KNIGHTS coach Adam O'Brien believes the NRL sanction that will sideline Anthony Milford until round 11 of this season could be a blessing in disguise.
Milford trained with Newcastle on Wednesday for the first time after assault charges against him were dropped in Brisbane Magistrates Court last week.
But the former Broncos playmaker will not be allowed to play for the Knights until round 11 after being ordered by the NRL to undertake "personal development and tailored rehabilitation programs and ongoing assessments".
O'Brien said that will give Newcastle's strength-and-conditioning staff a month to get the 27-year-old "up to scratch", given that he has not played in more than seven months.
"The performance staff were really happy with where he's at," O'Brien told the Newcastle Herald.
"We're treating it as day one of his pre-season, like the other guys were back in November.
"So we've got the luxury of having a month."
Asked if he was disappointed the Knights must wait for four weeks before Milford is available, O'Brien replied: "I try to look at the glass half-full.
"It gives him time to get connected to the game plan and teammates, pressure free. I want to see him back playing footy, but I understand there's a process for him to follow and we'll abide by that."
O'Brien said Milford's inclusion would bolster Newcastle's depth.
"I think it's really smart of the club to bring in a player of his calibre, who will hopefully inject some energy at the back end of the year," he said.
"We just need to be prepared for everything with injuries and COVID."
Knights captain Kalyn Ponga said he welcomed Milford on board.
"We're excited to have him here," Ponga said.
"I think at the back end of last year he played some really good footy, and hopefully he can continue that here.
"We just want him to get out there and enjoy himself."
Knights winger Edrick Lee played alongside Milford at Canberra between 2013 and 2014 and said he was looking forward to renewing his combination with the elusive utility back.
"I know him pretty well and he is excited for the opportunity that is ahead, but he also knows there is a lot of hard work ahead of him to try and get in the team," Lee said.
"I'm sure we will welcome him with open arms and hopefully he has a smooth transition here at Newcastle."
Lee believes the 193-game veteran, who is expected to join the Dolphins next year, can make an impact in a half-season stint at the Knights.
"He's played representative football and played in a grand final as well, so he definitely adds a lot of experience," Lee said.
"He has got a lot of attacking flair, but I think it's his talk on the field.
"He is a big talker on the field and knows how to get the best out of the players around him.
"So I'm really looking forward to seeing how he transitions."
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