Ricky Stuart’s Hypocrisy Gives Anthony Milford All The Ammunition He Needs

He wants to break his contract early and leave the club due to family reasons.

That is how Ricky Stuart spun his departure from the Parramatta Eels just a couple of months ago. Having signed a long term deal with the Eels and selling fans on his plan to rebuild the club, Stuart walked out on the blue and gold faithful after just one disastrous season citing a need to return to Canberra for family reasons.

Now Stuart finds himself trying to justify his strong stance against releasing Anthony Milford from the remainder of his contract with the Canberra Raiders due to family reasons.

Unlike Stuart, Anthony Milford has a clause in his contract which allows for him to return “home” to Queensland based on the health of his father who is battling with illness at the moment. Milford has talked about the isolation he feels in Canberra away from his family and the effect that it has on him personally.

You don’t have to agree with Anthony Milford’s decision to leave the Canberra Raiders, but you do have to admire how upfront he has been about his situation. Where players in the past have tried to spin a story and massage the message to supporters, Milford has been clear all along about his desire to leave and what it is based on.

While Milford’s departure from the Raiders will have a big impact on the club, it must be said that it is no where near the impact that Ricky Stuart made on the Parramatta Eels by walking out on them early.

Ricky Stuart was all smiles as he signed up on a long term deal to coach the Parramatta Eels. He seemingly made a commitment to the club that would see him rebuild the Eels over a number of years.

As the 2013 NRL season turned into a disaster for the Eels, Stuart continued to tell fans to stick solid. He kept trying to sell them a message. Stick with the club through the tough times, trust in Stuart, and you will be rewarded in the long term with a winning team.

Ricky Stuarts circumstances did not change between the time he signed a contract with the Parramatta Eels and the moment he received a huge offer to break that contract and move to the Canberra Raiders.

Unlike Stuart, Anthony Milford will lose a lot of money by breaking his contract. The Canberra Raiders made a huge offer to Milford to try and keep him at the club but Milford has his mind set on leaving. He has already agreed to terms with the Brisbane Broncos for the 2015 season and he has stated that he is willing to sit out all of the 2014 season to be home with his family.

Anthony Milford is a very good young player. He has just about the best footwork I have ever seen. He has made a name for himself at fullback but looks as though his future lies in the halves. He is a game breaker who has proven he can be a star in the NRL if he continues to improve. Even during his time with the Samoan World Cup squad Milford has shown he is a special talent. It is completely understandable why the Canberra Raiders want to keep him.

This brings us to the age old question though. Should a club fight for a player that simply doesn’t want to play for them any more?

It is extremely rare that a player decides he wants to leave a club, is forced to stay, and everything works out well. To Milford credit, his form never looked to be effected by all of this drama at any point during the season.

On almost every occasion, when a player wants to leave a club mid contract, it is usually so he can “head home”. This could end up having an effect on the way NRL clubs develop talent and recruit players.

For all of the time, effort and resources the Raiders have poured into Anthony Milford, they will get nothing in return. Even if the Raiders manage to convince Milford to stay in 2014, he is gone in 2015 whether they like it or not.

I think we will start to see clubs investing more money in local talent for this reason. A player is less likely to leave a club if he grew up in the local area.

Attention must also be given to the role of player managers in these situations. We have seen way too many players recently who are playing for clubs they don’t want to be at. We have even seen conflicting messages where a player manager has said their client is happy at a club, only for the player to come out and say the complete opposite soon after.

Players need to realize that they do not work for player managers, player managers work for them! If a player manager is not providing a player with the management their career requires, they need to start looking elsewhere.

This Anthony Milford situation is a very complex one until you come back to one undeniable fact.

Anthony Milford does not want to play another game for the Canberra Raiders. No matter what Ricky Stuart, Don Furner or anyone else says, Milford doesn’t want to be there.

I believe the NRL needs to put in place a transfer system for situations like this. The Raiders should be compensated for the time and effort they have put into Milford’s development as a player. It is not ideal for the Raiders, but its the best they can make of a bad situation.

The Raiders should also consider their own recruitment policy, as well as the general culture of the club. They have lost way too many talented players over the last decade for various reasons.

As for Ricky Stuart and his very public crusade against Milford’s wish to leave the club…now he knows how Parramatta Eels supporters feel…

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