness. I would have more sympathy though if his manager was not in the press last week spruiking that his player, Milford, would consider boycotting the whole of the 2014 season if the Raiders did not grant him a release. It is important to note here three things:

1. Milford is a young man and is obviously close to his family. It is entirely understandable, as a human being, that he would want to be close to his father.

2. The Raiders have invested significantly in Milford given that they gave him an opportunity in their SG Ball side, after he had played with feeder club Souths Logan as a junior, and then the under 20 team before he hit the big time in the NRL this season. What I am saying is, this is not a player developed by another club who had been swooped upon when disaffected by the club. Simply: he was developed by the Raiders into the player he is.

3. It is pretty obvious that he does not want to be at the club next year.

That last point is the real issue for me: I just want to see a Raiders 17 on the weekend that wants to play for the club. Not one that is filled with players on the way out, wanting to be out or focused on their own agendas ahead of what is best for the club. If Ferguson and Milford do not want to play in the green jersey, then surely the best thing for all involved is to cut them lose and get players in that want to play for our proud club.

I know that is a painful suggestion given the players that the Raiders have had to give up in recent times but, in time, to have developed a squad of players who actually want to play in Canberra into a winning line up would surely be more satisfying that having to put up with the rabble we, as fans, have to put up with now.

I will always be a fan of the Canberra Raiders. It is striking though that this is the first year in my recent memory when I have not made a trip to Canberra from Brisbane to watch my team play. Indeed as close as two seasons ago I would travel to Canberra Stadium two or three teams a year. Maybe my disaffection with the NRL in general is colouring my love of my team but maybe, also, this seemingly constant wave of player disenfranchisement is also having an impact.

I crave the week, then month and then season where the team running out for the Raiders is one entirely united to cause of winning for the club and the fans. At the moment it feels like that week is a long way away.