Morgan's star off-field role
Cowboys star Michael Morgan wowed nationwide audiences in North Queensland's semi-final win over the Sharks on Saturday; but a camera is nowhere in sight when he really touches hearts and minds.
Morgan is a nominee for the Ken Stephen Medal which recognises the achievements of a player in their pursuits both on and off the field.
He is an ambassador for one of the NRL's newer public service initiatives, State of Mind, which launched in 2013 and aims to both raise awareness and directly assist people suffering from mental illness.
Along with the desire to better understand and work with people in an issue of such personal significance following the suicide of best friend and fellow Cowboy Alex Elisala in 2013, Morgan feels a deep attachment to his community.
Having experienced first-hand the impact of Cowboys players venturing out into the Townsville region, Morgan says any contact young people can have with their footballing idols is a positive thing.
"Coming from Townsville you kind of know your responsibility to the area and what you need to give back," Morgan told NRL.com.
"I knew what it meant to me as a kid looking up to the Cowboys players and coming through even high school at Marian – where I go for the Adopt-a-School program – and that type of thing; the affect that they could have on me and my friends and family.
"I came down and watched them play for years, sitting on the hill and watching games. I know first-hand what it means for kids sitting on the hill and I find myself extremely lucky to be able to do it now; in every way, not just the playing football side of things."
Morgan dedicates most of his off-field duties to the State of Mind campaign and earlier this year reached out to Headspace, a national mental health support network for people aged 12-25.
With more NRL talent than ever opening up about their own struggles past and current, a partnership with groups such as Headpsace, Lifeline, Kids Helpline and the Black Dog Institute was a natural progression for the competition.
"Just before mid-way through the year I got in contact with Headspace," Morgan said.
"I gave them a bit of a hand at 'Groovin' the Moo' [a music festival] at the tent they had there. Then a few weeks ago I went down to the men's group.
"I went down and met a few of the guys at the men's group. We had a barbecue dinner and played a bit of cricket.
"I actually got an email from someone from America who emailed the club and got them to hand it on to me to say that he thinks what I'm doing is a great thing.
"Things like that are awesome; hearing from someone living in America who follows the Cowboys. The fact that they were able to get in contact with me and tell a bit of their story and me joining the State of Mind thing has encouraged them in a way, so it's awesome for that type of thing.
"The Headspace stuff I do is very rewarding because it is an area that is very important to me personally."
Based in North Queensland, the tyranny of distance is something not just felt with excruciating travel schedules but it also impacts Morgan's involvement with the Sydney-based group.
"I'm up here and a lot of it is based in Sydney, but I still am in contact with them and they try and organise to come up and do things instead of me going down there mid-week," he said.
"It's harder from up here but it's something that I'm not going to give up because it's hard; I still want to really be involved with it.
"I think because it only started up this year it's going to continue to grow and the pieces are going to be put in place to build it.
"There are more to players than what people see for 80 minutes each week and, yes football is our job, but that time spent away from the field and the impact we can have on others is just as important and rewarding as success on the field."