Milford 'can't have cake and eat it too': selectors

Raider Anthony Milford will play for the Queensland under-20s team. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
Raider Anthony Milford will play for the Queensland under-20s team. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

Queensland and Australia selector Des Morris says the Anthony Milford tug-of-war between the Maroons and Samoa has exposed flaws that need tweaking in rugby league's representative eligibility laws.

But he insisted the Canberra Raiders star ''can't have his cake and eat it too'', and backed Milford's decision to choose the Queensland under-20s over Samoa this weekend.

Milford was on Monday named at five-eighth in the junior Maroons team to play NSW at Penrith on Saturday, the curtain-raiser to Samoa's clash with Fiji.

The 19-year-old is reportedly in line to be Queensland's 18th man for State of Origin I. Canberra teammate Josh Papalii filled that role for the Maroons in last year's series opener before being blooded for the final two games.

Morris didn't rule out Milford following the same path, and it is likely it will happen provided Queensland coach Mal Meninga is happy with his form in coming weeks.

''We all know he's a great talent and it [18th man duties] could happen, whether or not time will tell,'' Morris said.

''Obviously we've got an ageing roster and we are conscious we have to bring the young fellas through, and have them as well prepared as we can before their Origin debut.''

Morris said juggling the interests of the states and emerging nations would always be an imperfect practice, but believed Milford's decision was in his best long-term interests.

''I think they [eligibility rules] all need tweaking. The NRL is doing a good job of sorting it out and I'm pretty sure in a year or so, they'll have it down pat,'' he said.

''Sometimes you can't have your cake and eat it too; sometimes you can't say I want to be a Samoan one week and a Queenslander the next.

''We have to be as providing as we can of the emerging nations though and work our way through it.

''It's great to see when they can play for the smaller nations, but he's a Queenslander and learnt his footy here. Sometimes the young fellas have to make a difficult decision.

''We can be all nostalgic and try and do the right thing by where your family comes from, but if you want to play on the big stage, they need to recognise what Queensland has done for them as well.''

Morris also admitted it was a tough call to drop Papalii from Friday's Test against New Zealand, after the back-rower starred for Australia in last year's World Cup final win.

The 23-year-old has been below his best since returning from an ankle injury three weeks ago, but Morris said he remains in contention to retain his Queensland jumper.

''We've got another two games to go [before selection]. No doubt he'll get a bit fitter and he's every chance,'' Morris said.

''This weekend [against Manly] he didn't have a good game and his teammates didn't, but he'll bounce back I'm sure.

''He's not far away but you don't hand out Australian jerseys on a whim, you have to earn them.''

Three others Raiders – Luke Bateman, Patrick Mago and Brenko Lee – were also named in the junior Maroons team.

This story Milford 'can't have cake and eat it too': selectors first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.