How Good Is... Michael Morgan
If not for the discovery of teenage Kangaroo Sione Mata'utia and Ben Hunt's elevation to national representation, the rise of Michael Morgan could have fairly been considered the most meteoric of season 2014.
He'd played just 30 NRL games in the previous three seasons and had never worn the North Queensland No.1 jersey before this year but by July he had been drafted into the Queensland Origin squad to get a taste of rugby league's toughest arena.
Touted as a potential bench utility option for Game Two, Morgan was brought in as 19th man for Game Three ahead of the likes of Hunt, Anthony Milford and Ben Barba.
With a history in the halves, the speed of a three-quarter and the size of a tackle-busting fullback, Morgan is almost the perfect utility player to have in a representative fixture but his immediate future at the Cowboys seems very much at the back.
What made 2014 so special?
Thrust into the fullback role when Lachlan Coote suffered a season-ending knee injury at the Auckland Nines, it was clear from the very first trial game against the Titans in Toowoomba that coach Paul Green had stumbled upon a more than adequate replacement.
Morgan added an extra dimension to the Cowboys attack that, when it began to function near to full capacity, gave Johnathan Thurston the opportunity to once again establish that he is the premier playmaker in the game today.
In playing all 26 games last season Morgan had more line breaks than Brett Stewart, more try assists than both Ben Hunt and Mitchell Pearce, more try saves than Jarryd Hayne and Greg Inglis (his stop on Matt Gillett had to be seen to be believed) and more tackle breaks than both Sam and George Burgess.
Lachlan Coote is back and ready to once again fight for his position but surely Green cannot start 2015 with anyone at fullback other than Morgan.
How can he be better in 2015?
If he has some certainty around his position in the team then Morgan can start the 2015 season in a much clearer state of mind and given his all-round good performances this year he will no doubt be searching for incremental improvements across the board.
His 38 errors were the second-most of any player in the competition in 2014 and is the only statistical category with noticeable room for improvement.
Where Morgan's evolution as a fullback will be most impacted is how Green decides to utilise his array of skills and the attacking structure he implements in order to make the most of them.
Which new Cowboys signing will have the greatest influence on him?
He is not a new signing but as he is yet to play a game for the club, how and where Lachlan Coote slots into the Cowboys 17 will have the greatest bearing on Morgan. While he earned the position by default this year, in 2015 Morgan will have a hungry competitor nipping at his heels.
The other new name that Morgan would do well to get to know is Broncos recruit Jake Granville. Dynamite out of dummy-half, if Morgan can learn to read when to push up in support of a trademark Granville bust up the middle, he could find himself on the end of a number of try-scoring opportunities.