"He is definitely a future captain."
That is veteran front-rower James Tamou's frank assessment of star five-eighth Michael Morgan who, at 24 years old, has already joined the leadership ranks within the Cowboys club.
Boasting a portfolio of big-game experience (premiership, Origin and Test teams) unmatched by anyone his age in the NRL, Morgan's presence has become greater this year and his voice is now one of the most listened-to among the playing group.
Departing star Tamou says this year, and this finals series, has marked the beginning of Morgan's inevitable journey to captaincy.
"He is definitely a future captain. He is talking a bit more and it's really good to see, someone as young as him," he told NRL.com.
"I'll sit there sometimes and just watch these kids talk, and they bring up some really good points. Even big Jase [Taumalolo], he's talking more. Obviously being Polynesian it's sort of not your thing but big Jase is coming out a bit more as well, and it's really good to see that culture where young guys are putting their opinion out there.
"[Morgan] is a really mature player and person, and he is a leader in this team."
The beyond-his-years maturity was evident from the very beginning of Morgan's NRL career – debuting at age 18 – and was demonstrated in his ability to adapt and even excel against both off-field tragedy and on-field turbulence during his time at fullback in 2014.
He has become a model of consistency around the club, says North Queensland assistant coach David Furner, who over the last three years has overseen the growth of a mature young man into potentially the next captain of the Cowboys.
"I think [his confidence] is more off the back of last year and having an opportunity from Origin. That brings out a lot of confidence in a player," Furner said.
"You go through your phases as a player: playing first grade and getting confident, then when you get representative honours it can take your game to another level, and he's in that position at the moment, 'Morgs'.
"He is in one of our leadership groups. You've got your on-field leaders and your off-field leaders, and he's in one of those groups."
In his skill level, maturity, likeability, and even grassroots origins, Morgan checks all the necessary boxes and appears a natural successor of current captains Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott at a club that has built great success both on the field and in the community.
"He's obviously very intelligent and when you talk to him about football, he knows what you're talking about," Furner said.
"He's obviously a product of the system at the Cowboys, which is another strong point – being a local."
"There's no doubt with the experience he's having at the moment… he's going to be more in that leadership role.
"You can just see the culture; he displays that off the field and that's a strong point. He's pretty mature with his role and he's playing good football."
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