Morgan a changed man: Thurston
He won the most contentious Queensland selection battle of Game Three and Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston believes Michael Morgan has already developed into a better player as a result of his Origin experience.
With everything on the line in Game Three of the Holden State of Origin Series decider next Wednesday night at Suncorp Stadium, the choice between Morgan and Manly incumbent Daly Cherry-Evans was the one Maroons' selectors grappled longest over last Friday.
Their tried and tested policy of trusting those who have done the job before went under the microscope as Morgan's ability to play any number of positions won out over the seven consecutive games Cherry-Evans had played after Game Two in Melbourne.
Little more than 12 months ago Morgan was a young talent struggling to find his place in the NRL but Thurston said his exposure to an even higher level of football in the first two games of the Series had already translated do a different demeanour back in club land.
"His confidence is a lot higher now," Thurston said. "When you're able to play in the side and hold down your spot it gives you a lot of self belief that you belong here and I've noticed that change since Game One.
"He's been a different person at training and that's what he's noticed as well, the professionalism of all the boys and how they prepare for their game and I've seen that rub off on him."
With Billy Slater's season ending shoulder injury forcing the shift of Greg Inglis from centre to fullback, Queensland coach Mal Meninga confirmed that it was the versatility afforded by Morgan's inclusion that eventually earned him his third Origin jersey.
"We only made the decision last night to be honest with you," Meninga said on Monday. "We mulled over it for quite a long time but I think we made the best decision for the team.
"[His versatility] was the ultimate tipping point for us. For example if something happened to Darius [Boyd] we can put Greg on the wing and Michael at fullback.
"This is only a decision based on this game. In a decider where we are missing Billy and down on outside backs, Michael can cover more positions so that is why he got selected."
Morgan's elevation at the expense of Cherry-Evans represents a significant selection for the perennially loyal Queenslanders and one that did not go unnoticed by his Origin and club teammate.
"It's not an easy team to break into and I think it's speaks volumes for the person that he is and the character that he has to be able to hold his spot," Thurston said. "Selectors and Mal believe in his ability to do a job for us so he's held that bench spot and we're very happy for him.
"If an outside back goes down we can slot him straight in there, if a half or hooker goes down he's played in those positions before so there's less disruptions moving blokes around, second-rowers to centre, centres to wingers, he can just jump straight in there, so very happy for him.
"That's the value that he brings to the team. He's played in a lot of those positions, he's played a Q Cup Grand Final in the centres, he's played grade in the centres, grew up playing in the halves, we know what he can do at fullback and he's played hooker as well so that's the value that he brings to the team.
"It speaks volumes for the type of person he is to hold down that spot."