Samoa coach Matt Parish has clarified the circumstances surrounding Anthony Milford’s sensational banning from Saturday’s Test against Tonga, saying the Brisbane star definitely wanted to play.
The Broncos five-eighth was instead limited to a social media spectator on Saturday night, tweeting numerous well wishes to his countrymen during and after their thrilling 24-22 win in Parramatta.
Milford had originally been named by Parish to lead Samoa against Tonga during the representative round, but was dramatically blocked by club coach Wayne Bennett a fortnight ago.
There was a school of thought that the mastercoach was simply taking a bullet for his gifted playmaker, who feared ruining his chances of representing Queensland or Australia later on in the year.
But Parish moved to clarify the situation after the win, claiming he had a number of texts from Milford that showed how desperate he wanted to be on the field against Tonga.
“One, he shouldn’t have been denied the opportunity to play tonight. And he shouldn’t be put in a position where he has to choose,” Parish said.
“I think Josh McGuire showed last year what it meant to play for Samoa.
“The boys were all really proud of where he’s got to now and what he did (for the Kangaroos) last night, he was terrific. We’ve got no doubt Tony will do the same thing.”
Parish praised Super League side Hull FC for releasing star pair Frank Pritchard and Tonga counterpart Sika Manu to travel around the world and feature in the one-off Test.
“I think Hull show a lot of respect for representative football. It’s a shame the clubs in Australia don’t do the same thing,” he said.
Tonga coach Kristian Woolf said he hadn’t experienced as many availability issues this year compared to previous years, but was still flummoxed by the current eligibility rules that prevented a number of stars from turning out for him.
“I get text messages all day and phone calls all week about blokes wanting to play. There’s plenty of blokes who’d love to be in camp,” he said.
“(But) as a result of the rules, unfortunately they’re not able to.
“You chuck some guys who are watching rep footy this weekend, you chuck a Tui Lolohea or a Will Hopoate or someone like that into those sides, they give you some class and some skill.
“That goes along with the toughness and all the other things that we’ve already got there, and it certainly adds to the game.”