Legendary coach Wayne Bennett has slammed the NRL for not allowing playmaker Anthony Milford to return to the field.
After having three assault charged dropped in a Brisbane court on Monday, the NRL Integrity Unit kicked off their own investigation which could see Milford’s sideline stint extended.
According to the Courier Mail, Milford will fly to Sydney to negotiate a deal with the Knights, but whether that contract will be formally registered by NRL powerbrokers is yet to be seen.
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Bennett, who has coach Milford in the past and provided a “critical” character reference to convince the magistrate the incident was a one-off alcohol-fuelled event, lashed out at the NRL.
“I cannot believe it if Anthony isn’t allowed back,” Bennett said to the Courier Mail.
“Of all the things I have seen in the game and the moments we’ve seen from other players who have offended, I cannot comprehend it if Anthony is not allowed to play NRL in the very near future.
“The courts have cleared Anthony of assault. The criminal justice system has dealt with him. Anthony is a 200-gamer and first-time offender in the NRL. He pleaded guilty to the minor charges (public nuisance and wilful damage) but the courts agreed he was not guilty of assaulting anyone.
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“Based on that, I hope he is back in the NRL very soon. I know Anthony won’t offend again.”
The Knights are ready to secure Milford’s signature to bolster their attacking stocks and the former Broncos million-dollar man will be meeting with Newcastle bosses this week.
Bennett also explained why he provided a character reference for the 27-year-old whom he coached for four seasons.
“I did it because I have known Anthony for a long time and I have faith in him as a person,” Bennett said.
“I didn’t know Anthony to be someone who was a drinker. He now has two children. He is not a guy to be out on the town on the drink all the time.
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“I coached him for four years at the Broncos and I also had Anthony in Queensland Emerging Origin squads. I never had a single issue with Anthony. I never had to worry about his off-field behaviour. He is not a problem child. He is not a thug. He does not have a problem with alcohol.
“He is a quietly-spoken, well-mannered young man and I wanted the court to know I was proud of the way he conducts himself.
“That was the Anthony Milford I knew and coached and I saw him in all situations for years, from having drinks off the field, to playing in grand finals and mixing with the fans and his teammates.”
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