Why Rabbitohs don’t want Milford, NRL launches own investigation into street scuffle

It wasn’t long after Anthony Milford had three assault charges dropped in a Brisbane court that the rumour mill hit overdrive as to where the one-time million dollar man would continue his NRL career.

South Sydney? Newcastle? Redcliffe?

Anthony Milford outside Brisbane Magistrates Court on Monday.Credit:Toby Crockford

But to assume the prosecution’s decision not to proceed with a criminal conviction for three assault charges will culminate in Milford being welcomed back into the sport in the coming weeks is off the mark.

Now that the matter has been dealt with in court, resulting in Milford pleading guilty to public nuisance and wilful damage, the NRL is about to launch its own investigation.

The NRL has seen the CCTV footage of the early morning incident at Fortitude Valley last September. The throwing of a bin into a nearby car was the least of their concerns.

It’s why the governing body last year refused to register the one-year, $300,000 contract the Rabbitohs had submitted for his services in 2022.

South Sydney officials have also seen the video. It’s why they didn’t argue when the NRL refused to register the former Broncos five-eighth’s contract last year, and why they won’t be in the race for his signature should the NRL allow him to come back.

Prosecutor Miranda Hickey said four minutes of security camera footage, which was played in court, showed Milford grabbing his wife, which was seen by a nearby group of six.

“There was then a bit of a scuffle between the defendant [Milford] and the group,” Ms Hickey said.

A woman in a blue top confronted Milford with several men, while another woman sheltered Milford’s wife against a wall. Pushing and shoving followed, before Milford “grabbed a nearby wheelie bin and threw it with some force towards the road. It collided with a car and smashed a car’s window”, Hickey said.

“The defendant started to walk away down the street and then turned back around towards the group. The female in the blue top then approached the defendant and grabbed at his hands.

Milford (left) scoring a try for the Broncos against the New Zealand Warriors in 2021.Credit:Albert Perez – Getty Images

“The defendant grabbed back at her and then pushed her backwards, which caused her to fall. As a result of the push, the female fell to the ground and hit her head on the concrete. She experienced severe pain to her neck and headaches, which were ongoing for several weeks.”

The Rabbitohs tried to do the right thing by Milford, who was arrested just weeks before he was meant to join the club for pre-season training.

They paid for his accommodation and some of his living expenses while he was residing in Sydney awaiting response from the NRL in relation to whether they would register his contract while the matter was before the courts. They ultimately decided against it.

The Rabbitohs were willing to cut a deal and pay a small amount of Milford’s contract, as well as for his flights back home to Brisbane.

Sources with knowledge of discussions told the Herald that a representative of Milford then threatened to take legal action against the club if they didn’t pay out his entire salary. The Rabbitohs didn’t budge.

Coupled with the knowledge of what was in the video from the scuffle outside Ella Sabe nightclub, you can understand why South Sydney won’t be offering him his second NRL lifeline if he is given the green light to return this year.

The NRL wants to investigate the incident, and any suggestions that he will receive a free ride back into the sport aren’t reflective of the views held in head office despite his lawyer’s comments after the court hearing on Monday.

“Anthony, from the outset of this matter has maintained his innocence of any assault charges and today’s result reflects that,” Milford’s lawyer Dave Garratt said.

“He is remorseful for his other actions on that night. He is now looking forward to putting this matter behind him as it’s put a large strain on him and his family and all parties involved.”

It’s widely spoken among rugby league clubs that Wayne Bennett, who was also a character reference for the 27-year-old on Monday, has a contract waiting in his top drawer with Milford’s name on it waiting for him to sign to join the Dolphins when they enter the competition as the 17th team next year.

The pair shared a very close bond during their time together at the Broncos, with Bennett overseeing the deal which saw Milford rewarded with a million-dollar-a-season contract that ended last year.

Then there’s the Newcastle Knights, who chased Wests Tigers halfback Luke Brooks in the off-season. They have been raised as a potential suitor for Milford for the rest of the season – likely as a temporary home before he reunites with Bennett next year.

The NRL hasn’t received any indication from the Knights that they are contemplating such a move … yet.

The NRL is adamant there is no place for violence against women in the sport. The fact that the assault charges were dropped won’t count for much when they determine how long he has to wait – and what he has to do to prove he is worthy – to return to the NRL.

with Toby Crockford

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