Canberra captain Jarrod Croker admits his side’s small rookie halves pairing of Mitch Cornish and Anthony Milford are set for some extra special attention from the Wests Tigers’ pack on Saturday.
With the wooden spoon firmly in the grasp of Cronulla, Raiders coach Ricky Stuart will hand Cornish his first NRL start at Canberra’s GIO Stadium alongside Brisbane-bound five-eighth Milford to prepare for 2015.
But with the duo losing 20kg to usual halves Terry Campese and Josh McCrone, Croker says the Raiders’ forward pack will have to lift to ensure representative forward Aaron Woods and his Tigers teammates don’t get a roll on at the youngsters’ expense.
“They’re a lot smaller than guys like Campo and Josh, so for them it’s just about getting their body in front and doing their best,” said Croker, who will captain the Raiders for the first time.
“Most halves get (targeted). It doesn’t matter who you are.
“They’ll get help from inside and out, so I’m sure they’ll do fine.”
However, what Cornish and Milford lack in size they’ll make up for in attack, Croker says.
“They’re both exciting players and obviously they had a fair bit of time together in their 20s and junior ranks,” Croker said.
“Mitchy will organise and lead the team around, and Milford’s got that spark and X factor.”
Milford starred in the Raiders’ 22-12 win over Cronulla last week with two second-half tries and two assists.
His hot form hasn’t gone unnoticed by Wests Tigers coach Mick Potter, who admitted that the 20-year-old young gun caused his side headaches during their 19-18 win over the Raiders in round 16.
“Milford is probably the big concern for us. He’s lively and hard to get a hold of and gets underneath you,” Potter said.
Meanwhile, the Tigers will be without young gun halfback Luke Brooks, forcing Potter to shift Blake Austin into the halves from centre, while Pat Richards returns from injury to the wing.