Storm's Morgan feeling for Eels mates
Mid-season Storm recruit Ryan Morgan described his club debut – a win against his old mates at Parramatta – as a 'dream come true' – but says his departure was made far tougher by the strife his old mates are currently experiencing.
Morgan has an option in his favour at Parramatta in 2017 once his short-term deal with the Storm expires at the end of this year. While his temporary departure has contributed to the Eels getting back under the salary cap this season, the move was being negotiated far before Parramatta's desperate bid to get back under the cap.
Rather it was an amicable arrangement with coach Brad Arthur to allow him to chase an opportunity to play regular first grade in 2016 rather than stay stuck behind Parramatta's star-studded backline.
But rather than being relieved at leaving a club currently being buffeted by penalties from a salary cap breach, Morgan said the move was made tougher by not being around to help his mates through some tough times.
"If anything it makes it a little bit harder. I was a Parramatta junior and I've been involved with the club going on 11 years now and I've been mates with a lot of the boys that are in that team for a long time and a lot of them will be lifetime friends to me," Morgan told NRL.com after his team's 18-6 win at Pirtek Stadium on Monday night.
"It's a shame to see them go through that and now I can't be around there to help them out but in saying that they're in good hands.
"Brad's a really good coach and he protects his boys well. For me I'm just concentrating on getting as many games in as I can with the Storm and trying to put my stamp on the team."
Morgan's serendipitous club debut, coming as it did against the club he left just weeks earlier, should come as no surprise – the rugby league gods just seem to find a way of making these things work. Morgan could afford to smile about the coincidence and said it still felt like a bit of a home game for himself.
"Yeah it was a massive week coming back. It was good to see some of the boys again and it was pretty good having it down here [at Parramatta]. It felt like a bit of a home game for me but I was happy to get the win," he said.
"It was a bit of a dream come true to be honest to play against the boys. They've been my mates for a long time but it was a good start to my career at the Melbourne Storm."
Speaking about how the move came about, Morgan said it started with a conversation between Arthur and himself.
"The decision just came down to opportunity for me. I wasn't pushed out by him and there's no bad feelings towards the club or anything," he said.
"Melbourne as we all know have had a lot of injuries in their outside backs and they were looking for someone to come in and fill their numbers a bit so it was a good opportunity for me and I'm grateful to Parra for letting me take up that opportunity."
If there were any doubts about the amicability of the split, they were certainly banished seeing the warmth with which the 26-year-old was greeted by every Eels player and staff member who passed him in the tunnels after the game.
Which is a particularly good thing given the likelihood of Morgan returning to blue and gold colours next season.
"Yeah I do [have an option to come back]," he said.
"I'm only contracted with the Storm until the end of the year. The plan is to come back for next year and whatever ends up happening, I'll look forward to playing footy with whoever.
"I'm still on contract [at Parramatta] until the end of 2017. It's sort of in my favour if I go somewhere else or something like that but at the moment for 2017 I'm contracted to the Eels."
Morgan though was full of praise for the culture and professionalism he had encountered down in Melbourne so far.
"They're a very professional outfit. It's a good culture down there," he said.
"A lot of the boys are not from Melbourne so they buy into each other and everyone's very close because they're all down there for the one purpose and that's to play good footy and I think that helps build the culture. There's no distractions or anything from footy and it really is one big family down there.
"They've got a winning culture and they're a winning team and you definitely feel that when you're down there."
The chance to play with rugby league luminaries of the calibre of national captain Cameron Smith and Kangaroos halfback Cooper Cronk is an added bonus.
"They're pretty straightforward with what they want from you which is good and they take a lot of ownership on what they do and a lot of accountability and they step up every week and lead the team around," Morgan said of the Maroons pair.
"The leadership they show is probably second to none and it's just been so good coming down here. They've made the fit and the transition a lot easier."