ANTHONY Milford's $1 million showdown with former halves partner Ben Hunt is in jeopardy with the Broncos sensation in danger of missing the start of Brisbane's premiership campaign.
Milford's scrumbase clash with St George Illawarra's big-money recruit Hunt is being billed as a major attraction when the Broncos and Dragons officially launch the 2018 NRL season next March.
But Broncos coach Wayne Bennett admits there is no guarantee Milford will confront former Brisbane halfback Hunt as the star pivot takes formative steps in his recovery from a shoulder reconstruction.
Milford has returned for Brisbane's pre-season, but did not run at a field session on Wednesday, with the 23-year-old in the early stages of a gruelling four-to-five month rehabilitation plan.
The Broncos could face a triple early-season blow. Milford, hooker Andrew McCullough (knee reconstruction) and NSW Origin import Jack Bird (shoulder) are all in doubt for Brisbane's round-one clash against the Dragons.
Bennett eased concerns about Milford, saying Broncos are pleased with the progress of the attacking whiz, who was forced to miss Samoa's World Cup campaign to undergo surgery.
"Anthony has come out of his sling, he's going OK," Bennett said.
"At this stage, we're hoping he will play in Round 1, but we won't rush it. If he's not right, he might miss only a week or two (of the NRL premiership)."
While Milford's recovery will have some bearing on Brisbane's pre-season structures, Bennett is adamant skipper Darius Boyd will not be pitchforked into Brisbane's No. 6 jumper next season.
When he inked a four-year extension last month, Boyd revealed he was prepared to move into the halves to cover for the off-season departure of Hunt and Tigers recruit Benji Marshall.
But Bennett scoffed at suggestions of a positional shift for his captain, saying Boyd will finish his career in his cherished No. 1 jumper.
"It's news to me," he said of Boyd playing five-eighth.
"What would I do with Anthony Milford if I moved Darius to five-eighth?
"I'm the coach and I have said nothing about Darius playing five-eighth, I've never had a conversation with him about playing there.
"Darius will stay at fullback."
Bennett will use the pre-season to assess candidates for his interchange bench and the left-centre slot vacated by Newcastle recruit Tautau Moga.
Tom Opacic and Bird are options to partner James Roberts in the centres, while Bennett revealed little-known English import Andre Savelio could be a bench bolter depending on his trial form.
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