Cowboys star Michael Morgan is a new man after post-Origin surgery on his right ankle, saying the pain was becoming so unbearable that it was impeding his development as a footballer.
Sitting equal third in the competition for line breaks this season (14), Morgan's well-chronicled running game was still one of the most destructive in the NRL despite carrying a bad wheel.
But the biggest difference in the 23-year-old after surgery has been his willingness to put boot to ball.
With less pain in the ankle Morgan says he is now confident in calling for the ball on fifth tackles, and it was evident at Brookvale on Monday night, with five quality kicks – three more than regular second-choice kicker Lachlan Coote – equalling a season high.
"I was doing no (kicking) at training, and in the games 'Johnno' or 'Cootey' were in position to kick so I would just let them. I'd get in position if I was needed to but I'd rather not kick, not unless I really had to," Morgan said on Tuesday.
While Morgan is doing all that is asked of him as Johnathan Thurston's sidekick, there has been a question over his ability to take his current skill set to the next level and become the genuine playmaker and game manager that he will need to be at North Queensland in the future.
Coach Paul Green played down Morgan's ankle concerns in the early part of the season, but as seen in his drastically improved kicking game on Monday, it has emerged just how much the five-eighth's game was suffering.
"Each week at training I was thinking 'how am I going to get through this week?' or 'how long am I going to last?', so I was getting needles before games to try settle it down or numb it, but they wouldn't really do too much," Morgan said.
"I'm so glad it's been done because the last six to eight weeks it was getting pretty painful, but it feels so much better. The day after I got out of hospital it felt better already."
With regards to developing his game, Morgan said the three Maroons jerseys he earned in State of Origin this year will stand him in good stead.
His time on the paddock and in camp with some of the game's greats has not just improved confidence in his ability, but has opened his eyes to new ways of approaching the game both on and off the field.
"What I took out of (State of Origin) was how professional all those players are," he said.
"They're very good and have been for a long time and it's not just by luck – they work hard.
"Even though they're the best players in the game they work very hard and they look after themselves off the field and they're very professional, so if I can bring that back here with myself, it's only going to help my game."