The Courier-Mail




THE Cowboys plan to turn Anthony Milford’s finals debut into a nightmare by emulating the onslaught Melbourne deployed to unsettle the rookie Broncos five-eighth.

But Broncos skipper Justin Hodges hit back at Paul Green’s side yesterday, promising protection for Milford in the Queensland finals derby at Suncorp Stadium.

Milford will play his first finals game on Saturday night and the Broncos are banking on the pivot to continue the magnificen­t form that has headlined his maiden year at Red Hill.

The Cowboys, however, believe Milford’s attacking brilliance could be blunted by relentless defensive pressure, as applied by Melbourne’s forward pack in Thursday night’s clash at Suncorp Stadium.

Without injured halves partner Ben Hunt, Milford was regularly worked over by the Storm, who subjected the No.6 to heavy body shots inside the opening 15 minutes.

Milford bravely stood up to the rough-house tactics, making 15 runs and missing no tackles from eight attempts.

Hunt’s return to Brisbane’s scrumbase this week will ease the strain on Milford, but Melbourne’s 15-8 triumph is a sign for the Cowboys that the Inala whiz-kid can be muzzled.

“The Storm did a good job on Milford,” Cowboys backrower Gavin Cooper said.

“The halves always get targeted no matter who you are playing.

“It’s something we will look at during the week, we’ll look at how Melbourne played against the Broncos and what they did to get the wood over them.

“The big thing with Melbourne is they find a weakness and then they really stick to it.

‘‘They played a great game against us (a round earlier in the Cowboys’ 14-6 Round 25 loss) and that’s how they work.

“That’s what Milford has brought to the Broncos this year – that unpredicta­bility.

‘‘He’s a big reason the Broncos are where they are and we need to stop him.”

Despite being one of Brisbane’s smaller players at 178cm and 85kg, Milford has rarely faltered in defence this season.

The 21-year-old has missed 43 tackles this season from 24 games on Brisbane’s left edge.

Hunt has missed 65 on the Broncos’ right edge, suggesting the Cowboys could play into Brisbane’s hands by attacking Milford.

Hodges expects Milford to be targeted but believes the return of Alex Glenn from suspension will give Milford a defensive ally on Brisbane’s left side in the qualifying final.

“They would be silly not to target him (Milford),” Hodges said.

“But having Hunty back this week will make a big difference for Anthony. Alex Glenn is also back and he’s a good defender. With Milf, even though he’s a little bloke, he puts his body in front of people so he can handle it.”

Legendary Broncos fiveeighth Darren Lockyer insists Milford will not be overawed by his maiden finals outing.

“This is a big step up for Anthony, but he will feel confident no matter what the game or the occasion is,” he said.

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 ??  ?? GOT YOUR BACK: Broncos stars Anthony Milford and Daniel Vidot are ready for Saturday night’s game. Picture: Adam Head
GOT YOUR BACK: Broncos stars Anthony Milford and Daniel Vidot are ready for Saturday night’s game. Picture: Adam Head

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