Shy guy Morgan key for Maroons
A more confident Michael Morgan shapes as the Maroons' x-factor next Wednesday night with the talented utility offering a point of difference to the Blues' quartet of big boppers selected on the New South Wales bench.
Following the withdrawal of Daly Cherry-Evans on Wednesday Queensland coach Mal Meninga hinted that Roosters giant Dylan Napa could earn promotion from 18th man to counter the Blues' significant size advantage but instead the Maroons have entrusted Morgan with the role of breaking the game wide open.
Capable of playing anywhere in the backline, at hooker and in the back row, the 23-year-old is almost the perfect bench utility to take into a representative fixture and his teammates are excited at what he will bring in his Origin debut.
"The way he has been playing, he is scoring a few tries, some that he shouldn't be scoring," said Matt Gillett, who saw first-hand Morgan's influence when he scored a hat-trick against the Broncos in Round 10.
"He's pretty strong; he's shrugging off players and that sort of thing so no doubt if he gets the job he will handle it pretty well."
Now in his sixth year in the top grade, Morgan's rise has been closely monitored by Cowboys teammate and halves partner in 2015, Johnathan Thurston.
After a breakout year in 2014 playing at fullback, Morgan returned to the halves in Round 3 this year and Thurston said that he is a much different footballer than the 18-year-old he played alongside for the first time in Round 10, 2010.
"I always knew he had it in him and I think the switch from the halves to fullback has given him that confidence," said Thurston.
"I know from playing alongside him in the halves before he was at fullback, he was a little bit standoffish but he's got that confidence now to call the shots and call the plays back at the Cowboys so that's where he's probably grown the most.
"He's a confident kid, a shy kid but he's confident in his own ability. I'll have a chat to him during the week but he looked sharp at training [on Thursday] and his form over the last 4-6 weeks has been outstanding at the Cowboys.
"He's a big body, he weighs 95-96 kilos so he can take a hit, which you need at Origin level and we'll just have to wait and see how Mal (Meninga, Maroons coach) uses him.
"He's strong; he carries blokes over the line that are on top of him. He's strong, he's quick and he's got great footwork so all the attributes you need at that level."
With New South Wales making their tactical intentions clear through their selections, Thurston believes that the injection of Morgan into the game could become a real trump card for the Maroons, particularly as the speed of the game starts to take its toll on the bigger bodies at the back-end of each half.
"The bench that they've chosen is no doubt going to be played down the middle third," said Thurston. "They'll have a little bit of ball movement, I'm thinking they'll probably just play lefts and rights and not link too much with each other.
"Having 'Morgo' on the bench there gives us some leg speed around the ruck and if he comes in at 13 or where ever Mal puts him he'll do a job for us."