Broncos win battle for Milford's signature
RUGBY LEAGUE: The Broncos have staved off a stunning Storm swoop for Anthony Milford, with the star five-eighth knocking back Craig Bellamy's audacious poaching raid to stay at Brisbane.
Milford is expected to put pen to paper on a bumped up four-year-deal to stay at Brisbane, but not before a serious approach from Melbourne threatened to steal the 22-year-old from under their noses.
After flying to Melbourne last week to inspect the Storm's facilities and meet with Bellamy, Milford is tipped to re-sign with the Broncos in coming days.
His new deal at Red Hill is worth $4 million until the end of 2021 according to The Courier Mail, a figure that would make him the highest paid player in Brisbane's history.
Melbourne were reportedly prepared to offer Milford as much as $5 million over four years, a bid that pushed the Broncos to revise the original $2.7 million, three-year deal that had been tabled to his management some months ago.
The figures point to a significant salary sacrifice to remain under Wayne Bennett's tutelage in his native Brisbane.
Milford's retention is a much-needed coup for Bennett, with gun half Ben Hunt off to St George Illawarra next season on a lucrative five-year deal.
Losing his two marquee halves from Brisbane's 2015 grand final charge would have been a bitter blow for the veteran mentor, particularly if one-time assistant, long-time rival Craig Bellamy had been able to poach Milford.
The Souths Acacia junior will square off against Bennett's England side on Saturday night, pulling on the cherished Samoan jumper the master coach denied him last season.
Broncos CEO Paul White said on Friday that Milford is expected to sign off on his future early next week, after the weekend's Test at Campbelltown Stadium.
With Jack Bird heading north of the border in 2018, shifting into the No.7 jumper Allan Langer made famous was a key selling point in Milford staying at the Queensland powerhouse.
Despite being regarded largely as a running half, Milford has sounded out Broncos officials recently about taking on more game management duties in a bid to go to the next level.
Also a major factor in Miford's decision to stay put are the strong family ties that brought him home from junior club Canberra in 2014.
The Storm had earmarked the livewire pivot as a replacement for Sydney-bound superstar Cooper Cronk, who is leaving the club at the end of 2017 after 14 years loyal service.
Instead they will keep their powder dry with a healthy share of their salary cap still to spend, but with the ranks of quality, off-contract halves diminishing, are willing to look in-house for their halves combo and spend big elsewhere.
That scenario would see the likes of Ryley Jacks and Brodie Croft come into contention once Cronk vacates his No.7 jumper at the end of the season.
Earlier on Friday Melbourne announced the signing of Wests Tigers young gun Ryan Papenhuyzen from next season.
The 18-year-old is touted as a playmaker of tremendous promise having represented NSW at under-16s and 18s level, and will join the club on a three-year deal.
"We believe Ryan has the potential to have a bright future here at the Melbourne Storm," football manager Frank Ponissi said.
"We look forward to Ryan joining us at the end of the year and seeing him work hard to further develop his game under the guidance of Craig Bellamy and our coaching staff."