Red-hot Morgan primed for Roos debut
Cowboys five-eighth Michael Morgan continues to show the kind of form that convinced new Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga he's worthy of a green and gold jersey, while his captain Johnathan Thurston insists the 24-year-old can become one of the greats of the club.
Morgan was enormous in his side's 34-18 NRL Telstra Premiership win over Manly at Brookvale Oval on Saturday night, scoring a powerful solo try with a scorching right-edge run on his way to a match-high five tackle busts, line break assist, try assist and 93 metres.
After the game, Thurston was happy to sing the praises of a man who has gone from strength to strength over the past three years.
"He's going really good for us. He's hard to handle, 95-96 kilos and the best part about it is his running game and that's what he brought tonight. He really deserves his [Test] jersey and he just needs to keep running hard to stay there," Thurston said.
"He's got all the attributes of a really good footballer, defends really well, he's got speed, very powerful so he can no doubt be one of the Cowboys best if he keeps working the way he is."
Morgan told NRL.com he hadn't been expecting a Test debut to arrive this year but was prepared to grab the chance with both hands.
"I'm very excited. Very grateful for the opportunity as well. It's not something I saw myself doing at the start of the year but I'm stoked for the opportunity," Morgan said.
Morgan will have no shortage of familiar faces in Kangaroos camp – in addition to Thurston, teammates Matt Scott and James Tamou are also in the side along with a host of his 2015 Queensland Origin teammates.
And that's not to mention coach Mal Meninga, who selected Morgan for his interstate debut last year.
"I really enjoyed my time in Origin last year while [Meninga] was coaching, he's someone who demands respect without him saying anything. He's just got that stature in the game so very excited to be coached by him again and be with the other players in camp," Morgan said.
He wasn't sure yet if he'd play a similar role in the Test side to what he did in Origin (as a back-up playmaker who can cover injuries almost anywhere in the backline as well as cause some damage as an edge back-rower if needed) but agreed his utility value was likely what got him into the side.
"I don't think I'd be there if I couldn't play a couple of different positions so where I'll be playing I'm not too sure, it might be similar to Origin last year so I haven't heard too much yet," he said.
"We'll get these games done then look to next week come Monday so I'm not too sure on my role yet but I'll find out in a couple of days."
On the win over Manly, Morgan was pleased his team had lifted for what was a relatively rare win at Brookvale, with the Cowboys having only played there twice in the past decade for one win, with him in the side last year.
Morgan said the culture at the club at the moment was helping to stop anyone losing focus in what can be a tricky post-premiership year, and was borne out by how many players were choosing to stay in Townsville despite bigger money on offer elsewhere. Jason Taumalolo and last week Lachlan Coote are among the players to recently agree to new contracts to keep the current roster intact.
"Even after a win we look at where we can improve and where we need to be better so at the moment it is honestly week by week and I think we're working just as hard as we did last year while still trying to improve our game and be a better team," Morgan said.
"I'm sure it will be no different throughout the year because as a playing group we want to win and it's why you play the game so we're still very motivated.
"A long time ago 'Johnno' and Matt Scott set the example by sacrificing bigger money to stay loyal and try and do something special up here and I think it's filtered through with Jason doing the same thing and now Cootey.
"We're a very close group and we know we've got a very good opportunity up there at the moment."