State of Origin 2017: Anthony Milford can't be a spectator when the going gets tough

Pressure: Maroons five-eighth Anthony Milford must stay focused in game one. Photo: Getty Images
Pressure: Maroons five-eighth Anthony Milford must stay focused in game one. Photo: Getty Images

Kevin Walters has implored new face Anthony Milford to get in the game from the opening moments of Origin I, saying Queensland can't afford to have the rookie playmaker fade in and out at Suncorp Stadium.

Milford steps into the shoes of the injured Johnathan Thurston and shapes as a major focus for both sides on Wednesday night when the series begins in Brisbane.

The Broncos five-eighth has been deadly against tiring packs this season in the NRL, often bobbing up towards the back-end of halves and using his brilliant footwork and speed to carve through tardy defences.

Walters said he needs more than that for the Maroons, backing Milford to handle everything thrown at him defensively and hoping he gets some early carries running off the back of master organiser Cooper Cronk.

"We need him in the game for 80 minutes, not just different periods. That's what he brings to the team. There will be different pressures on him from clubland but we believe he can handle that," Walters said before Queensland's final training session.

"He's got to defend for himself. Milf will be fine. I'm really excited to see Anthony out there. They are going to put him under pressure, which is great, and no doubt he will handle that and come back with a little bit more.

"We're certainly aware of his abilities. There is some pressure on him, no doubt. He's played in a grand final, this is the next step up. We believe he'll handle it."

Walters was circumspect in his final pre-game press conference, saying he felt NSW had every right to start favourite given some of the massive names missing from the Maroons line-up.

With some critical unknowns yet to be answered, Walters was measured in his predictions for the match, saying he believed Queensland had picked the best team at their disposal and would make NSW earn every inch of turf.

"I'm confident without being over the top. I've got a lot of faith in this group," Walters said.

"It is a transitional period for Queensland and this team but the team we've picked ... is I believe the best we could have picked for game one. We'll see which way it goes. I'm confident we'll put in a really strong showing."

One player Walters has no concerns about is Darius Boyd, who was selected over Billy Slater to be the Queensland fullback. A confident Boyd says he deserves the spot and Walters believes he will be vindicated despite criticism over the move.

"Darius has had some great games for the Broncos. I'm very, very confident about the performance he will put on tomorrow night."

Walters steadfastly refused to buy into a slinging match, backing away from talk that Jarryd Hayne represents a defensive weakness for the Blues, even if Boyd will pester him from fullback on every possible occasion.

But there was one scenario Walters was happy to embrace – that of being underdog. NSW have been heavily backed to win not only the game but the series.

"You don't always go into a game as the favourite and NSW have that tag at the moment ... and probably rightly so given the changes to our side," Walters said.

"But we know we come here with a very good side and one that is capable of a great performance. We go about our business, hopefully not too many of them are looking at the TAB odds."